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The Greek Problem: The Grating Sense of Entitlement


ATHENS – After a foggy night of Eurovision wailing, listening to twin dancing Irish robots keening, ballads in everything from Serbian to Lithuanian, and Greece’s Aphrodisiac entry coming up limp, I was awakened at 8 a.m. by the blaring sounds of a memorial service from a church where someone decided the whole neighborhood deserved to share in the mourning for a poor soul unknown to them and piped it through loudspeakers almost attached to the bells in the tower.
Who knows what would have happened if someone had decided to ring them? It could have awakened the dead too. It was a sonic boom service, loud enough to smash windows and maybe even reach heaven, although creating a lot of turbulence for aircraft on the way. It went on for hours and made you want to kill someone, thwarted only by the fear of another memorial service there.
Now I don’t want to blasphemous or impious here, especially after attending a recreation of the Trial of Socrates who was put to death in 399 B.C. for that, along with corrupting Athenian youth by urging them to think, something that hasn’t happened in Greece since. Thinking, that is. People deserve to grieve for their lost loved ones, but perhaps not so publicly because it’s a private matter, and certainly not with loudspeakers on a Sunday, bothering God, as the late George Carlin said it, on his day off. Carlin, in one of more brilliant riffs, said there was no God but no one can ask him now if he was right. His service, aptly, was humor-filled. The memorial service at the Greek church morphed into a broader Christian commemoration, but inasmuch as God is omnipotent and omniscient, he certainly doesn’t need a hearing aid, and by that time everyone for blocks around got the message.
God certainly has had enough on his agenda, trying to make Syria observe the ceasefire brokered by a former United Nations invertebrate, Koffi Annan, whose experience included another failure with a non-plan to re-unify Cyprus. Perhaps God was distracted by his millennia-old project to solve world hunger, although you think he’d be able to do it by dispatching someone else with five loaves of bread and two fish and at least feed 5,000 poor people.
The problem isn’t God, but those people at the church who think it’s okay to force everyone else to participate in their anguish, even Muslims, Jews, and Hindus, and there’s plenty of them now in Greece, or atheists, who the compassionate Christians believe can just go to hell if they don’t like it. Too many Greeks believe they are entitled to what they want, most of them without earning it, and that’s helped create the economic crisis that threatens to bring down their country, the other 16 countries of the Eurozone who use the euro as a currency, all of Europe, markets from Wall Street to Paris to Tokyo, and create another worldwide recession or depression.
All because too many Greeks – not all, because the many decent, hard-working , ethical people here are swallowed up by the others – want the world handed to them on a platter. They want sit-on-their-ass no-heavy-lifting-government jobs where they can stamp papers, smoke, drink coffee, ignore customers and go home at 1:30 p.m. – lunch time for Americans. That is, of course, if they bother to come to work. Greek-Americans who don’t visit Greece can’t see it because they are among the overachievers in the United States, industrious and entrepreneurial.
Greeks rail against what they call the stereotype of the lazy Greek, but created that image. They wonder why the country has gone to hell, where they will meet those impious atheists who didn’t want to listen to piped-out memorial services, but don’t see the connection between the failed state and their flouting of laws. They park on sidewalks, smoke in no-smoking zones, stampede to get into front of others on a bus, cut lines, drive through red lights, put motorcycle helmets on their elbows instead of their heads, don’t pay taxes but demand services, plot and scheme to avoid work, and want to retire at 35 after 13 years of non-work.
They poke fun at Americans who they say live to work, while Greeks say they work to live, but  too many don’t really work so now they can’t live because the practice by New Democracy’s Capitalists and PASOK’s Anti-Socialists of appointing hundreds of thousands of needless, useless workers to public payrolls for generations has created a bottom-heavy public non-service sector. That is weighing the country down in $460 billion in debt and required Greece to go crawling to the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) for $325 billion in bailout loans that came with harsh austerity measures. What do you expect when you borrow $325 billion? As Benjamin Franklin said, “The borrower is a slave to the lender.” Just ask Tony Soprano or your bank if you miss a payment.
Now that the bill has come due for profligate spending and lack of productivity, in true Greek entitlement fashion, they don’t want to pay it. The pay cuts, tax hikes, and slashed pensions demanded by the Troika as collateral for its money were onerous to be sure, but who created the need for them? The politicians and their patronage appointees who conspired to do nothing and gain everything. The critical June 17 elections will decide whether Greeks return the dueling ventose liars of New Democracy and PASOK to power in another coalition that will renege on vows to renegotiate the terms of the bailouts they signed, or anti-austerity parties, led by the dangerous demagogues of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) and its disguised plan to force Greece out of the Eurozone, back to the drachma and to the same entitlements it believes should go on and on and on, with someone else paying for them unconditionally. If they win, there will be another memorial service, for Greece, and you won’t need loudspeakers to hear it.

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