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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 16 July 2016
22 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 16 JULY 2016 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM JOHN VITHOULKAS I am a kafetzi. I enjoy going out for coffee with my friends. There, I have said it. I shall even confess that coffees are accompanied by cakes. Lots of cakes. Glorious cakes. But don't tell my wife. The coffee and the cakes are also accompanied by great conversation. We can often veer through nothrough roads in our conversations, but as a lover of Greece, our conversation invariably turns to what is bloody wrong with that country. Invariably someone will raise something they heard or read about and we work through the example to identify the large systemic factor at play. Fifteen years of coffees, cakes and conversations can be summarised by the following identified ills. Greece's politicians I leave that as a sentence on its own, for it deserves its own sentence and they deserve their own sentence (excuse the legal pun). Someone will hear the story of an example of political graft and this leads us to the same conclusion every time; that Greece's political class is corrupt. Not one party. Not one individual. Anyone who enters the political class. Induction to Greece's parliament seems to consist of passing on the correct mindset that winning a seat in parliament is a mandate to grow personal wealth rather than govern for the people. We joke that there should be an X- Factor style TV competition where the most corrupt individual wins a seat in parliament. They are to be seated next to the winner of a Voicestyle competition where the fairest person in the country wins a seat in parliament also. This would then be broadcast on a Big Brother-style competition for us to see whether the fair influences the foul, or the foul the fair. Antenna Pacific take note. Meson A word that should be up there with yiayia, papou and yiasou in the lexicon of non-Greek speakers who want to learn five key words so as to say they speak Greek. I imagine a skit where Mr Bean lands in Athens and is trying to get to his hotel by saying “meson”, but everyone interprets that he knows someone above their station, with him finding himself in a meeting with the prime minister, who awaits his instructions from the masters of Greece (Troika? Germany? IMF? The New York Yankees?). Has there ever been a more misplaced allegiance to family. The story is as common as it is old. A friend of a friend who secured a job due to their family member or connection. Don't worry about those who have actually studied for this job and would be able to complete it better, give the job to the person you know and be dammed an efficient operation. Pink Floyd's 'We don't need no education' has never been more apt. We extrapolate the individual example out to the whole country and imagine a huge criss-cross of well-educated people in jobs they have no training for. To civilisation and back again Discussing politics over Greek coffee We then imagine a German official working out that one giant game of musical chairs would sort it out and lead to GDP gains of 20 per cent or more instantaneously. So we just need a massive set of speakers and a free date on the calendar of Sakis Rouvas. Fakelaki A Greek student told me this once and another teacher thought the student was swearing at me. I had to explain to the teacher that fakela- ki is the highest form of honour in Greek society. The logic is simple. My salary is paid to me to make sure I get to work and stay in the building where work happens. The fakelaki, though, is what makes me do my job. And we wonder why projects such as the transformation of the old Olympic airport, a project forecast to add thousands of construction jobs, has still not begun 12 years after being announced. We tried to calculate how many fakelakia were necessary. We believe ap- proximately 15 million are required to complete the project, the entire population and 5 million long dead family members who have yet to be removed from the pension system. Na min paroun kati kai aftoi? And shouldn't the envelope industry be dominated by Greece? My friends and I go round and round in circles discussing these issues, always disappointed at the condition of Greece, yet always able to hope the future will be different. Recently, however, I wonder whether we have been considering this problem incorrectly. Rather than finding the systemic factors that drag Greece down, maybe the blame is on the individual. Systems can be corrupted no matter their structure. If we took the 300 of Greek parliament and placed them in a Westminster parliament, do we believe that they would operate more honestly and with greater integrity? They would find a way to achieve what they want.
9 July 2016
23 July 2016