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Letter from Athens: The Rebel Without a Clue: Varoufakis’ Left-Out Dream

January 6, 2023

How did the acclaimed Greek-French film director Costa-Gavras get from Z to Zero, from the riveting 1969 political drama loosely based on the 1963 assassination of Greek left-wing activist Gregoris Lambrakis, to Adults in the Room, with the second-rate economist politician Yanis ‘Crock Star’ Varoufakis?

When you think of Z, you think of Mikis Theodorakis’ pulsating music driving it fast and furious. If you ever think of Varoufakis, who’s faded into near obscurity, it would be a lament.
The former finance chief for the Looney Left SYRIZA, who was forced out by then-Premier Alexis ‘The Capitulator’ Tsipras for refusing to agree to austerity measures demanded by European lenders in 2015, keeps trying to resurrect ideas about economic rationality and social emancipation.

The movie about his battles with European Union heavyweights who insisted on harsh penalties – mostly for Greek workers, pensioners, and the poor – should have highlighted the justice of that, not him.

But he prefers to preen and promote himself – in a room full of narcissists, it would be a tossup between him and the U.S.’ ex-President Psycho in a rush to the mirror – and you can imagine the ego swelling when Costas-Gavras decided to turn Varoufakis’ book into an alleged movie.

When Tsipras reneged on promises to reject austerity that was a condition of a third bailout for Greece, this one for 86 billion euros ($91.23 billion), it set up the perfect scenario for Varoufakis, pretending to be Marlon Brando in The Wild One, a rebel on a motorcycle.

Taking to heart comparisons to a bald Bruce Willis in Die Hard, Varoufakis stopped just short of driving his BMW motorcycle into a room full of adults who overmatched him, and he found it’s hard indeed to joust on high horses.

Given that Germany’s then-Chancellor Angela ‘The Dominatrix’ Merkel was the driving force behind the brutal measures – she wanted to protect her country’s banks in the bailouts – he should have ridden an Italian Ducati (explainer later).

Varoufakis was correct to challenge measures that Tsipras rolled over and accepted, but the finance chief’s in-your-face confrontational style so rankled the guys in empty suits in Brussels they almost tarred and feathered him in the room.

Adults in the Room – a sequel starring him would be Toddlers in the Room – got an abysmal 50 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, although viewers gave it 88 percent, so score one for the critics this time.

Jessica Kiang, the film critic for the ‘bible’ of Hollywood, Variety, put it this way: “The film is worthily intended, meticulously researched, and very dull” – just like him, proving the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

After being booted out by SYRIZA, he set up his own party, Democracy in Europe Movement (DiEM25) that has some genuinely good ideas – such as a basic income – but he keeps getting in the way of them and alienating those who might be allies, because of his attitude.

After essentially being a pariah for a few years, his party MeRA25 (should be Mirror) got 3.44 percent of the vote in Greece’s 2019 snap elections, with nine seats in a 300-member Parliament, keeping him irrelevant.

He’s pretty much stayed that way, the ant in the room that everyone ignores and with 2023 elections coming by July there’s a good chance his party – he lost three defectors and is down to six seats – might vanish.

There’s talk of him re-attaching himself to SYRIZA in an oddball coalition if the first round of elections fails to give the winner enough of a majority to form a government, and wouldn’t you like to be in the room with Tsipras and Varoufakis if that happens.

Not content with his movement failing in Greece and in the EU, he took MeRA25 to Italy – whose Prime Minister is far-right winger Giorgia Meloni and the Brothers of Italy movement – so apparently there’s no Sisters of Italy, including her.

“If ever there was a moment it is now,” the economist told POLITICO in an interview to mark the Italian launch of another failure – surrounded by zealots and celebrities. They were well-meaning but six bricks shy of carrying that load, although Pamela Anderson of Baywatch might have better ideas.

The report noted the self-styled “erratic Marxist” (think: a humorless grumpy, Groucho Marx – Hail Freedonia!) loves dropping names and noting star-laden, powerless stars, such as British composer Brian Eno.

There’s a Greek connection too, of sorts. Eno’s minimalist song There Were Bells Above was filmed at the Acropolis, and it’s almost as sad as Varoufakis’ self-promotional campaign, even if Eno can’t carry a tune in a bucket.

“I just received (Eno’s) latest album with a dedication for me,” Varoufakis gushed in a rare moment of showing some joy about something even if it, was, of course, all about him.
“But while he expresses concern for the possible ramification for minorities, Varoufakis reckons the result shows that the time to radically rethink Europe’s political and economic system has arrived,” wrote Hannah Roberts.

He promptly put that article on his own website after saying there’s a political vacuum that “will create space for a transnational progressive party offering something completely different,” in the heart of Europe.

You can almost hear the bells above, ringing cuckoo.

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