Comments on: Letter to the Greeks Mon, 26 Sep 2016 03:26:00 +0000 hourly 1 By: GeopayMe Sun, 23 Mar 2014 07:22:13 +0000 Monday Night Quarterbacking, from the couch is fun!

By: Artemis67 Wed, 06 Jul 2011 19:23:42 +0000 Dear Mr Dixon,

I have a feeling that you have addressed your letter to the wrong recipient. ‘We’, that is the Greek people, are not in a position to negotiate, reject, or indeed accept any measures put forward by the IMF and the Eurozone chiefs to the Greek government. You, like many journalists – and by extension many of your readers – appear to conflate, and thus confuse, the millions of Greek citizens with the few hundred Greek politicians who govern ‘us’. There has been no referendum on any of those measures that the Greek Parliament voted for on 29 June; there isn’t even a prospect of imminent elections, which might have allowed us to put some indirect pressure on ‘our’ politicians.
I will readily agree with you that Greece has been suffering endlessly from endemic and systemic corruption, nepotism and cronyism, a deficient infrastructure and the catastrophic complacency and apathy that characterises many (perhaps most?) electorates the world over. However, these are nothing new; in fact, I’d argue that they are the main causes of an enduring but primarily internal crisis. The crisis which we, the Greek people, have been drawn into now, was born of bankers, financial institutions, politicians, and big investors with enough clout to influence the policies of institutions and governments.
You write that ‘we’ cooked our books with the aid of foreign banks, whereas in demonstrable fact the 2002 Greek government secretly colluded with Goldman-Sachs to distort crucial figures. ‘We’ did not know about this, let alone have a hand in this, any more than you did. Yet, your wording unwittingly places the responsibility for that massive scandal squarely on ‘us’. As bizarrely, while you rightly point out that the rest of the Eurozone turned ‘a blind eye’ on the Greek government’s book-cooking, you don’t even pause to take ‘them’ to task for their complicity in the current crisis and to weigh their share of the responsibility against ‘ours’. The Eurozone chiefs brokered the deals that allowed Greece prematurely into the Eurozone on the basis of figures falsified by the then Greek government and certain financiers; the Greek people didn’t. Corrupt, nepotistic, ineffective or otherwise, how are the Greek people to blame for this high-level trickery?

Very understandably, you exhort us to ostracise those who resort to violence. There are countless eyewitnesses, videos, photos – let alone the 500 people who needed medical treatment because of the riot police’s teargas spree – pointing to the police, and those who managed police operations on 29 June in particular, as the worst perpetrators of unjustified violence. Still; neither authorised police barbarity nor the hundred or so thugs who wrecked Syntagma Square converted the thousands of peaceful demonstrators into violent terrorists – we remain present and peaceful, whereas many Greeks keep absent and quiet. Some keep away from the protests out of apathy, some out of fear (teargas, police batons, and 100 thugs perplexingly unrestrained by 5,000 police are powerful deterrents) some out of fatalism, others out of cynicism.

Many – deeply disappointed – Greeks sneer at what they perceive as our (no quotes here; I’m referring to peaceful protesters) ‘romantic’ persistence in voicing our opposition to an IMF & Eurozone package of sharp sticks without so much as the tip of a mangy carrot – nothing will ever change, they argue. They may well prove right; perhaps there really is no point in speaking up against crooks, closet dictators, or blinkered financiers more interested in the welfare of banks than in the welfare of human beings, or in replying to the editors of giant news agencies. But then again, if you believe in chaos theory – and there’s plenty of political and financial chaos in Europe at the moment – perhaps even ruffling the air imperceptibly with our presence in protests, with our vote (given the chance), with our voices, and with such letters might trigger some miniscule change that could eventually make a perceptible difference.

Artemis G.

By: memosraft Wed, 06 Jul 2011 12:32:32 +0000 Reportedly Henry Kissinger, while addressing a group of Washington, D.C. businessmen in Sept.1974, said:

“The Greek people are anarchic and difficult to tame. For this reason we must strike deep into their cultural roots: Perhaps then we can force them to conform. I mean, of course, to strike at their language, their religion, their cultural and historical reserves, so that we can neutralize their ability to develop, to distinguish themselves, or to prevail; thereby removing them as an obstacle to our strategically vital plans in the Balkans, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East.”

The conclusions are yours.

By: aristotelis Tue, 05 Jul 2011 10:01:47 +0000 Mr Hugo , I am most grateful , also as a possible compatriot of one of your great grand mothers , for your invaluable contribution on my in depth inderstanding of my current financial woes. Your memorable article has also inspired ingenious commenting such as the one posted by mr JoeyButtafucco ( July 2,2011). Mr J. has the belief that metal rods sticking out on top of almost all buildings in Greece ( as he puts it ) are connected with property tax evation , Greek siliness and the rest. The whole argument is a total – total – total nonsense. I pay for whatever property I have many more taxes than mr J can ever imagine… As for mr Hugo’s general advice , well I will be willing to provide similar nonsense to the British people when ever ( you never know … ) such an occasion arises in the UK ( Long live the interests of the bankers , who cares about people ….. ).

By: jobardu Mon, 04 Jul 2011 17:01:52 +0000 Dixon must have just returned to this planet, so his arguments are understandable.

First of all the banks didn’t just “lend” the Greeks (and others ) money, they pushed and sold the loans to them. Why? Because the bankers got a healthy commission on each loan.

More importantly, loans served as the basis for a raft of “derivative” financial instruments. The bankers got commissions on each dollar of derivatives. The derivative market is virtually unregulated and not disclosed to the public (see the Financial Times article on the “black box”). The base loans were also used to create insurance policies sold to other “customers” and underwriters.

In the US the ratio of (total dollars of derivatives)to (total dollars of underlying assets) reached 50/1. On top of that the total amount of assets plus derivatives was insured by other lenders.

Bankers are paid to assess risk and set premiums. It is inconceivable that they weren’t at least slightly aware of the risks. Yet they didn’t feel motivated to act on that knowledge because of the winking and nodding understanding of the policy of too big to fail would lead to government would make good on any and all debts, not just on the assets, but on all the derivatives that weren’t publicly disclosed and that dwarfed the original debts.

In the US the bankers got bailed out to more than the full value of the original loans plus all the “three card monte” derivatives, side bets, mixtures of toxic assets etc because public monies were used to pay bonuses to bankers for creating all this flim flam.

What is the icing on the cake is that nothing has changed. If the bankers were all fired and forbidden from doing further banking business and the rules were set up to prevent further massive, society crushing bailouts then maybe this all could make sense. But that hasn’t happened.

The bailout of the bankers for Greek debt, plus all the associated derivatives, will only be used to set up more debt in multiples of the original assets. When the system goes bang the bankers and politicians will flee to safe havens with their money.

Any realistic plan for Greece should include, as any other bankruptcy proceeding does, a plan for paying off the debt and for getting the bankrupt entity back on their feet. The current plan doesn’t. So why beat up on the Greeks, they are a pawn in the system.

By: billpeters Mon, 04 Jul 2011 03:55:18 +0000 to JoeyB, that is probably why so many Germans are now buying holiday homes in Greece. Seriously, you are right that too many Greeks avoid paying taxes and this needs to be addressed and from what I understand, is being addressed. I have heard for example, that property taxes will now need to be paid including those owned by non Greek residents (such as Germans) which were once tax exempt.
However, the average Greek wage is very low and it is the black economy that needs to be targeted not the average worker many of whom will risk losing their jobs (and have already taken pay cuts) whilst the economy collapses under the austerity package. There is only so much blood you can get out of a stone.
But the average German worker who diligently pays his/her taxes is right to be upset about the situation in Greece when it sees the silliness of the Greek tax system as you put it.
The whole situation IS a mess but Germany can’t expect to generate huge budget/trade surpluses at the cost of its weaker European neighbours who have huge trade deficits, and not expect there to be some trade off down the line. You see, usually where a country has a large trade surplus, its currency will rise due to the demand for it, thus making its exports more expensive but this doesn’t happen where the countries’ share the one currency. Perhaps the whole Eurozone is a failed concept and the sooner it collapses the better, unless the economies/countries that gain the most from the single currency, play their part too and share the booty around rather than use their financial muscle to foreclose on the weaker neighbour.

By: JoeyButtafucco Sat, 02 Jul 2011 18:23:35 +0000 I am in Greece right now. All (almost) of the buildings have these metal rods sticking out of the top of them. It was explained to me that this qualifies it as “still being built” for an indefinite period and the owner need not pay property tax as long as the building remains in that state. These are buildings with tenants and operating businesses in them, but nobody is paying property tax.

I may not be a journalist, or terribly informed on greek (or any other) economics, however I do pay alot of tax (including property tax) in _Germany_ and am quite capable of recognizing downright silliness when I see it.

I also have difficulty believing Greeces woes are solely the product of the behavior of a handful of “ruling elite” when I see something like that.

By: tomi890 Sat, 02 Jul 2011 13:45:05 +0000 Nice article. It is a fact that uncontrolled spending and corruption for many decades has burdened Greece to such a point that a deep reflection in part of its citizens is required. To give you an example of irresponsible spending consider the case of pension payments to Albanians claiming to have Greek nationality. Thousands of them living and working for all their life in Albania have been paid hefty pensions from Greece for many years now..So at least by now the Greek government should know what not to do in the future.

By: AthinaBurges Fri, 01 Jul 2011 16:19:34 +0000 Dear (this is an euphemism) Hugo Dixon,

If I were not an experienced journalist I would have thought that you were either completely ignorant or naive, or simply playing rude to a whole foreign nation. But unfortunately I can read between the lines and I can understand that the stakes are high…

To start with, Greeks don’t feel anger. They feel αγανάκτηση – aganaktisi. (Have you ever heard of “ΜΗΔΕΝ ΑΓΑΝ” Miden Agan?) So: “άγαν-α-κτηση”. If you look it up, you will find out that this precious emotional reaction means that someone cannot be happy when harmony has been taken away from his life and that only catharsis can stop him from being violent.

The Latin word indignatio is not a perfect translation. Since you tell Greeks to avoid an emotional reaction you must understand that the emotion described above characterizes a very high form of life and it should never be avoided. Violence is the natural outcome of this emotion unless things go back to normal and harmony is restored. Read any Greek classical play and you will understand what I mean.

Since you like the word “must” I’m sorry to inform you that it’s not very “in” in Greece these days to ostracise people, but maybe Greeks should bring back this wise ancient custom and ostracise their politicians because they have betrayed their country. Another thing you must know is that “NO” (ΟΧΙ – OHI) is a sacred word in Greece. It’s not “childish”, it’s the biggest national Remembrance Day, the most important national holiday on October 28th. Its name is “ΟΧΙ”. If you knew the Greeks at all you would have known that saying “NO” is considered the bravest act in peace and war for thousands of years. You would also know that they never care what the other people think of them when they know they are right.

Calling the people of a foreign country “spoiled brats” and their actions “childish” is against the code of conduct of journalists all over the world. So I’m sorry to say you are completely out of line here and I’m ashamed of colleagues who behave like this.

We all know very well that Europe isn’t ready for Greece’s default and Real Politik suggests a default much later on. Greeks know that a non-orderly default now is in their national interest. They are not as stupid as you think. Telling them that they are evading taxes, enjoying highly paid public sector jobs, consuming too much and retiring too early are all false accusations – plain nonsense and you know it. The fact is 2000 wealthy Greeks who never paid taxes –including many politicians– have already “moved” their money (800 billion Euros) to Switzerland, Luxemburg and other countries. The rest of the population is struggling to survive.

I’ve noticed that in your letter to the Greeks there is not even one word about the heart of the matter and I believe this is on purpose. We all know that the whole point is the sell-off of Greece’s natural resources. We all know that Greece is very rich in oil and natural gas reserves, uranium and gold. The sell-off by the Greek government also includes the following: The Public Power Company and its monopoly in energy, water, islands, beaches, national lands, archaeological treasures, airports, ports, national roads and much, much more. This is why the Greeks call the 155 MPs who voted for all this “traitors” and they are determined to put them on trial for high treason. The legal action has already begun. The only mistake the Greeks have made is that instead of forming new political parties, they went on voting for corrupt politicians. But now new parties will be formed and this will change everything.

Now you know what “αγανάκτηση” is and why your “keep it peaceful” sounds like advice from Mars. There is no peace without catharsis. And here is my question to you: Who do you think you are to give advice to the people of a foreign sovereign nation?

By: billpeters Fri, 01 Jul 2011 05:33:07 +0000 Vazuper, the Western media are revelling in portraying the Greeks as fat, lazy, stupid and lawless, as if the Greek people themselves are the sole cause of this problem. The tone of the “letter” is demeaning and is symptomatic of the general attitude towards Greeks and how the West (who are supposed to be allies of Greece) choose to portray the Greeks.
Amnesty international for example, reported that the protests in Syntagma were by and large peaceful, and it was the police who instigated the violence against largely peaceful protesters. However, what is beamed around the world in western media are the violent acts of a handful of hooligans and vandals with the intent to further demonise the “childish Greeks” and stir anti-Greek sentiment.
If the West wanted to resolve the problem in Greece and were serious about it, it could perhaps start by assisting the Greeks to prosecute its corrupt politicians. But of course, we all know where the corruption would lead to and hence there is a deafening silence on this issue.
Meanwhile, the Greek people are expected to just suck it up. Was General Motors told to suck it up when it faced bankruptcy? What about Fannie May and Freddie Mac? Were the Americans who borrowed funds for homes that they could never repay back, stupid fat and lazy too, which lead to the subprime mortgage crisis? Were the Americans who borrowed beyond their means the sole cause of subprime crisis, or are the lenders responsible, who should have known better?
The austerity package is nothing more than an invasion and occupation through credit and foreclosure. That is why the Greeks are protesting.
Not much different from the Turkish occupation instead the Turks taxed the Greeks less (and had little understanding of human rights but that is another issue for another day). Instead of bullets and bombs being used to acquire Greek state assets and to suppress the Greeks, it is now done by a form of foreclosure through “austerity measures”.
Decrease wages, decrease pensions, increase taxes, increase prices, sell off state assets, decrease services, sack workers, whilst lending more money to appease the lenders with the knowledge that the debt won’t be repaid.
And how is that supposed to aid a recovery to a broken economy?
The author does not understand the anger as he purports to, because the austerity program is perceived by many Greeks as an invasion and attack on its sovereignty by international bankers. Understand that, and the author might begin to understand the Greek anger.