plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

Greeks have not the slightest idea of how close they came to annihilation, neither do they appreciate how fast the chasm can open again.


I have argued on this blog that the country has failed and that to overcome this failure people need first to admit to it. There is no evidence that this is happening. I am currently in Greece and walking around town I see a lot of people having fun, a lot of conspicuous consumption and a very relaxed attitude.


This is not to say that one does not see evidence of crisis in closed shops and abandoned streets. The problem is that there are no signs of a change of mentality. No recognition that life as usual is not possible, no desire for adjustment.


OK, you could argue that I do not see it because I am rich, vacationing in a rich part of town surrounded by locals with money. Perhaps, but think about the way the election campaign is going.

I had argued that an election right now only makes sense if parties align themselves along Drachma vs Euro lines. This is not happening. The only party (KKE and Golden Dawn aside) to talk openly about a return to the Drachma is Lafazanes splinter group. I hope that once the election date is set, they will delight us with some detail on their Grexit plan.

Syriza is planning to ask for a renewed mandate devoid of content. Is Mr Tsipras asking for the vote as a better implementer of Bailout 3 than ND? Someone said on twitter that Lafazanes will run as Syriza from January and Syriza will run as Pasok from 2012.

ND has failed to lead the pro-euro group by joining with potami and other ‘cooperation prone’ parties. Pasok tries to form a ‘third pole’ (τρίτος κώλος a friend said) with other losers like Papandreou in order to keep their presence in Parliament. Potami is willing to deal with everyone in a Euro alliance, but increasingly lacks a defined character.

The consequence is this: a strong anti-euro message against a confused business as usual tone. An electorate that missed the gravity of what happened in June is likely to vote again for a proud OXI. This is not a good outcome.

Grexit needs to be the choice of an informed people, ready for the consequences. If Lafazanes and his merry band of Balkan Leninists take us down this route, there will be a very rude awakening to come.




8 thoughts on “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

  1. iGlinavos,
    You are never going to believe what I am about to tell you!

    After everything that I have written on my blog, basically supporting a Grexit option, I am starting to have second thoughts.

    I have a few radical (more left of centre really) ideas mulling around in my head……..stay tuned…….its going to get interesting.

    PS. Nice post & thanks for the photos and a good dose of reality.

    Enjoy your hols!


  2. Thoughtful piece. I guess that every middle class Greek has brought his financial assets in safety by know. The bright and shiny probably consider emigration as best option and the poor assume there is nothing to loose.

    The last is probably not true. Things would get definitely much worse after Grexit.

    What if find disturbing is that the loony left seems to assume that you just have to default and all your debt will disappear. It won’t. It will haunt you for the years to come.

    Where the dissatisfaction in Greece seems to take a turn to the left, in the Western Europe it takes a turn to the right.

    With the influx of immigrants the welfare state (as we once knew it) probably can not be sustained, which means more dissatisfaction.

    In short, troubling times ahead for all of us.


  3. The reason you don’t see what’s going on isn’t the fact that you’re a rich tourist. It’s because you don’t see the paycheck (or lack of them, to be more precise) of the majority of Greeks. Cuts and delays, firings and suspensions now an everyday occurrence by the hundred. But that been going on for the past five years – that is to say, it’s not a Syirza generated problem.
    I always wonder why ND have made an art of losing elections while claiming that they are on the verge of solving all the ills of the Greek people. Samaras would be in exactly the same position, if not worse if ND had won in January. You can’t honestly believe that the Holy e-mail Hardouveli would have made it past even the doorman at the EU Commission!
    Looking to the immediate future, The only problem I see for the Greek people – and it’s a problem millennium old – is how to agree to disagree without killing each other. A little respect for your opponents opinion goes a long way, something of which most Greek Politicians are blissfully ignorant.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. mikenetherlands says:

    We were talking about Nikos Kazantzakis in a outer topic. I will never forget the end of the film Zorba the Greek.. Dance my friend. Keep on dancing till the end.
    People are strange creatures. My mother told me always about the great party’s they had during the war, the last winter in the Netherlands, Amsterdam what we cal the hongerwinter. Tulip bulbs you can use for two things, for a dish or for spirits ….
    They had burned the floors and al the doors in the small stove against the cold. But not the piano. And she told me they had great parties in that time. Never in here live she had so much fun.
    You know the book Goodbye to Berlin? Greece is like the Weimar Republic. Lafazanes and his merry band of Balkan Leninists are normal in this kind of situation. Just like fascists.


  5. A non-political reflection, in an attempt to read the human stories behind the numbers…

    It’s obvious to me that many Greeks have done wise and fairly conservative private investments during the boom years (prior to 2008), in residential and small-commercial real estate property, for their own homes, shops and catering activities.

    Why obvious…
    – home ownership statistics for Greece
    – the sample photographs posted by our host
    – Google street views throughout Greece, even in the most godforgotten places in the middle of nowhere (also in the mountainous countryside, homes show no baroque exuberance but look okay; village streets are a bit shabby but not worse than e.g. in the Provence in southern France).

    Evidently these investments were possible at the time because of the steadily rising income levels, mostly fueled by public spending that rippled throughout the economy. However since 2008 income has dropped and even for many people mostly lost. One can imagine the dramas with mortgages, and the common man can’t be blamed for not having foreseen that the bonanza would end. Numbers floating around on the web suggest that Greek banks have some €90bn NPLs on their balance sheets (NPLs are “non-performing loans”, i.e. loans with payback arrears). That is in the order of €25,000 per average Greek family of three. From the bank’s balance sheet perspective, the collateral value for these NPLs has now also suffered due to low demand on the real estate market, I bet.

    And a monetary reflection…

    I believe that today, 2015, the choice between euro and drachma (or some other unique or parallel currency for Greece) is for all practical purposes a non-choice.

    A currency switch is technically very complicated. It’s not just about banknotes and coins, it’s not even just about front-office and back-office software at the banks (see for instance various recent posts on Yves Smith’s blog for the challenges involved), it’s also a matter of converting and/or replacing all sorts of electronic transactions gear throughout the country, or at least (and urgently) in the touristic areas. Surely Greece lacks the (mostly IT) manpower resources to implement the switch.

    Most likely that was also the conclusion of Varoufakis’ team of wisemen (with James Galbraith) investigating the issue. I would be very interested to read the final study report, if such exists.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The only practical reason for a Grexit I can think of is that it will cause a shock to the Greek to be compared with the shock the average German must have felt after they lost the war.

      Nobody else left to blame, only themselves. Nothings else to do, but to rebuilt the ruins they had brought upon themselves. The Germans did that remarkably quick.

      Did they receive help, of course they did.

      Will Greece receive help if an Grexit becomes unavoidable. Of course, as soon as they accept responsibility for their own actions.

      But to-day they still love to emphasize that it is all our fault that they are in trouble.

      Or the eurozone and capitalism in general. Are they flawless? Of course not.

      Would I drop capitalism the moment there was an alternative? Straight away.

      Is there an alternative? I haven’t seen one yet that works better than what we have got now.

      I guess the Greek have to chose between an Adenauer and an Ulbricht. Not to difficult a choice I would guess.


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