Greece: let's help the Greek people in solving the democratic errors that caused the financial trouble!

In an earlier post, I outlined that both the EU-countries and Greece were sort of stuck with politicians that may have not done their job well. Populist politicians in the EU have widened the gap with Greece by portraying all the Greek as bandits. Meanwhile, within Greece there is a huge difference between have's and have-nots and between politicians and the people. So while the world may treat Greece as one people, we overlook the distinctions within the Greek people.

ZeroHedge featured an article that made this distinction more specific. The article outlines that Greece may essentially be a kleptocracy. In such a system, a financial and political Elite skims and concentrates the wealth of the nation via corruption and embezzlement while being protected by the winking complicity of their fellow plunderers who hold civil and financial authority.

At present all eyes are focused on Greece and the votes in parliament. While most eyes will focus on the financial part of the vote, I am thinking now about the ramifications for Greece as a democracy and its citizenry. Imagine yourself to be a Greek voter that has over time learnt to live with corruption and the fact that an elite holds the jobs and priviliges. In this role you are essentially illegally taxed by the elite, in order to get services from the state that it should provide you for free or at much lower costs. And now this elite has also frauded the European system so much, that it is obliged to introduce a formal tax upon you as well. This double-taxing appears to be quite unfair and incorrect. And what can you do about it?

The current workings of the Greek democracy will thus inevitably lead to further social unrest than we see already. The people will want to rise up against their political elite in a similar way that in the Middle-East countries we see the people rise against its dictators and their family-clans. And that's what we see in the streets now. It's the same process, but the Greek elite is less pronounced, leass easy to catch and less easy to portray as a single entity.

I am afraid that the EU people and politicians will be so much clouded by their economic mindset and reasoning, that they will misstake and portray the Greek people's resistance as inappropriate given the amount of fraud that has occurred so far in Greek government (the elite). This may lead EU leaders and politicians to explicitly or implicitly favour a violent suppression of completely justified Greek protests.

In my opinion, our attention in the EU should not just be focused on the financial issue. We should take a broader perspective and try to determine how we can help the Greek public get a government with less corruption and less implicit taxes, allowing them to pay the formal taxes that Greece needs to come out of the crisis.

The stakes are high. And not just financially. If we overlook this issue, then essentially we are supporting the dictatorship of the Greek political elite.

And is that something we want the European Union to be based on?

Click here for a Dutch translation of this blogposting.


Wilders acquitted in Court but gets the biggest verbal reprimand ever

There is much to say about the trial and the full acquittal of Wilders. Yet, realistically speaking we need another day or so to read the full verdict and come to final conclusions.

It is possible though, to sketch what happend at the Court House today. Essentially two things happened:
- for quite a bit of Wilders behaviour, the Court found it denigrating, rude, schocking and so on; they gave him a thorough verbal reprimand in terms of regular human behaviour,
- by referring to the context of the discussions in earlier years, as well as Wilders repeated additions in public "I have no personal grudges against any individual muslim", the judges observed his behaviour to be directed to the ideology islam and not to humans. Thus they concluded that a full acquittal was in place.

I'm still pondering the consequences and implications. Here's my first thoughts.

1. If this approach is the recipe, it means you can come a long way in society by constantly throwing in this easy disclaimer: 'I don't have any personal issues or grudges against the individual people; it's merely their collective way of thinking that bugs me'. Thus, practically speaking, the court just provided a recipe for our society. Hatespeech allowed, if accompanied by a disclaimer that you don't mean harm to individuals.

2. The judges morally and verbally convicted Wilders in the loudest terms possible. They didn't use the word 'obknoxious' but their sentences and qualifications came essentially down to the biggest reprimand ever. So while Wilders may now claim that free speech is essential and he has won a victory, it may be a Pyrrhic victory. Every time that Wilders refers to the verdict of the court in his favour, anyone interviewing him can also quote the other parts of the verdict in which his behaviour is qualified as rude, schocking, seeking and on the border of the acceptable.

3. With the acquittal, Wilders no longer gets a stage for standing up as a symbolic freedom fighter or a martyr of democracy. He is none of the above, merely qualified as a rude politician that has sought the edge of the allowable. And that puts the ball back where it belongs: in the court of the civil society. Here in the Netherlands we may all take some time to reflect on the developments in our society that made it happen that such a rude, obknoxious man has gained so many followers.

4. I suspect that the claimants that have brought the case forward, may eventually seek to address their dissatisfaction with this verdict with the European Court of Justice. And my guess is that they do have a chance there. In the meantime, the trial has allowed us to ponder fundamental questions with respect to the limits of free speech in practice and has lead to a very clear qualification of Wilders behaviour. Both are a good thing and it is good to observe that as we speak, the national news bulletins outline both elements of the verdict of Wilders.


Greece: we Europeans need to bypass politicians and support the Greek people

The Greek parliament is facing a tough call with respect to future measures to reaarange their financial household book. And at present we are seeing the economists do the calculating, the politicians do the talking/negotiating and the banks may mildly be supportive. Yet all the talk and public debate seems to be in terms of black and white, of division, rather than in terms of connection. That surprises me.

At pressing times like these, it may be time for the citizens themselves to speak out and connect to Greece and its people. The euro has a very positive cost-benefit ratio as it shielded Europe from uncanny complicated situation when the financial crisis hit in 2007. Without it we would have had highly fragmented local financial disasters all over Europe. Politicians are forgetting this too quickly and choosing for populistic lines of reasoning to satisfy what, in their view, is the peoples wish/opinion.

On both a political and human level, there is no other way than supporting the Greek. But we shouldn't let only the politicians and bankers do the work. It is now time for European labour unions, companies, families, sports clubs, stamp collectors and what have you, to reach out to the Greek counterparts that they have been in touch with over the last years.

The message to them could be one of human and moral support, outlining that both the Greek people and the European people are stuck with politicians that sometimes don't do their job right. In Greece they frauded a bit too much and in Europe they are just too populist and lack the leadership to stand up for the euro now. But if we look underneath it all, there is only one thing to do: support the Greek, sympathize with their situation and encourage/support them to make the best of it.