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Παρασκευή, 29 Μαρτίου 2013

Greece is Japan

Last week's events in Greece were unique, although we may not know for years or even decades what their final meaning is. It is impossible not to be tantalized by the potential of these events to change the course of Greece's history. What's important, however, is that we focus on what this means on the street. The current administration seems too caught up in dissecting the macro-level situation to pay attention to how their people are doing. Just call it missing the battle for the bullets.
When thinking about the ongoing turmoil, it's important to remember three things: One, people don't behave like car salesmen, so attempts to treat them as such are a waste of time. Car salesmen never suddenly set up a black market for Western DVDs. Two, Greece has spent decades being batted back and forth between colonial powers, so a mindset of peace and stability will seem foreign and strange. And three, hope is an extraordinarily powerful idea: If ethnic conflict is Greece's glass ceiling, then hope is certainly its tabletop.
When I was in Greece last August, I was amazed by the people's basic desire for a stable life, and that tells me two things. It tells me that the citizens of Greece have no shortage of human capital, and that is a good beginning to grow from. Second, it tells me that people in Greece are just like people anywhere else on this flat earth of ours.
So what should we do about the chaos in Greece? Well, it's easier to start with what we should not do. We should not let seemingly endless frustrations cause the people of Greece to doubt their chance at progress. Beyond that, we need to be careful to nurture the fragile foundations of peace. The opportunity is there, but I worry that the path to peace is so poorly marked that Greece will have to move down it very slowly. And of course Athens needs to come to terms with its own history.
Speaking with a small business entrepreneur from the small Shiite community here, I asked him if there was any message that he wanted me to carry back home with me. He pondered for a second, and then smiled and said, nama es tubo, which is a local saying that means roughly, "A bus is a vehicle that runs twice as fast when you are after it as when you are in it."
I don't know what Greece will be like a few years from now, but I do know that it will probably look very different from the country we see now, even if it remains true to its basic cultural heritage. I know this because, through all the disorder, the people still haven't lost sight of their dreams.

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