Letter From Athens: Greek Scorecard

Once upon an ancient time there was a great country called Hellas, which became Greece, and which stunned the world with the wonders of its enlightened thinking.

It developed the basis for Western Civilization with thinkers, philosophers, doctors, scientists, mathematicians, playwrights, poets, sculptors and created the form of government called democracy which was – apt during this 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and a speech second only to Pericles’ funeral oration as the greatest ever- “of the people, by the people and for the people.”

Well, that was then and this is now. Along the way, through wars and invasions and occupations, while Greeks retained their language and culture and ferocity for independence they gave up their country to politicians who used it like a free ATM or an American Express Platinum card.

Four decades ago, Andreas Papandreou, founder of a new Socialist party called PASOK, hired everyone in the country who agreed with him and some of those who didn’t just to keep them close.

He really created a giant welfare state, instilling in Greeks the desire only to get a job in the public sector for life, with lots of coffee breaks, time off, sleeping at the desk, smoking and ignoring people coming for service and quitting early, what Americans call LIFERS (Lazy Inefficient F—koffs Expecting Retirement).

It was the ruination of the country and of the system of democracy with Modern Greece having ceded its sovereignty to foreign lenders in return for rescue loans preventing the economy from collapsing.

In a real democracy, such as the United States, elected representatives can disagree with the ruling administration as well as their own party without fear of being ejected.

In Greece, where politics is so convoluted that reading a baseball scorecard is easier than trying to keep track of who’s doing what to who, Members of Parliament – well paid for doing essentially nothing but rubber-stamping government directives or railing against them if they are in the minority – are told how to vote by party leaders.

If they don’t, they are booted out of the party. Can you imagine U.S. President Barack Obama telling a Democrat Senator how to vote under the threat of being tossed? You’d hear the laughter in the halls of power loudly.

The problem for Greece’s ruling coalition of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ Uber-Capitalists and his partner, the PASOK Anti-Socialists of Resident Hypocrite Evangelos Venizelos, is that they’ve kicked out so many of their MPS – 10 in the last year – that they have only a four-vote majority in the 300-seat Parliament body.

But defections aren’t limited to the rulers. The major opposition party Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) leader Alexis “What, Me Worry?” Tsipras can’t keep his motley fools of anarchists, communists, extreme-leftists, ecologists and fringe cuckoos under control either.

One of them, author Petros Tatsopoulos – famed for claiming he’d had sex with half the women in Athens – said his party shouldn’t collaborate with their political enemies, the right-wing Independent Greeks to gain political strength, drawing derision from fellow SYRIZANS.

But Tsipras, who needs every member he can get, bent the rules of ejection and didn’t kick out Tatsopoulos for disagreeing in public, leading the author to withdraw his threat of walking out on his own. Now why can’t Greece get leaders like that?

Earlier this fall, Samaras’ coalition included the fringe group Democratic Left (DIMAR) of Fotis Kouvelis, who’s kind of like the slightly daffy uncle you keep in a corner at a party so he won’t accidentally hurt himself.

Kouvelis took out his mighty party, which has 3 percent in the polls, because he objected to the firing of workers at the state broadcaster ERT by Samaras, who shut it down with five minutes notice. Until then, Kouvelis – a former communist – had gone along with all the harsh austerity measures directed by Greece’s owners, capitalist bankers.

But now, sensing the government could collapse when it again imposes more pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions after Samaras triple-crossed his heart and promised he wouldn’t, Dora Bakoyannis, a once-powerful New Democracy political figured reduced to nothing but a shadow now, called for DIMAR to rejoin the coalition government

That was met with divided reaction as some party officials were already talking about creating a cooperation with its bitter rival SYRIZA if the leftists win the next election. That is, of course, if SYRIZA doesn’t bring in the Independent Greeks.

But just to add to the confusion comes Kouvelis, Zeus bless him, as he wandered out of the corner to say he wouldn’t come back to the government and bring his 14 votes, and that he didn’t think SYRIZA had any answers to the cycle of bailouts-austerity measures either.

“DIMAR disagrees with the government’s current policy but also with everything that SYRIZA says,” he said. Kouvelis – often accused of waffling – said he might change his mind and work with SYRIZA after all.

“Of course,” was his response to a question by the Action24 TV station regarding whether there was a possibility of a leftist coalition in the future. “Greece has abandoned one-party governments. We need coalitions.” If so, why did he walk out of one? This is what is called Greek Illogic and required study for all politicians in the country.

But maybe the answer lies with Tatsopoulos’ school of thinking because he’s just apparently been doing to half the women in Athens what the government’s been doing to everyone in the country.