Thursday, January 22, 2015

Greece, Democracy & Humankind's failure at Self-Rule

"Greece is the birthplace of democracy, Western philosophy, the Olympic Games, Western literature and historiography, political science, major scientific and mathematical principles and Western drama including both tragedy and comedy. Greece is a democratic and developed country with an advanced high-income economy, a high quality of life and a very high standard of living."
(Source: Wikipedia)
Image: Idyllic Harbour Town of Symi, Greece
The above idyllic harbour scene above is what most foreign tourists may think of when they ponder making a trip to the Mediterranean country of Greece. Indeed, it is beautiful, laid back and a slower easy going paced life style. Well, sort of. Many northern Europeans love going on holiday to such hidden Mediterranean places for relaxation. I have many friends and family who love to go there on holiday. But it's anything but relaxed in Greece these days and it's been that way for a very long time now. 
National Socialism Movement in Greece calling for
the removal of all immigrants
Over the last couple of years you've no doubt heard of the financial crisis in Greece which came to a head back in 2012/2013 when finally the European Union agreed to bail out the Greek Banks and government. Greek unemployment as of October 2014 was around 25:80%. That has created much anger, resentment and protest in the streets of Athens against the failed leadership of the Greek government during this time. During the height of the anger and riots in Athens, my wife and I were watching the news on CNN Europe which was highlighting the strong resurgence in not only Greece, but all  Europe of these Nationalist Socialism movements and the usual backlash blame game against immigrants [both legal & illegal] who of course were said to be at fault for Greece's political and economic woes. We saw one popular very large Greek Politician who had a following of over 7,000 supporters in the streets giving the "Heil Hitler" salute after one of his speeches in which he emphatically demanded that all African and Middle East immigrants be sent back to their homelands. It was creepy. But not uncommon as many countries over here in Europe have this kind of political mentality going on and that is something I don't think the USA Media is reporting on over in the United States who are also dealing with their own immigration issues. Clearly when I go back home in the USA to visit, the European Socialistic model of democracy is still being touted as the poster child of everything wonderful about true democracy. [whatever that is] At least when I spoke of this when visiting over there the past couple of years, no one I spoke with had any clue this was happening in Europe. Even here in Sweden National Socialism has gained greater support. But there are also other Mediterranean countries in the news who also experience much of the same economic and political crisis as well. Italy, Spain and Portugal all have issues. Well, after the bail out by Germany, France and other E.U. members, things seemed to quiet down, but now there is talk once again of Greece leaving the European Union for good. So what really happened anyway ?


Europäischen Parlament
When I first came to Sweden, my wife told me about the reasons behind the formation of the European Union. She said there were numerous justifications for it's so-called necessary creation. The one that mostly stood out to her was when she visited her brother who married a girl from Spain. Her sister-in-law said that it was necessary that Europe unite and fight and compete against the United States. Basically it was mostly an economic one. But it effected all the Mediterranean countries in a very different unique way. Part of admittance or acceptance into the European Union is that countries applying for application must meet certain social welfare criteria towards it's citizens. Keep in mind now that this European Union with strong socialist government leanings was for the most part a strictly central and northern European creation. The belief is that government takes care of the disadvantaged and elderly. Nothing wrong with that. But traditionally, in most Mediterranean cultures, family always did this. Government responsibility was never considered and most governments there had never budgeted or structured their governments towards such heavy social welfare programs. Hence they would have to heavily invest to pay for such programs. They would have to grow a large consumer economy and charge higher taxes for such welfare entitlements. Although the E.U. is Socialist, it's also very Capitalistic. So the Mediterranean countries bought into the consumerism agenda of the E.U. program. Traditionally, most cultures in the Mediterranean were never previously obsessed with acquiring many consumer goods. They were contented with earning a simple living and taking care of family, not that they were perfect, but like everyone else they have their faults as well. But prior to the E.U., families for the most part were close to each other and content. They took care of one another well beyond their immediate family circle. This is something Northern and Central Europe hasn't experienced in decades. World War II took care of that by shattering many traditional family values and traditional ways of life. Frankly, they were stumbled by the war which is also why most are not very religious. Fact is, the churches are at fault for that. And know there are many who don't wish to hear that, but it's nevertheless the truth.

(Just Add Feta)
When I first came to Sweden in early 2006 almost 9 years ago, I was at my Bank at Nordea here in Gothenburg. The Bank teller at the window who waited on me was a girl from Greece. We spoke about her country and I asked why she came to Sweden to live when she already lived in such a beautiful country with far superior climate. She said it was because of work. She said unemployment was bad in Greece. [keep in mind, this was 2006, long before the crisis] She said it had been a mistake for Greece to enter into the European Union. She said as a result of Greece obtaining E.U. membership, most families were being torn apart, they were becoming distant because of the need to work more. Any country that entered the E.U. had an immediate inflation on prices for all goods and services. She said that before the E U, Greek families only had the Father going to work and the mother stayed home with the children. She said after the E.U. membership, the mother also had to go to work and that Fathers often had to have two jobs. She said when it came to Social Welfare programs that were required by the E.U., they had to be paid for and Greece had to borrow money to pay for such services demanded by the E.U. Before the E.U. families took care of their elderly. It was never considered the government's responsibility. The traditional family of most Mediterranean cultures has always been about extended families [Uncles, Aunties, Cousins, etc], much the way Africa, Asia and South & Central American countries still are in some places. Even small towns and villages looked out for one another. But the Bank Teller told me that much of the stable cultural structure which held families together was gone for the most part. She said that life was better before the E.U was brought on board. And yet, at the same time there appears to be a change now where younger people who went to Athens to become wealthy consumers are coming back to smaller communities or islands and taking up traditional work to get by and actually becoming successful and more happy about their newer simpler way of life. Some of that traditional family can still be found about Greeks countless island communities if you get away from the bigger cities. In fact, last year I watched an interesting documentary by reporter Philip Williams of ABC News Australia where he interviews a few Greeks who have gone back to a more traditional simpler lifestyle of generations past and are successful and happier for it.

"Greece - The Odyssey, Reporter: Philip Williams. We've seen and heard a great deal about the economic apocalypse thumping Greece. Violent protests, enormous pain, staggering job losses, lives destroyed. But that's not the complete picture. Meet the Greeks turning national disaster into personal triumph. They're not sitting around under the thunderheads of austerity waiting for the economy to turn and the sun to shine again. They're taking matters into their own hands."
(Source: ABC News Australia)


There were some great suggestions and experiences by those who came back that showed a resilience to a bad economic situation and how they were able to adapt. They admitted that the consumerism and lifestyle of the bigger cities brought stress and that the life promised and promoted by it's leadership was false and fake. They found eventual happiness in a simpler way of life when they moved back to their smaller villages where they grew up which brought less stress. Pity that most of the world doesn't believe in a simpler way of life. But there were also some great points to come away with from this documentary about what many of these Greeks had to say about their own culture's invention of a type of government called Democracy which is championed today worldwide  as mankind's savior and what they think of it now. For example, there was this one woman, Eleni Boubouli, who left her career and urban lifestyle and moved from the second largest Greek city of Thessaloniki to the countryside where she now has created an Herb business. 
The reporter, Philip Williams asked her, "I've talked to many Greeks who say, you know, first of all it's the politicians, it's their fault." 
Eleni Boubouli's response: "No, okay, but the politicians I think are people who we voted for. So if we people hadn't voted for them to do all this bad stuff that they did . . . some Greek people take responsibility and others don't, but we voted for them."
Christos Rozakis being scolded by
an elderly neighbour woman in his
hometown for not taking care of
business and having a child.
Another man that reporter Philip Williams interviewed was Christos Rozakis who also was one of those disappointed with politicians and the decisions they have made which forced him to close his sports car automotive shop and move back to the small town rural life. There was a funny cute scene where Christos was being scolded by an older woman inside his boyhood town who said he should be taking care of business by having a child. He explains that he does want a child, but cannot afford one. Next, the reporter Philip Williams interviews him at his small town carwash where he still works with and details cars. Christos admits that he is not opposed to any type of work. Washing Cars or shining shoes, he says just let me do it. Later Philips interviews Christos behind closed doors at his private home and as Philip says, the real raw emotions takes over. Christos explains that he comes from a people and culture who invented Democracy. But then he says that he is wishing that Greece could rather have some kind a dictator now instead of democracy. He of course blames the present politicians for Greece's problems and then with tears and more raw emotion he explains how Greeks are not a lazy people. They are strong honest hard working tax paying people who simply wish to make an honest living, but that they bought into the propaganda of the wealth consumerism utopia promised by E.U. membership. It may seem odd that he would say such a thing as wishing Greece had a dictatorship, but I do understand what he meant. In many ways, most of the world's historical dictators held absolute power like ruling Monarchs of the past. As bad as many dictatorships were and are, they do have one common outcome of their iron fist type of rulership, they keep a sense of order, even if  much of their personal warped ideology is twisted. In other words people tend to know where they stand with a dictator. A couple of examples. When the Yugoslavian dictator Tito died, the once varying cultures who lived along side each other as peaceful neighbours eventually had their country fall into chaos and anarchy over self-rule sovereignty rights. Same with Soviet Union and the present Arab Spring crisis which not only has failed, but situations have become far worse. Christos of course isn't looking for a psychopath type of dictator, but someone with good ideas who will stay in power keeping Greece stable and rejecting democratic elections as long as his ideas work. The main trouble is however, as time pants on to the end, this is impossible with any human ruler.



Wiki-Commons
Today, Democracy is still hailed as mankind's only saviour. But often it has become a mask or cloak for something else. When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, the justification for the Gulf War was said to be for democracy and not oil, except there never was any democracy ever in Kuwait as they always had a ruling monarch called an Emir. In fact, when Kuwait was finally liberated, the first order of business for their Emir was to replace the gold fixtures stolen by Iraqi soldiers from his bathroom toilet & shower while his subjects were left with a ruined infrastructure of public services like water, sewer, electricity, etc. You know how most ruling monarchies are ? But the funny thing about democracy is that it is supposed to be by people and for people. There are these so-called free elections and whatever party is elected, all sides have previously agreed to accept that outcome and obey the rule of law under that nation's constitution no matter which side is elected to be in charge. Except that things have never really worked that way and it's getting worse. Each side wants to blame someone else's side for the problems and woes. So it was interesting to watch that documentary on Greece and most of the people interviewed actually blaming themselves for putting failed leaders in power which brought on the miserable consequences they are all suffering now. Not many people who are driven by the democratic animal are prone to admitting such a thing. It's always the other side's fault. But there is a historical warning which shows that putting trust in human leadership has always had consequences as well as any supposed good. The warning is not hard to understand and most people [even non-religious] could agree with what is said in an ancient historical account. Oddly enough, it's the majority of the religious folks within Christendom who should be adhering to this advice, but they completely ignore it by heavily immersing themselves into this world's politics no matter what country they reside in.


The setting is in the original nation of Israel where the Jews are wanting a King over them just like all the other Nations around them. They are apparently restless and dissatisfied with the simple arrangement of judges within their cities and communities offering guidance, settling disputes and generally keeping the peace among the people. So they are not content with their own God being their King as was originally set up. It would seem in their mind such a system of governance and direction was primitive and unsophisticated. They wanted a more modern trendy type of rule with all the pomp, ceremony and bragging rights that goes with it. The Prophet Samuel was appalled and displeased at the demand of the people. He took it as a personal failure, but was told that the people had not rejected him, but rejected their own Hebrew God Jehovah as King. The Prophet Samuel was told to warn the people  of their collective community responsibility for insistence on having a King and the consequences they would experience under such a harsh ruling human king. Here is how one modern day, easier to understand contemporary translation "The Message Bible" renders the account:
1 Samuel 8:10-18
So Samuel told them, delivered God’s warning to the people who were asking him to give them a king. He said, “This is the way the kind of king you’re talking about operates. He’ll take your sons and make soldiers of them—chariotry, cavalry, infantry, regimented in battalions and squadrons. He’ll put some to forced labor on his farms, plowing and harvesting, and others to making either weapons of war or chariots in which he can ride in luxury. He’ll put your daughters to work as beauticians and waitresses and cooks. He’ll conscript your best fields, vineyards, and orchards and hand them over to his special friends. He’ll tax your harvests and vintage to support his extensive bureaucracy. Your prize workers and best animals he’ll take for his own use. He’ll lay a tax on your flocks and you’ll end up no better than slaves. The day will come when you will cry in desperation because of this king you so much want for yourselves. But don’t expect God to answer.”
The predictable response of the people to the warning was this:
But the people wouldn’t listen to Samuel. “No! they said. “We will have a king to rule us! Then we’ll be just like all the other nations. Our king will rule us and lead us and fight our battles."
So those Israelites wanted to be a great and mighty Nation. They wanted to establish national pride and economic prosperity in competition with surrounding nations. Where have we heard that before ? Whether humans call their leader King, Emperor, Dictator, Premier, Prime Minister or President, the citizens of all nations bear a measure of guilt when their leaders go wrong. How well did things go for the German people who gave majority consensus to the Führer of Nazi Germany who restored German pride and National economy ? Incredibly, even the Churches [who should have known better] supported and helped in establishing that failed government. Now, I understand folks don't like hearing that. They never have when I've brought it up before, but it's a matter of documented historical fact.

Typical Facebook Blame Game
Today, my Facebook's timeline feed is littered with all manner of political posters of all ideological persuasion blaming the another side's politics for the economic, social and environmental woes that their various countries are experiencing. Nobody accepts personal collective responsibility for their participation in a failed political system. There are times it is so bad that I have to unfollow someone's postings. Under the definition of democracy people agree by their participation in such a system that they will accept whatever the political outcome results of any election. Unlike those Greek citizens interviewed by reporter Philip Williams who were very honest and open, admitting that the Greek woes were their own fault, these other people blame another side's leadership within that democracy for getting their country involved in a War or bringing the country down to economic ruin as a result of what they see as failed environmental policies. Hence, when you turn on the nightly News Reports, all you see is angry protest and raw hatred towards other fellow citizens. This same observation was made by Salman Rushdie. My wife and I saw him interviewed live on CNN Europe in 2013 where he stated this:
“We live in an age of identity politics in which people have been encouraged to define themselves by what makes them angry. You know, I mean, I would say that the more healthy definition of the self is to define it in terms of the things you value and care about and love, you know."   
"But now, we seem to be—or many of us—seem to be defining ourselves by what we hate. You know, and that rage, as you say, becomes a badge of identity—becomes a kind of selfhood." 
"Classically, we have defined ourselves by the things we love. By the place which is our home, by our family, by our friends. But in this age we're asked to define ourselves by hate. That what defines you is what pisses you off. And if nothing pisses you off, who are you?"
(Source: India Currents)

You know, Salman Rushie is absolutely correct. People's modern day beliefs and support of any cause is generally based on something they hate or what makes them angry. Rarely does anyone anymore champion something positive that they love. Of course there are exceptions, but when you watch the nightly global news reports, things really are moving more towards raw unbridled hatred. People of every side will point the finger blaming others with neither side admitting personal responsibility of guilt by association for their participation in a failed system. I think what many of the common people from both political sides often times really want is absolute dictatorial rule as long as it's their side in the position of absolute power, with democracy as a smokescreen. You know who else was right ? Margaret Thatcher, who gave a speech at the 40th Anniversary Session of UN General Assembly with the President of the United States, Ronald Reagan on October 24, 1985 where she put the blame of the failure of the United Nations squarely on the shoulders of all it's member Nations. 
"Secondly, when we ask about shortcomings we should start by looking at ourselves."
"The United Nations is only a mirror held up to our own uneven, untidy and divided world. If we do not like what we see there's no point in cursing the mirror, we had better start by reforming ourselves."
(Source: Margaret Thatcher Foundation)

When the next election [of any country] comes up, the participants will fall for the next round of manifesto after manifesto, piles upon piles of empty promises and the usual political rhetoric that goes with these party atmosphere election festivities. They will dance and cheer Viva this or that politician and totally ignore any personal responsibility on their part to actually read the fine print before their purchase. Those celebrity politicians will always reach out towards their political life-support constituents with promises of 'change,' even though that 'change' is really nothing more than the same old political pendulum swinging back and forth between political parties. Participants will once again allow themselves to be suckered into that new call for 'Change', maybe even get that rare privilege of touching or even posing for a picture with their beloved Secular Messiah and not once considering the consequences that will follow, because for just that one precious euphoric moment, all is well at the convention or celebration party. But interestingly, on the subject of that word/term, 'change,' we have another interesting biblical text which incredibly relevant to our subject here:
Proverbs 24:21Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC) 
"My son, [reverently] fear the Lord (Jehovah) and the king (government), and do not associate with those who protest for change [of allegiance, and are revolutionary],"

One does wonder why most of this world's professed Christians and their churches totally ignore and do exactly the opposite of what their holy book councils against a political course with this world. After all, they are commanded to keep seperate from the world, but do exactly the opposite. But if like Mrs Thatcher said of the United Nations flawed is true, then it's true that the flaws come from the various member Nations around the globe and couldn't the same thing be said about failure of Democracy of any country in which a leader is democratically elected by a population that is no more qualified to understand, problem solve or hold a leadership role, than the one they elect ? All humans have the same identical imperfections and flaws as anyone they elect, but by nature they are not humble enough to blame themselves. Just the guy they ALL elected to be put in power, even if he/she wasn't their personal choice. See, it's called community responsibility. Many folks wonder why I so often quote many biblical texts on this subject in my posts. As I've stated before, I'm not the one who continually bring this subject up. Take the quoted text below adopted by mostly non-religious (in the conventional sense) Secular Progressive Nations who thought this quote from the bible would be appropriate outside the United Nations building:

Outside of the United Nations building there is this inscription quoting Isaiah


How many countries really believe inthat text above and show so by their actions ??? This is not to say there are not good viable ideas and solutions out there. There are truly good viable options out there with regards to improving the environment, the economy etc , but they never seem to be implemented. Why ??? They just always seem to be at an arms length away and yet still out of reach. Sometimes it just feels like some evil extraterrestrial alien force may be out there pulling the leadership strings over our globe whether that leadership is political, religious or economic (Science) to keep things from reaching that happy conclusion. Maybe folks should be more like some of the Greeks, start questioning what they've been putting their trust, loyalty and blind unwavering faith in for most of their lives.

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