As the world veers closer to a possible Grexit, there is a sense of impending gloom or at least that some turning point in Greece’s fate is about to happen. A turning point that will unleash a domino effect of unraveling for the Eurozone. That will result in economic zombie apocalypse for Greece (as Greece will be the first developed country to default on IMF paybacks putting it in the same league with Congo, Zambia, Vietnam, and Peru). Even for us, Diaspora Greeks far away physically but not emotionally, the upcoming doom scenarios seem to pervade our conversations and our consciousness. I have the sense that Greece is yet again on the cusp of another major decision that will propel its fate for better or for worse, what Aristotle called the periteria. Aristotle defines it as “a change by which the action veers round to its opposite, subject always to our rule of probability or necessity.” According to Aristotle, peripeteia, along with discovery, is the most effective when it comes to drama, particularly in a tragedy. (Wikipedia, “peripeteia”).
There is with the canonization of Father Porphyrios and Father Paisios, two modern-day prophets of escatological flare who have been given a cult following in their proclamations that Greece will suffer hunger and deprivation, war and turmoil in the coming years, a feeling that things must turn worse before they get better for Greece. Indeed, that is certainly the pervasive feeling. Like watching the inevitable unfolding of a Greek tragedy: you know the protagonist is guilty of murder and incest, it’s just a matter of him realizing it himself.
Greece, like a tragic hero, is doomed. Doomed to suffer the consequences of its national sins, the “hamartia”–excessive pride, hubris, xenomania, and sloth. I predict Greece will fall far farther than it has before it gets better. We are indeed witnessing a peripeteia of historic proportions.
Indeed, we are watching the tragedy of Greek elections take another turn with no means of interfering with the action. As Diaspora Greeks, we watch like a captive audience from rows geographically far away from the central stage without the power to change the drama. Why cannot we Diaspora Greeks be allowed to cast an absentee ballot from abroad like our American counterparts? Is it fair that I pay taxes to the Greek state for the properties in my name in the home country yet I am not allowed a voice in choosing a leader? In American vocabulary that amounts to “no taxation without representation.” When decisions like the upcoming one determines my fate for my properties and livelihood in Greece (I plan to return to live there permanently), it is only fair that I am allowed to cast a vote. The Greek state only remembers its Diaspora cousins when it is looking for a hand out.
If Tsipras stomps his heels harder, refusing to give into even more austerity demands of the troika, then Greece will be begging for more handouts from its successful cousins abroad. Putting political opinions aside, I am bracing for this, this call for help. In a UN reported study last year, the children of Greece living below the poverty line increased to 40.5%, the highest rate in childhood poverty in the developed world. The percentage of households with children unable to afford a meal with meat, chicken, fish or a vegetable equivalent every second day more than doubled in four European countries – Estonia (to 10%), Greece (18%), Iceland (6%) and Italy (16%). http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/oct/28/child-poverty-developed-world-unicef-report-global-recession Greece held the highest percentage. A recent report by the hospital administrator of a publicly-funded clinic cited over 10,000 suicides in 5 years. Greece’s health system, the so-called IKA, is falling apart. Clinics have closed across the country, including in my middle-class neighborhood in Athens. Reports of pharmacists running out of medicine are heard on NPR; people are dying of cancer because they have no money or access to drugs. Unemployment averages one in every 4 Greeks of working age; forget the young people, their unemployment rate staggers at over 50%. Never before has the call to aid our Greek fellows been louder.
We, as the more fortunate members of our country, must prepare to unloosen our purse strings and support Greece in its downward turn. (I have been active trying to plan a not-for-profit, the Hellinida Fund, that would provide assistance to women in Greece–I need board members. If interested, email me.)
Indeed, we are gripping our seats and grabbing our hearts, as we experience with pathos the latest peripeteia in Greece’s collective fate. It seems that the country is destined to suffer “catastrophe,” in dramatic terms. But as with all great Greek drama, with the suffering comes pathos and then when the protagonist can have an epiphany or “anagnorisis” the cause of his misery or a way to be released from the misery. As Rumi said the only way cure for pain is through the pain. Maybe, Greece will have an “anagnorisis” of its collective “hamartias.” Maybe it will find a way to rise up from its ashes; to have pride but not excessive. Maybe it will become a true democracy and not run by a band of oligarchs and now borderline tyrants. Maybe it will learn that it does not have to subscribe to the “members only” exclusivity of the European country club, but can stand with less but more on its own two feet.
Maybe, Greece will become the country it was destined to be.
In the meantime, let us the Diaspora Greek audience sit back and relish in the “tragic pleasure.”