Greek tragedy? No, it’s not inevitable

This post is coming to you from a hotel lobby in Athens. I have spend the last two days in Greece to take part in a meeting on higher education reform hosted by the Greek Prime Minister, and this has also given me an opportunity to see how the country is coping with its particular crisis. And the answer is, really rather well. The phase of public anger and unrest appears to be over, and people are, at least as I found them, fairly determined to get on with it and find a way out of the recession.

As we all know, what the Greeks have had to deal with is much worse than what we have faced in Ireland, and yet they are far less focused on the blame game and far more single minded about how they can secure a recovery. In short, there is far less complaining and whining than there is in Ireland. To be honest, this has been something of a welcome relief from the ever-present negativity that is so dragging us down in Ireland right now. I am not saying we have nothing to complain about, but nursing all these grievances is doing absolutely nothing for us, apart perhaps from raising the cost of the national debt.

Every time I say something like this I get hostile emails and letters, but I genuinely think it is time to let go of all the anger and get on with working for something better. What Ireland needs more than anything else is confidence. Let’s go for that!

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7 Comments on “Greek tragedy? No, it’s not inevitable”

  1. Vincent Says:

    Sorry but I feel you’re wrong about the negativity bit here in Ireland. The difference between Ireland, Iceland and Greece is that in the latter two they have a degree of certainty. That’s something we don’t have. And that absence of a modicum of certainty rather than negativity is the feel pervading the State.

    • Actually Vincent, I don’t think you are right about this. The Greeks don’t have any more certainty than we do. People in Ireland constantly argue that we don’t know the full bill for Anglo-Irish, but with respect that’s completely irrelevant. Whatever the cost is, it will be finite and we’ll deal with it. The uncertainty that we need to worry about is the gap between tax revenue and the cost to the exchequer of public expenditure. That’s where the uncertainty lies, and the Greeks have that every bit as much as we have, and more.

      • Vincent Says:

        But Anglo is not really the question, it’s just a hook that the journalist can hang a hat. It will cost us 40 Billion and we might as well get comfy with the notion. The real question is how much is the house worth really. Not spin or hype, but honest to god value.
        While the gap between the tax and spending will because of the Croke Park Agreement be fudged.

  2. Mark Dowling Says:

    I guess you haven’t read the recent Vanity Fair piece on Greece then.

  3. kevin denny Says:

    I see some merit in anger. Let us say, purely for arguments sake, that its all Fianna Fail’s fault and if we don’t get rid of them then we will have more of the same. If people were not sufficiently angry then this would be less likely to happen.
    So in the immediate term where we are stuck with a particular government, anger can be a distraction for sure. But in the longer term (& thats not very long now) it can be a positive force for change.

    • Hm, I don’t think I’ll go with that, Kevin. People don’t tend to take good decisions in anger. People in the UK vote for the BNP in anger. Actually, in 1932 they voted for Hitler in anger. No, I don’t think that was a positive force for change. More generally, I don’t think that the desire to find someone to blame is constructive.

      • kevin denny Says:

        Well, its not clear to me that people make better decisions while indifferent. That voting for Hitler or the BNP out of anger is something we agree on. But those are extreme examples. Hard cases etc… So it seems perfectly possible to me that some quite good decisions may be made out of anger.
        As for blame, well if blame is attributing fault to those who caused it, doesn’t that make sense? To return to my example, if Fianna Fail (or whoever) really are to blame would it not be sensible to:
        (a) acknowledge it
        (b) act on that knowledge
        So I advocate a policy of Smart Outrage: get sufficiently mad to do something about it.

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