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My Favourite Planet > Blogs > Edwin Drood's Column > May 2010
back Edwin Drood's Column
  10 May 2010
Empire of Lights - Greek style at The Mysterious Edwin Drood's Column
That’s it; I’ve had it with the Greeks.
Right up to here ... to HERE!
In which our hero becomes vexed with the Greeks and suggests
they might be more comprehensible if they spoke Latin.

Just because they invented the word anarchy, doesn’t give them the right to impose an Anarchy 101 crash course on the rest of Europe. Right now Athens looks like a back lot for a Ridley Scott movie. All that’s missing is Russell Crowe. There they are, out on the streets, smashing up other people’s hard-earned property and putting all that excess subsidized Ouzo to nefarious use in Molotov cocktails when they should be studying Plato. The other day they bombed a bank (Gosh aren’t we radical and brave? Your average bank clerk is, like, so brutal, vicious and worthy of vaporizing). One of the three people they burned alive was two. And if you think that’s a bad sentence, dying before you’re even born is a lot worse. But I’m not going to make a punch line out of the murder of a pregnant woman. Words fail.
Olives & cheese & co
Just what is all the rioting about? Listen guys, the olives were fine, so was the sheep’s cheese. Sure, the Moussaka was a bit greasy but Zorba was entertaining enough. We all learned the moves and lots of us were totally down with Theodorakis and Moustaki. So what’s eating you Greeks now? Have we spat in your Retsina? Has someone been saying nasty things about Nana Mouskouri again? Why the hell are you so mad at us? Is it because we refused to take your horse inside out of the rain? Well, no, actually, because it appears we are going to do just that. You can take a wet horse anywhere.

Indeed, it looks rather odd when you actually write it down, but apparently the Greeks are mad at us because we’re trying very hard to save their scrawny little, sun-dried necks. They’re really furious at us because we’re trying to give them, yes give them, a humungous sum of money as a reward for LYING to us all for a decade, STEALING our subsidies and CHEATING on their tax returns.

A very large part of this vast sum is being provided by the Good Germans; you know, the ones who used to be the Bad Germans before they lost two world wars, rolled their sleeves up, spat in their fists and re-built their own nation out of the rubble (with a little help from the Americans) and then reinvented Europe (with a little help from the French and an ongoing chorus of catcalls, boos and hissing from the English). Anyway the Good Germans (God bless their woolly Wanderstrumpfe) have, out of the kindness of their large-valve, Teutonic hearts, decided to foot the bill for most of what the egregious Greeks are due to get. True, there are some strings attached: in future there will have to be a few less things offshore – like yachts and private islands and shell companies and bank accounts.
Greek Street & the Greek street
Now it seems the "Greek street" (as opposed to Greek Street, which as any London cabby will tell you, is somewhere between Soho and Shaftsbury Avenue) doesn’t like the strings. Yes, you read it here; the people who gave us the word "fetish" don’t like to be tied up. Hey, if you were offering me even 1% of that much money, you could seal my butt with polyurethane foam, hogtie me, nail all my limbs to a coffee table, then force me to watch re-runs of Gordon Brown speeches 24/7 and I’d still remember your birthday.

Because, do you realize how much we’re actually talking about? 110 billion Euros, that’s how much! Even tiny Belgium – I love saying that: tiny Belgium, tiny Belgium, tiny Belgium – where I happen to live, is donating around 2.8 billion to the package. That’s the equivalent of giving away everything we ever earned from the Smurfs, Justine Henin, Kim Clijsters, Jacques Brel, Maigret, Tintin, Magritte and the saxophone. This from a country usually used as a unit of measurement for oil-spills, a country whose shell-shocked citizens have to dig very deep every year to pay for their 16-going-on-seventeen governments, complete or replete with about 60 ministers – all of whom (not forgetting their staff) still have to eat, poor things, even if they don’t have any real work to do. Yes, even the tiny Belgians are bailing out the Greeks and, Lord knows, we have enough worries of our own.
Degrees of hugeness
€110 billion: that’s a lotta skin. Just how much is unclear, because apparently there’s a deal of disagreement about whether a billion has 9 or 12 zeros, so how we ever managed to get to the moon is a mystery to me. If you like, you can confuse yourself about this one here [], after which you’ll understand why I haven’t written it out in full.

Anyhow, it might be exactly this rather large difference in hugeness that is exercising the Greeks ... they invented most of the mathematics and the terminology (including the words mathematics and terminology) after all. So maybe they’re really cheesed-off because they suspect we’re trying to save their asses on the cheap by knocking three zeros off the price: "Who-da-f**k negotiated this bailout, K-Mart?" Those three zeros make the difference between what the Columbian cocaine cartels turn over in a decade and what they stand to make this whole millennium.

There are historical precedents here. Cloth merchants from the 14th to the 16th Centuries took a little extra on the cut by buying in Flemish yards (37 inches) and selling in English yards (36 inches). But three zeros: that’s a big nothing between friends and partners, right? Now here’s an interesting thing: apparently the ancient Greeks had no name for a number greater than ten thousand. So, I suggest that’s exactly what we should pay them; a sum greater than ten thousand. How about ten thousand and one? They might not notice the difference. It’s worth a try.
Trader Joe & Co
Back when Laocoon, the Trojan High Priest, said: "Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes" he was chided for looking a gift horse in the mouth. Now it could be that the Greeks are right to harbour similar suspicions, but they’re definitely going the wrong way about showing it. This current wave of mayhem redefines 'totally over the top'. We’ve moved on from: "give me the money or I’ll torch your car", to "if you give me the money and have the nerve to tell me how to spend it, then I’ll definitely torch your car!" ... hard to know what to say to that. How about this: Greeks, who needs ‘em? Let them go back to the Drachma and then wait patiently in line to fulfil EU re-entry conditions, just like any other Balkan state. Ouch, that hurt!

I was never a big fan of US traders (except Joe, I’m nuts about him), but I recently saw this headline: "US Traders dislike Greek bailout package". "Dislike" is good, they absolutely hate it. Now, don’t get me wrong, these are still the same guys who gave us Enron and WorldCom and Lehman Brothers and all that subprime stuff. But it seems to me they’re on the side of the angels this time, so I’m crossing the aisle right away to line up with Wall Street. Here’s my tag bro’, I’m in the ‘hood!

© Edwin Drood, 10 May 2010

Top illustration: "Empire of Lights" - Greek style 2010 (if it's alreet with Magritte)

Modern house near the Sanctuary of Artemis, Thassos, Greece.

Photo: © David John 2010

"Under the Attic sky"

Unter attischem Himmel - under the Athens sky at The Mysterious Edwin Drood's Column
  "the fantasy"   "the reality"  
This 1897 cartoon from the German magazine Jugend shows the Greeks' vision of themselves as inheritors of grand and noble classical traditions, contrasted with westerners' perception of them as a gang of oriental bandits about to pounce on and rob an unwary foreigner.

It could just as well have been published today as a reflection of the furor in the western popular press (especially in Germany) over the European financial bail-out for Greece. The press has laid the blame for the Greek economic collapse squarely on the shoulders of the Greeks themselves due to alleged widespread corruption, tax-evasion and indolence.
Edwin Drood's Column, the blog by The Mysterious Edwin Drood,

at My Favourite Planet Blogs.

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