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High life

Putting Greece on a sound footing is like cleaning out the Augean Stables

But instead of Hercules we’ve got a midget yob at the helm

13 June 2015

9:00 AM

13 June 2015

9:00 AM

There’s nothing to add to Martin Vander Weyer’s item about Hellas of two weeks ago in these here pages except a Yogi Berra pearl, ‘It ain’t over till it’s over.’ The Greek drama will go on and on until the brinkmanship is exhausted. The EU has blinked, as I thought it would.

Although Greek accounting arabesques have been known to shame the Bolshoi — Goldman Sachs taught the modern Hellenes how to legally cook the books and screw Brussels, something we are now paying the price for — we Greeks have contributed a few things apart from cheating and not paying our taxes. As Michael Daley wrote in a letter to the Telegraph, Greeks ‘divined architecture in the human body and the proportions of humanity in their architecture’. That singular creative explosion of the 4th and 5th centuries BC has never been equalled. Modern Italians, ashamed of the Roman copycats, suggest that the ancient Greeks even discovered sex, but it took the Romans to include women. Boo! I guess Pericles has to be the greatest statesman-leader ever, his idealistic patriotism free from all sordid and selfish motives. (Just look at the Clintons and weep.) Cimon of Athens, Miltiades, Themistocles, Pheidias, Praxiteles, Socrates, Plato, Aristides, Sophocles, Aeschylus, Euripides, Aristophanes, Plutarch, Thucydides, Hippocrates (and Taki?); you name them, we had them.

OK, OK, I know that is all in the past (even Taki), but we are the only small western European nation to win two Nobel Prizes for Literature, with Seferis in 1967 and Elytis in 1974. We were the last European country to stage a military coup and overthrow a quasi-democratic government, in 1967, and the last to abolish a monarchy after an extremely dubious referendum overseen by prime minister Constantine Karamanlis, the most undemocratic peasant and most ungrateful politician who has ever existed, and that’s saying something. (Had the king’s reign been allowed to continue, he would have put a stop to the looting practised by the Papandreou-Karamanlis gang, and Greece would not be in the shithouse today.) And we are the smallest European country to win the European Cup, in 2004 — with a German coach, needless to say.

We are also the country that just might bring down the whole shameful quasi-dictatorship of the EU, something I fervently pray for. But the Germans ain’t what they used to be. They have blinked and blinked hard.

The latest Greek government reminds me a lot of Netanyahu and Likud. They both cry wolf when there is not even a mouse around. Bibi’s alarmist rhetoric has been a staple of his career. Since 1996 he’s been strutting in front of the American Congress getting standing ovations while he warns Uncle Sam that Iran is building a formidable arsenal of ballistic missiles that will soon have Manhattan in its reach. In the meantime, he keeps building on Palestinian lands, depriving those poor souls of the little water they’ve been left, and slowly strangling their economy.

The Greeks are using confrontational tactics and refusing to propose the specific steps they would take in exchange for the final bailout. Just because such tactics work in the bazaar, it doesn’t mean they will do so in serious diplomatic discussions. The ghastly finance minister Varoufakis is to diplomacy what Queen Elizabeth is to kick boxing. Israel’s own spies admit that Iran is no threat and wouldn’t be for longer than ten years if it were allowed to build a bomb. The present Greek opposition admits that mistakes have been made, but they are being made to look like Pericles when compared with the Syriza mob.

Let’s face it, putting Greece on a sound footing is like cleaning out the Augean Stables — with one difference. The stables were cleaned by Hercules, whereas we have a midget at the helm. Calling the Brussels mob names should be left to people like yours truly, not to those who sit across the table and negotiate. The Syriza gang seems to think that countries behave in the way they did in the Athens cafés they used to frequent. Voices are raised, threats are made, drinks are overturned, then people shake hands and everyone goes home to their grotty wives. Well, not exactly. Syriza and the media that support it have been playing the victim since its inception. (Like Likud.) The fact the Germans paid war reparations more than 50 years ago is immaterial to many Greeks.

Another fact, that it was successive Greek governments democratically elected that signed on the dotted line for the present disputed loans, is also immaterial to many of my countrymen and women. This is why the Greeks are left with few allies among other European sufferers, namely the Spanish and the Italians. When one plays the clown one gets pelted with pies, said the Greek philosopher Taki in 400 BC.

Modern Hellas might be out of the shithole, but not for long. The Greek bureaucracy will find a way to cheat and beat the system. The Greek character used to blame the gods, and later on Uncle Sam. Now it’s Angela Merkel, the Ilse Koch of today, according to some of the more restrained articles in the Greek press. The mother of western civilisation, Hellas, is now reduced to hurling insults and playing the victim. As they say down south, Oy vey!

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