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Game of Words: Never Say The 'M-Word' in Greece

As Greece ‘s negotiations with Europe over the state debt continue and with Monday’s crucial Eurogroup looming, there is an air of optimism blowing in Greece. An optimism mixed with defiance and pride. On Wednesday, thousands of Greeks across the country took to the streets to support the Greek delegation that was giving a battle against the Eurozone Finance Ministers.
Despite SYRIZA’s pre-election efforts to arbitrarily divide Greeks into those who were pro-Memorandum and those anti-Memorandum, now there is national unity for the common patriotic cause: to borrow some more and stop austerity.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has splendidly managed to make more people support him. Significantly more than those who voted for him. Only the very naive can believe that he can actually do what he promised, but even a fleeting false hope is preferable to a continuous bleak reality.
Semantics is very important in politics. Much more so than actual policy. Voters like to hear catchy words, not complex meanings. They are easy for sloganeering. A cheeky slogan can sway people much more than a sentence full of meaning. In politics, words appeal more than actions. An action requires time, work, energy; and, in many cases, money.
So Greece’s Premier has resorted to semantics. Alexis Tsipras may have not christened his children in church but he is very good at christening words. All of a sudden, the most hated word in recent Greek history now has a new name. The loathsome Memorandum is now christened a “social contract” to be signed with the European Union allies, God willing. It seems the Greek PM pulled out the Thesaurus from his university days and filled his speeches with synonyms of dreaded words.
Within two weeks, all the “bad” words that the SYRIZA leader used when in opposition have been replaced by new ones. The new Memorandum to be signed will be called a new deal, a new agreement, a treaty, a pact, a social contract. It can be called “cute panda bear” or “Attila the Hun”; Greek people will love it, as long as it is not called a “Memorandum of understanding.” The new Education Minister can scrap that word of the devil from the dictionary.
The extension of the hated loan is now a “bridge program.” And who said loan? “Line of credit” sounds more likeable. And we refuse to be “blackmailed” if they have the nerve to ask for their money back.
Our negotiators have also changed names. The “occupation forces,” the “loan sharks,” the “new German Nazis,” the “ruthless blackmailers” have now become “our European partners.”
As of now, there will be no more Troika, another abhorrent entity. There will be “European institution representatives.” And they won’t be coming to Greece to audit our books; we’ll be going to Brussels to visit them and say everything is OK. The “evil” Mrs. Merkel and Mr. Schaeuble are now Europe’s most clever politicians and most dedicated to the European ideals, according to Finance Minister extraordinaire Yanis Varoufakis.
Meanwhile, words that were featured a lot during the election campaign have disappeared from print. Where are the debt haircuts, the debt writedown, the debt write-offs, the “go home Mrs. Merkel” slogans and all those wonderful ideas we fantasized about? Gone.
Percentages have also come to play. All of a sudden, the new government says that 70% of the hated Memorandum measures are good for us and they will help growth. So all the fighting, bickering, social division, vicious verbal attacks, snap elections were done for a lousy 30% of the Memorandum? One wonders why the previous government did not go for a 30%, diet Memorandum or decaf Memorandum and we would all be happy now.
And if indeed that is the case, in Monday’s Eurogroup, our European partners (no quotation marks) will decide on the remaining 30% of measures. So, with a little compromise on both sides, there will be an agreement that will be in Greece’s favor.
It was all so easy! We just didn’t have the right words for things then.
Hopefully the average Greek citizen will have better living conditions. However our debt will still be there, huge and most likely impossible to be paid off, ever!

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