Monday, May 7, 2012

Karl Kraus all over again...

I had a ton of things to do this morning, but I owed it to myself to shout this out loud. My very own opinion about what happened in the fatherland, and in France yesterday. And their consequences for Europe, in general.
Remember Karl Kraus? I referred to him back in November. It's the Austrian journalist who during the rise of the Nazis in pre-WW2 Germany wrote the infamous '...when the sun of culture is low, even dwarves will cast long shadows'. Karl's bones must have turned in his grave by looking at the Greek poll results yesterday evening.
Greece: The years long dominant PASOK and New Democracy parties took the beating of a lifetime. Besides a whole bunch or Mickey Mouse political formations with the most absurd party names ever invented, who also earned equally trivial votes after all, both PASOK and ND have been literally slain! See for yourself in the tables on the right, comparing the previous Parliamentary elections (2009) with yesterday's. PASOK fell almost 31 percent points !!! Yesterday's 'winner', ND, lost half as much, almost 15 percent points. However, the current insane electoral system for Parliamentary seat distribution gave them a bonus of 50 additional seats. ND's leader, Antonis Samaras, initially wanted these elections to take place months earlier. He was yelling for elections like a spoiled infantile prat he is, when the then PASOK PM George Papandreou was replaced by Papadimas, a banking technocrat. Samaras ain't that smart to have realized that if elections had happened then, he would have achieved a far worse outcome than yesterday. At least yesterday he 'saved' face by eventually 'winning' the polls. With a strong taste of bitter lemon. What an achievement! To write home about.
Furthermore, to explain what makes a Greek politician 'political' (read 'manipulative') I'll mention Venizelos, the PASOK leader, approaching recently a weight lifting athlete from Albania (from Greek parents), four time Olympic medalist (3 gold) to join his electoral list, last minute. True story. Did he think he could attract immigrant minority voters this way, or did he really believe in the kid's 'political' skill and 'knowledge of the economy'? We'll never know. Venizelos called him back home from the US, to help the 'fatherland', the kid mentioned at an interview later. Well, tell good ol' Venizelos that there's more skilled Greeks than that in the US. And in Europe. Try NYU's Professor Economides for a change... If the Professor is considered good enough to present his opinions publicly at live programs of networks like Bloomberg's he's for sure an outstanding candidate to run the Economic Affairs in our tormented country, galloping circles around all of the five previous ministers in the same post put together.
Who 'won' yesterday's polls then? As far as I can see, victory went to a bunch of 'good for nothing formations, populists of the first rank, right or left extremists. People that wouldn't see 'governing' even if it hit them in the face. Such are 'Golden Dawn', dreaming of bringing back the 1967 colonels (they are all dead, dude...). Then it's the Master of populism and false argumentation Kammenos (link to his name to read a post I wrote about him not so long ago) with his party 'Independents'. Kammenos reckons Putin will rush to replace Merkel in beefing up the impoverished Greek bank accounts with rubles -- dream on dude. Judging from Kammenos's rhetoric in the past, I guess he desperately needs a crash 1-0-1 course in Elementary Economics and Finance, before he utters his pathetic opinion again on anything financial or economy related. Next, you got this SYRIZA party, finished in second place, that emerged from connecting a whole bunch of moderate leftwing teams in one go. Like Hagar the Blue-Beard united the Vikings. Not that the SYRIZA folks know what to do next (usually communist ideology brainwashed -- very much like religious fanatics -- never do...). Not knowing what to do next is less relevant though. What's important is the fooling of the masses and pretending one knows the 'solution'. Until one ends up in a cabinet post, and abuse starts all over again...
But how come modern day consumer Greeks, so Prada, Chanel, Rolex, Cartier and BMW brand sensitive, used to indulging themselves into lavish livestyles only yesterday, will all of a sudden turn around and vote 'communist'?! You see, us Greeks love to be sipping pina coladas by our private swimming pools under the spring and summer sun in our 3rd vacation residence at a not far away Aegean island, mostly earned with the sweat of the rest of our EU brothers, and our neighbors whom we ripped from anything they've got, but nevertheless pretend we ideologically feel for the commies... Many of us, that is to say, are fake 'Reds'. That's why we never wear ties. Ties make us look like Capitalist 'pigs', you see. We are simply 'cool' and liberated. Without ties. Sipping ouzo and keeping our women into the kitchen. While we are busy entertaining some Ukrainian beauty, paid by the hour! Who do we vote for then? Simple answer: Anything 'left' of anything you can think of! During my years at the NTUA, when the colonels were still calling the shots - literally, being a 'commie' was considered the ultimate 'cool' sensation, especially among the offsprings of the richest Athenian families. Above all, being a member of the Commie Youth (KNE) could easily get you laid. In the early seventies, those arrested and interrogated by the junta's secret forces were the most sought after lovers. Most of those people you can find today in leadership positions living like the greediest capitalists, but still voting as left as possible. In the mind of most Greeks, being left still is the ultimate cool thing... Despite the Internet, the fall of the Soviets and... Facebook.
And finally, you got KKE, the 'real Communists' (like we say, the Real IRA) who forgot to turn to the next page ever since Gorbatchev left office. They still believe CCCP is in power in Moscou, and that there's a Soviet military parade in front of the Kremlin each May 1st! BTW, KKE achieved a hilarious win/lose situation, unique in their history. Although they have increased by some penny percent point their total vote-count and won 5 additional parliamentary seats, they also fell to the 5th rank from the 3rd! Yep, in recent years, Soviet era dreaming 'Communists' were party Number 3 in Greece for far too long. Blame pina coladas and Greek wants for 'coolness' of some sort...
One character element is so characteristic of us Greeks. Lack of solidarity among ourselves. You can describe a Greek by telling this joke:
"The devil comes to earth and meets a penniless Greek, living in a hut with his 5 'orphans' (wife left him for a wealthier dude...). Next to the hut there's this 'palace' residence of another Greek, who earned a lot of dough in his life, and was able to indulge himself into a few fancy German automobiles, swimming pools, Filippino servants, the works! The devil (or call him a Genie if you like) says to our penniless: 'Give me one single wish to make you fulfill all your dreams, and live happy for ever. There's a snag though. Only got one shot! One single opportunity (I sound like Eminem)! Whatever you ask, I'll do, but no more..."
What would any of you have answered to a question like this, folks? At least those of you who ain't Greek. I reckon you'd have asked the Genie for anything ranging from 'make me the healthiest and richest person on the planet, to gimme everything like the guy next door and even more (throw in a sexy 18 year old Ukrainian for my lonely nights too...yep, Greeks are fond of them, especially the blonde), or even give me the Nobel Prize, whatever shit works, kids! Unless you were Greek like me. In that case you'd have asked what our penniless compat replied to the Genie: "Burn down to shreds my wealthy neighbor's house! That's my wish".
That sums it up. Above all, Greek political animals are singular atoms. Ions they are... They hate joining together to form molecules. They think they are far too smart to need others, and, more than anything, they don't want their neighbors to prosper. They wouldn't even choose to maximize their own fortunes, as much as they care to minimize their neighbors'. How brain-dead is this! Sad story!
Under this background, imagine a convocation of a number of presumably leftwing political formations to create a people's party and teach Merkel a lesson. One of such political parties ('cos there are several in Greece) is SYRIZA. In Greek meaning 'by its roots'. These comedians came second yesterday. How hilarious is this, people? Would you trust the fortunes of any country on the planet to a Muppet show like this? Apparently 1.5 million Greek voters did! There's more: The party ranked 7th in yesterday's elections with 6.10% and 19 seats in the Parliament was actually part of SYRIZA until recently, until it broke away (good for them), because of some of the reasons I mentioned: Every Greek 'knows better'! Good for us. SYRIZA would have otherwise been the overall winning party and would have to form a government !!! There's a God after all! For how long, though? Before the gates of hell taketh us all?!
There's even more insanity. I was told that Lazopoulos, a celeb stand-up comedian, had the fine idea yesterday to get out in the media and call for unity among all left parties in the Parliament. That's where it came to after all, dear Mr. Kraus. A stand-up comedian telling us what to do! At least Jon Stewart is humble enough to avoid making points like those... And he's far more intelligent. And he ain't stand-up. Sits on his chair most of the time.

France: Francois Hollande ousted Nicolas Sarkozy in yesterday's Presidentials. Well done, Mr Netherlands!
What I find quite hopeful though --and mind you, the French outcome is way more important than the infantile faits divers back in the fatherland-- is what Hollande preached during his campaign: Tax the rich, and spend public money to create new jobs. This is Paul Krugman all over again. If Republicans allowed Barak Obama to spend as much as he wanted to, then we'd all sing 'happy days are here again' by now. But obsessed GOPers in the US, only matched by the arrogant grande gueule of Sarkozy in France, and Frau Merkel's stubborn beliefs about the economy, still prefer to ignore reality and persist on small government, and austerity driven deficit reductions. There's nothing wrong with some inflation, kids. Listen to this, stubborn krauts: A bit of money printing won't harm no-one. Paul Krugman won a Nobel for saying this. At least, if you can't listen to me, listen to Paul!
So, despite their misery leading them to insanity and emotional outcries, Greeks may have unintentionally helped us all to reach a humble turnaround point in this crisis, good for the entire continent, mind you. I'm sure if this eventually proves a true statement there's gonna be slogans back 'home' about how we, Greeks, helped save Europe all over again... Whatever works, kids... whatever works!
Provided Francois Hollande eventually does what he promised to do, and sends a strong message to the Germans about how to crawl ourselves out of this crisis, it's gonna be all for the better, eventually. The Greek poll results yesterday have only demonstrated that Troika imposed austerity measures can potentially harm the sanity of any given GIPSI citizen. Extreme right or leftist groups of populists will take advantage of common citizens's emotions during their moments of despair, and convince them that only they could square the circle and bring prosperity back again! Prosperity for themselves that is, sure thing. Suppose all those SYRIZA enfants gâtés 'revolutionaries' ending up in power positions and having to make managerial decisions in any of the country's disastrous problem areas, God forbid. The new kid on the SYRIZA block is a new face, pretty young and rather ignorant. But way too arrogant. Without a tie, mind you! I hope he proves to be better than my first impressions by watching him talk on TV. I strongly doubt it though. Was he born like this? Does he carry the management gene? For managing a whole country? He might, but equally, he might not! Greece is not the place to experiment with new makeshift leaders right now. Especially with leaders who believe in centrally controlled economies. Most of those comedians don't even have a clue how to spell 'free market economy' or 'democracy'. True story...

UPDATE: It was quite curious to see the markets in the US showing remarkable resilience at the break of the news. If there was any uncertainty and short-selling at all, they were  primarily due to Hollande's victory in France rather than the Athenian clusterfuck! I guess, my fellow Greeks will have to realize, rather sooner than later, that their ridicule electoral reactions is no front-page news anymore, as the markets seem to have priced-in the Greek tragedy effect (or simply investors are fed up with us and don't care no more; we are just 11 million desperadoes in a 7 billion wide world...).

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