Greece’s National Sin #2 Madame SouSoudismos
Athenian writer and satirist, Anthony Psathas, personified another major “hamartia” of the Greek national character in the character of Madame Sousou. Madame SouSou was a lower-class housewife married to an even more humble fisherman. But Madame Sousou lived in a grand delusion of splendor, put on aristocratic airs, and generally tried to live the dream of a well-to-do Parisian lady of fine extraction. She’d speak in nasal overtones, wear outlandish hats, linger gingerly in bed and make dramatic appearances down long staircases. She was “oh so sophisticated” and rich–in her head. Because in reality she lived in a humble flat with a fishmonger as a husband who, lucky for her, is madly in love with her even if she disdains him. Her character is rife for ironic rendering; in fact, she makes the most terrific blunders both in her speech as well as her manner, but with the utmost confidence and high-falluting airs.
So deluded was she that she actually made her delusions come true after all. She wound up inheriting a large sum of money, moving to a flat in an upscale part of town, and hooking up with a supposed “aristocrat” descended from Byzantine nobility, and hiring a real maid. This aristocrat winds up swindling her of her fortune and abandoning her with a small infant. As this rags-to-riches-back-to-rags story has it, Madame Sousou has to give up her baby by abandoning it at the steps of a rich family and moving back to her forgiving and loving husband and what she deems the vulgarity of a low-class life.
So infamous is the character that in a strike of onomatopoeia genius someone coined the phrase “sousoudismos” in Greek to describe the way of trying to emulate something unattainable to ridiculous effect. And it has since stuck.
Greece is Madame Sousou. While industrially and economically eclipsed by the stronger nations of Europe, it still keeps up the delusion that it too can keep up appearances in the “grand club of Europe.” Rather than live within her means, a Greek would feign superiority by buying only name-brand products, boasting of winter vacations in the Swiss Alps, ascribing to French accents and chic fashions. The Greek elite never wanted to admit that the country was never financially prepared to handle the realities of staying a member of this elite club because doing so would mean peeling away the persona of delusion and admitting its own humble capabilities and its own inferiority complex.
Like Madame Sousou, it would rather wear an expensive mink scarf, something that it had to borrow against its entire house for, and starve. Now it is stripped of its scarf and it’s lost the house. Fleeced compeletly, done in by the unscrupulous aristocrats. And by all media and personal accounts, she is starving.
Kaimeni Madame Sousou! You have been done in by your own arrogant, nose-in-the-air delusions of grandeur and the money-hungry creditors out for your gold. You should have kept your eyes down on the ground on your own earth. You should have been humble enough to recognize how happy you could be with your own sweet husband who smells like salt and fresh fish and sunshine in your modest but clean flat by the sea. Because they are genuine and they are your own.