Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Europe to Greece: get real

Ever since the poem 'Strong images' was written three days prior to the elections held in Greece on January 25, 2015, and this in response to many people asking me what to expect as outcome if Syriza would win, one point in that poem has been proven to be a constant in this ongoing crisis of failed negotiations between Greece and its creditors, namely that of 'uncertainty'. The lines go as follows:

Step by step I scale the stairs till up at the top I find an answer

to what I have been searching for all along. It is the news of elections

in a far away land near the Aegean sea which has undertaken it

to try a different way while leaving uncertain what shall be questioned first. *

There can be posed many questions as to why no real agreement has been reached so far. Some call it the fault of the negotiation tactics by the new Syriza government. Rather than engaged in serious and binding talks, they have transformed negotiations into a game in brinkmanship: who shall blink first. Often enough such tactics mean not really searching for an agreement with the other side, but to play a power game according to own rules while presuming the other side has also its own, equally disturbing rules. Moreover the fault for the failure is always put on the shoulder of the other side, yet such a blaming of the others does not alleviate of the need to take responsibility for the real failure.

So while the Greek government with Tsipras as Prime Minister tends to interpret its election promises in a way which reminds of Fundamentalists wishing to take literally what was promised, and despite Varoufakis having cautioned Tsipras when he gave his Thessaloniki speech during which he made those promises, that it would have been better to imitate Churchill, it still begs the question why all this uncertainty prevails more than ever before five months later, that is during the critical month of June 2015?

So when reading in an article with the title 'Europe to Greece: get real' published June 11th 2015 that "the Greek government, the institutions say, hasn’t committed to paper the concessions it has promised", it says also something about the huge gap between oral and written agreements. The Greek side prefers to be taken by the spoken word as there is less of a risk to be wrongly interpreted, while on the other and especially on the German side nothing is believed unless written down in black and white on paper. Alone that cultural difference ought to be taken serious if to be bridged.

The article goes on to say that the creditors are still not satisfied with the new proposal. Apparently it iss not serious enough and “underestimates the complexity of what is being required from them,” according to Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who took notes at the meeting where Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker exchanged their competing proposals to end the deadlock." (1). Alone this reference to complexity as if no simple and straight forward solution was possible does remind of what Saskai Sassen said in her recent presentation in Athens, namely that the financial complexity has especially nowadays a brutality of its own. (2)

Complexity of a financial system means in reality that it has gone out of control. The violence which enemates out of such a state of affairs is arbitrarily directed by the forces having still a say with all the brutality against people. Their expulsion from jobs and homes says it all. It is one of the clearest signs that collective responsibility has broken down. Apparently is is no longer an universal Right for everyone to continue to exist within society. Rather once marked as losers, trouble makers etc. they are ousted. They represent in the eyes of the secure society a failure as if only success of the fake kind counts. With it goes a tendency to reduce Rights of citizens by all kinds of surveillance techniques made possible by sophisticated technology, while at the same time the privileged and the very rich withdraw into well guarded and protected enclaves. Saskei Sassen calls it 'territorial centrality' with all its inherent logic of interests, power conflicts and manifested short comings.

Insofar chasing fake models of success brings about so many unwanted burdens upon societies and individuals, that value premise of financial success as being the utmost goal of society has to be questioned. So when it is demanded that Greece should get real, from another angle it can be demanded that those doing the negotiations should become real. Above all, they should become aware what harm and damages their tactics and refusals to work out a compromise cause for many. Indeed, many people are becoming by the day not only in Greece but throughout Europe ever more desparate as they see no longer a way out. This mood or sentiment reflects the true failure to reach in time a new Deal for Europe and Greece.

Having just been in Berlin for one month, but now back in Athens, a comparison may be allowed with regards to the demand put upon Greece to get real. A friend visited me this afternoon. He had come from Thessaloniki. When downloading his boarding card for the flight to Athens, he realized that he had not done this for one year and a half. He is an excellent consultant for European projects so that travel has been until now a prerequisite for his work. The need to travel is self understood if one is to do an effective job at European networking in need to be done if to be able to create further going partnerships and an exchange of good practices. In short, for someone like him not to travel reflects more than a crisis. Another friend put it even in more stark terms, for she does not mind saving money if the budget needs to be tightened due to tax increases and a reduced salary, but to lose the freedom to travel, that is an entirely different matter.

I have heard that doctors in Greek hospitals faint out of fatigue. How real does this have to become when a patient with cancer has to wait for three months before receiving a first scant of treatment. The situation in Greek hospitals is rapidly deteriorating while the demand for health care is on the increase. Of course, in Germany there exists also a long waiting time to get an appointment e.g. for having issued a new identity card. At least two months in advance a time slot has to be booked but then the system does work. And although the digital world had promised to speed up things, a real measure - the waiting time needed to get an appointment with a doctor - reveals something quite to the contrary is taking place. Such a sad state of affairs is not just another kind of inefficiency everyone tended to blame the old bureaucracy for. Rather inequality is guranteed in the new system. For there are those on a fast track which gives them easy access while others are thrown out of the system and never can get back in again.

It should not be overlooked that the Middle East is not the only place which produces migrants. A Polish mayor of Walbryzch reports how many Polish families return from Greece where they have lost everything. Their fate is that they had cut their ties when they decided after 1989 to move to Greece in the hope of a better life there.

Altogether it says that the demand to get real should mean everyone begins to realize what is happening to people of all walks of life and recognize that what is happening is so unreal that this constant nagging at Greece as if they have not done enough as of yet is unbelievable. But the European creditors seem to want to uphold a negative incompleteness but they never ask themselves if they are clinging to an impossible image of a perfect deal. To do this despite reality speaking quite another language, is not just a failure. Rather they refuse to recognize that austerity policy has not worked especially in the case of Greece, and yet they keep pointing to Ireland, Spain and Portugal as if it has worked. Hence the creditors continue to uphold such a highly senseless demand for Greece to reform. So the creditors end up sticking to their point that Greece has not done enough as of yet and therefore has not delivered an acceptable plan. Yet if their demand is unreasonable while the Greek side tries to convince them of the need for another concept of reform, something else is blocking out the possibility of reaching a reasonable strategy to go forward together. It may be that the political and moral reference is missing. Consequently it appears ever more so that human sanity is under direct threat by such a failure to come to reasonable terms.

One critical thing should be realized, namely tht Greece finds itself no longer to be in a mere debt trap so that a possible policy as adopted by the Syriza government could be an attempt to challenge 'conventional thinking' since thought by Varoufakis as being the cause why no solution can be found to all these financial problems in the first place. Rather Greece is becoming rapidly a death trap and therefore quite another thinking has to come up with a set of policy measures not imposed from above, but which have been worked out with the Greek people. This work in progress is not being done as long the Greek government sticks only to its election promises. For everyone knows, politics is one thing, real measures recognized by all is quite another. For tax evasion cannot be resolved by the government alone. It requires the willingness of all to be honest with themselves and the tax system so that a 'morality of payment' is being upheld by everyone, whether institution or inividual. That would alter the negotiations dramatically if proposals put forward as part of the reform plan have been tested already and can be shown that these measures shall work to bring the Greek state and economy up to date. Instead after five months of Syriza government many more people in Greece no longer know a way out.

Uncertainty has chilled everyone down to the bone while an overexaggerated fear triggers off many more negative consequences due to wrong decisions being taken. These negative consequences include a further deterioration in health e.g. increase in cases of cancer. It is well known that due to stress and anxiety having gone way out of proportion, the health of people is put at risk. This is the case when no real life expectation prevail and all no longer believe in future they can work out a solution. Varoufakis has rightly so pointed out most of the problems are linked to artificially set deadlines with one debt payment chasing the other and if not met the prime indicator that Greece is heading towards default and Grexit.

If anything is needed when in a death trap, then a much stronger connection between people at local level is needed so that life can continue in the 21st century. Without such a web survival is at stake.

Yet it seems as if Greece may be on the way out of Europe, or at least out of European projects. For instance, this friend of mine observed that last year not one single project proposal for European funding with a Greek organization being the leader was approved. He concludes that "no one likes a loser," and then he put it even in stronger terms, namely that "they hate us."

Hatred has been analysed by Jean Pierre Faye in his book 'Totalitarian languages' as a key phenomenon leading to the destruction of the Weimar Republic and to the rise of Hitler. Hatred is also an expression of people who hate themselves for giving in to the pressure of conformity. The really frightening thing about the European method of coercing member states into conformity is not the finding of a consensus, but all ending up ganging up against the one who dares to contradict the fake consensus. The creditors have by isolating Greece become like the skin heads who kick the one lying on the ground with no one stepping in to protect that one victim. Ganging up against one has become a ritual of conformity within the Eurozone decision making process. It explains why no one on the European side dares to break rank and side with Greece.

Habermas has called it the outcome of Germany exercising the power of hegonomy. However, anyone with knowledge of how European decisions are made internally, that is within the complexity of institutions, including Council, Commission and European Parliament, recognizes that this lack of democracy can easily lead to a modern Fascism.

Rather than accepting the rule for cultural consensus since Kant that if the other does not understand and accept the concept being proposed, then surely one has oneself not understood the concept and therefore would requite modification in order to adapt it to the needs of the other, this failure to heed the resistance of the other is masked by the demand for conformity. The demand manifests itself through continuous references being made to the need to stick to rules and contracts.

Even though many of them have not been kept as pointed out by Saskia Sassen, Schäuble continues to insist a "contract is a contract". As a tautology it misses the point as to what is really needed, in order to reach an agreement. Given cultural differences and one value premise of the European Union being its wish to uphold cultural diversity in Europe, it would require such cultural negotiations which allow the building of both imaginary and real bridges if the other side is to be reached. Hence this reference to the Poetry Workshop held in Wroclaw in which the main theme was 'bridges' both as metaphor and as physical realities, and this in reference to one particular bridge, namely the Olaski one. Indicative of that need is that many articles and speakers refer constantly to the need to bridge 'differences', yet if it is demanded of Greece to get real, then this one sided approach will see only over and again any bridge collapsing before it could be completed. With this one sided approach which does not work goes a leaving out of cultural equally qualitative demands. With it goes a reduction to quantitative and measurable commitments which leave out completely the imagination and therefore the other side can never be perceived or reached. That holds for both sides with the Greek and the European side constantly blaming the other for the failure to reach an agreement.

However, without the imagination, there cannot be anticipated a future. Also there cannot be questioned the fake presentation of what supposed to be reality when in fact any abstract model of financing such a huge debt is based not on a search for truth but on probablity calculations about which Robert Musil said already before Second World War would lead to terrorism. The latter is an extreme expression of a search for truth but by no longer being able to distinguish between destruction and self destruction (Enzensberger: 'civil war' at micro scale), such terror eradicate everything, fore mostly human trust and openess needed to accept the other.

Afterall, socio-economic reality is a man made construct within which institutions seek to order things. The real problem begins with this assumption about possible governance. Given the uncontrollable finances, political institutions have little or no longer any say at all in how mankind can be governed. Rather all live by now in a world determined by uncontrollable finances which seek to invade spaces, in order to gain in real value where before they had none. Surprisingly even Barak Obama joins in this chorus and demands that the whole of Greece becomes a functional platform for global finances. Such a platform would eradicate any local activity and expell people from their own society. The brutality of this complexity has a name according to Saskai Sassen: 'explusion' as indicated by the many foreclosures in the United States and elsewhere. The brutality sets in when people can no longer afford to pay off the mortages on their houses and thus have become financial, if not death traps.

Finances follow the law of the derivative of the derivative. It is a fake value chain which can and does enslave everyone in a nebulous fake model of success. In quantitative terms on the side of production, it may mean still so many more cars were sold during the past year, and therefore so much more profit was made. But the money earned is not invested in the creation of productive activities. Rather housing stock is bought up. Saskei Sessen calls it 'corporate parking'. It leaves cities which used to have a lively equally incomplete complexity, exposed to dead capital: buildings not being used and remaining dark at night. 

Even Harvard Business Review acknowledges if an organization is perceived only as being maximum profit orientated, it will fail for human motivations in a world of cultural diversity is that much more complex. It takes sound business practice to realize culture plays a tremendous role in every economy, and only politicians who ignore this will fail to understand this shift in the economic paradigm.  

Naturally the national narrative plays here a role as well and unfortunately the Syriza / Greek government plays the same game by emphasizing national pride and sovereignty long given up by having joined the Euro zone. So this complexity has its own nearly uncontrolled brutality in the way real solutions for negatively identified states are ruled out. Greece is somehow in a parallel sitution as to how Detroit has been treated. Again Saskia Sassen points out not only exclusion of many people is the intention behind such a strategy but rather the attempt to transform Athens into a platform which serves global financial strategies tells still quite another story. 

It should not be forgotten why Obama said that at the recent G7 meeting in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Germany. The United States is increasingly worried about the presence of Russian and Chinese war ships in the Mediterranean. So there is a historical truth behind the saying Greece has always fared badly when there are but two major powers wishing to exert their geopolitical influence, whereas five or more powers competing with one another gives Greece more freedom to find its way. Naturally the question is whether or not the present government is really capable of governing. Friends say that they behave in such an amateurish way that they are ruining almost everything and taking the country backward, instead of forward. Others like Saskia Sassen believe they are putting up a fight againt this global financial pressure to conform to the rules of the game or else you are out. No matter the outcome, one thing has become certain despite all the uncertainty. Greece is definitely on the way to making history.

Hatto Fischer

Athens 11.6.2015

1. Zeke Turner Europe to Greece: Get real. 10/6/15, 6:08 PM CET


2. Rethinking the Greek crisis by Saskia Sassen

* For the full poem 'Strong images', see the last poem in the collection of poems about the Greek crisis by Hatto Fischer at


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