Thursday, May 30, 2013

The blues of my fatherland... Episode 1.

I started my day by reading this article. As always, accurate and to the point, a routine work from an ever excellent BBC columnist and reporter. I personally retained terms such as the 'crisis generation', 2013 as the 6th consecutive recession year, and unemployment will stop growing in 2015! Does this really mean that we'll get a total workforce exodus to emigration, or that unemployment will hit 100% by then, and Greeks will only be able to work as volunteers with no pay? Is 2015 to be the bottom of a bottomless well?

I'm quite sorry to sound such a cynic, but my own information coming from people I'd trust with my life, tells me a whole different story about the reality in Greece. Not that BBC and other foreign reporters got the news wrong, not at all! They are pretty well informed, but they also have to be politically correct. And not too daring in their statements. Not to hurt irreparably highly placed individuals. Their impact is huge and they need to rethink each and every word they put on paper a dozen times over and again! The one thing they will usually avoid to analyse is how all this came to be. Most non-Greeks have difficulty understanding the Greek thought stream. Their Greek character and attitudes. Most is incomprehensible by aliens. Even, us Greeks in the diaspora have often difficulty grasping the compatriots we left behind. The story is complex, one needs to dig deep in the past to spot the abusers of our national system, who enriched themselves to the point of absurdity without care for the voters that gave them the power. And worst of all, the country is still in the hands of party (big) dogs, who either enjoy highly paid parliamentary positions, or other operational government functions. From Ministers to Prefecture chiefs and City Mayors. So, I decided to... speak. Well, I'm just nobody, but who knows, if other nobodies like me started talking, who knows indeed, we might eventually have some impact. This is my first episode, triggered by the wikipedia page of a PASOK politician. Read along...

The troika asked the Greek government for some years now to privatize state owned businesses. What seems common place in most democracies of the world, it still appears to be the hardest to achieve in the fatherland. What the Britts did in the 80ies to revive their industry and business, Greeks have problems doing even today. Why so?

Take any nationalized Industry. Largely in the hands of government bureaucrats. No difference with what used to be the case in the communist past of many countries of the East. Civil servants applying the rules of a sophisticated bureaucracy, full of holes like Emmental cheese that they only know how to take advantage of, enriching themselves with kickbacks in the process. Well these are the so-called managers behind those government owned enterprises. Agnostic ministers that are supposed to make the business decisions and help these companies flourish. When did they learn it? In the party offices where they spent most of the time when 'Attending college' to become party dogs and grow up the political ladder afterwards?

Take this lady for instance.

Her name Diamantopoulou. Her profession, 'civil engineer'. She never worked as one, and been in politics all her life, but some party animal thought she was a 'leader' material at her 26 (!), and so she was given the position of the Prefecture Chief in Kozani, the youngest ever in history, right under the PASOK party flags. Wow! What a genius! Word has it that many of those early 'leaders' of the Papandreou PASOK generation rolled out of the party offices in the two national capitals (Athens and Thessaloniki) filled with ambitious union 'students' during the early hours of Metapolitefsis (the period after the colonels). The more leftist, and 'revolutionary' the higher you got! So, Mrs Diamantopoulou, just like another one like her, a 'hero' of the student revolt in 1973, Damanaki, eventually made it to Minister, Commisioner in Brussels, and now envisioning an own party within the PASOK movement. What can I say more?

It's being said that a new Greek language emerged with the coming of US educated Andreas Papandreou. I can confirm that for sure. I left Greece in 1976 and for many years I haven't spoken any Greek. Intensively I mean. After almost forty years, ever since the crisis started I came in contact with old friends, and ever since I'm getting back to the language a lot closer. I'd tell you this. The words they use today are the same as in our dictionaries for thousands of years. But the context, and the specific usage of those terms in that particular context has fundamentally changed. I worked all my life for UK and US companies, and I can tell you, what Andreas did to the Greeks, as a master demagog he was, brought to the country a new jargon, that was skilfully used in opposition to the Communist old fashioned 'demotiki' Soviet influenced slang (about the 'Imperialist US' and more of this BS). Papandreou started for example, for the first time ever in the history of Greek affairs, to talk about 'meritocracy'. About 'innovation' and a 'vision for the future'. His language was taken out of any annual report of any US blue chip in their attempt to sound positive and appeal to the shareholders. The Britts are also masters of such a pompous talk! I was actually shocked to find out this about the Greeks. In my conversation with old friends I revealed to them: I been using this shit for ever in my internal company reporting and have read piles of others' reports and business school papers with jargon like this to the level of vomiting! Especially, the term 'strategy' seems to be the most abused term in the history of man. Raped beyond recognition every single day all around the planet in any site occupied by corporate offices of the sort. Followed by 'corporate vision' and 'the ability to execute'!

If you want a genuine Greek example about my previous claim, here's one. Taken from Mrs Diamantopoulou's wikipedia entry:

Έχει γράψει το βιβλίο «Έξυπνη Ελλάδα», όπου υπογραμμίζονται οι ανάγκες για καινοτομία, στοχευμένη δράση και επαγγελματικές προσεγγίσεις ως απαραίτητες προϋποθέσεις για κοινωνική και οικονομική πρόοδο.

I translate:

She wrote the book "Smart Greece", where she stresses the need for innovation, (the need for a) targeted execution*, and (of the need for) a professional approach as the necessary preconditions for social and economic progress.

(* meaning execution based on achievable objectives.)

When presented in Greek, the sheer audible 'sophistication' of the terms used from a language with more words than any other on the planet, and of a history / evolution of more than 3000 years, well, I bet you, most of today's middle class Greeks who hear this, it seems like music to their ears and are about to get orgasmic. Totally ignorant of the inner meaning of that sentence, but with a huge smile in their face, feeling divinely to be born Greek! This shit is great, they proudly think! Nobody does analyse the real meaning of a sentence indeed, to discover the triviality of its statement, but they just love the sound of it. It sounds intellectual and top-educated. Papandreou and his PASOK clan have led the country with such a BS talk for 30 years indeed. With huge personal paybacks. In the millions of euros! To the total destruction of everything. And leave a country in shambles behind. A fact, for sure! It pays off to talk like Andreas! And so, most Greeks eventually ended up talking like him in their daily exchanges. Thus, no mystery about it, I found myself not grasping at all what the f@ck they been talking about. It wasn't me the problem. It was the holly crap Andreas planted deep inside the brains of the Greek middle class. Sad story...

Back to the über sentence of Mrs Diamantopoulou's Wikipedia... what do we really learn that the 'wise' lady, who enjoyed such a fabulous career inside the Papandreou politics, is trying to tell us? Actually she say this: Innovation is a requirement for progress. How wise indeed! Tell me something I didn't know...

Let's continue then. That statement alone would make a very short sentence. And it's as trivial as hell. Almost needless to say. So, let's add some "execution based on achievable objectives" to make it sound business-like. Cool! But, how much value does this extra wording add to the original statement? Do you really have to be a brain surgeon to understand that 'innovation without execution' is a plain oxymoron? Innovation is about execution. Bringing to market the results of R&D is what's known as innovation, a first semester MBA student will affirm to you. Right? Which, added to the original sentence, is nothing more than a mere redundancy...

And, how about the 'targeted' bit? Have you ever known where untargeted execution will bring you to? Do you have to be a 'Smart Greek' to know? Half brains do know that. Folks with the IQ of a plant do know too! We used to say, if you don't know where you goin' (no concrete objectives and goals) then any (path)way will bring you there. Papandreou knew that, but the process of systematic bullshiting of the Greeks was deep under way and far too late to stop the game. Why would he, anyways. It just worked and added votes to his polls...

And the smart 'arse' who penned the Diamantopoulou entry (maybe, she did it herself and asked another party dog to post it) added the final touch of social and economic attributes to make it sound even more populist. In conclusion, 'Smart Greece' is the story of triviality where loads of political abusers, manipulators and incompetent politicians submerged the country into the abyss of failure and disgrace!

Well done, your Ladyship! Και εις ανώτερα...

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