Saturday, 5 November 2011

Be Fair to Greeks Seeking Gifts

I have known Junes by the score, even a girl called April. Marys, Celias and Pennys, heavenly and otherwise; Giselas, Rosemarys, even Ethels. I once knew a girl named Maria but I have avoided Prudence. In my view, if you are not going to spend it there is little point in wearing yourself out earning money in the first place.

I am Greece made flesh. Long holidays, short working weeks, high pensions. Fine by me. And if my debts are being paid by the Germans who seventy years ago subjected Greece to cruel occupation and slave labour, then bring it on. No wonder nationwide ceremonies to mark the anniversary of the German invasion were disrupted by demonstrators, furious that they were paying the price for the Euro’s survival.

Under the terms of the European Union’s latest bailout, VAT in Greece has been raised to 23 per cent, pensions have been cut by 20 per cent and some 30,000 public servants have been put on notice and given a whopping 60 per cent pay cut.

Last week, Mr Papandreou decided it was time to let the Greek people choose their economic destiny. As he pointed out, it would be grotesquely unfair to condemn a generation to brutal unemployment without letting the voters decide for themselves.

‘We will not implement any programme by force,’ he explained, ‘but only with the consent of the Greek people. This is our democratic tradition and we demand that it is also respected abroad.’

The precedent was set in 507 BC. In Athens in classical times all laws were decided by referendum. Every month 6,000 men met on the Pnyx, a rocky auditorium to the west of the Acropolis. It was one of the world's earliest known democratic legislatures, the material embodiment of the principle of, ‘equal speech’, i.e. the equal right of every citizen to debate matters of policy. The other two principles of democracy were firstly equality under the law and secondly equality of vote and equal opportunity to assume political office. The presiding officer of the Pnyx assembly opened each debate with the open invitation, ‘Who wishes to speak?’.

We know what our leaders think of democracy. We are spilling the blood of our children to bring democracy to the Muslim world, whether the Muslim world wants it or not. Our own incompetent Parliament is tearing itself in tatters calling for a referendum to decide whether we should stay in the EU. That, we insist, is our democratic right.

We just don’t see why other nations should share it


I have, my friends, an equal stake with you

In this our country, and I grieve to note

The sad condition of the State's affairs,

I see the state employing evermore

Unworthy ministers; if one do well

A single day, he'll act amiss for ten.

You trust another; he'll be ten times worse.

Aristophanes: Ecclesiazusae (393 BC)

Mind you, it would be as well not to imitate them too closely. The Persians, who had trouble with them, had a proverb:

Zeus had five wives. One of them was his aunt, another was his elder sister and a third one he ate. If my aunt had a beard, she would have been my uncle.

All in all, if you think of life as a cinema I am glad I have moved from the dress circle to the fire exit.

Success is very tiring and the more of it you have the more tiring it gets; the more things you are asked to do, boards to join, audiences to address.

I am devoted to constructive failure, which I define as climbing just so far up the ladder to enjoy the view without getting out of breath; but not so high as to get vertigo.

I once interviewed Charlie Chaplin when he disappeared and I found him in a Doncaster hotel re-visiting the theatres he played as a child.

I pointed out that he had vanished in the clothes he stood up in, no suitcases, not even a clean shirt.

He said: ‘Listen, my boy. Success is when all you have to pack is a wallet.’