An approach from the other side of the Atlantic. How a diaspora Greek sees the Greek – German relations in the context of financial crisis and the so-called financial aid to save the debt-ridden country? Is it a pure financial issue or a misconception and misunderstanding due to different cultures? A Guest Post submitted to KTG by Gerry W. Poulos
The Greek financial crisis: Why Germany blames its victim.
By: G.W. Poulos 14/04/2016
It has been said, “One Europe, one people, one culture.” This is more a prayer to the future than a current reality. Nothing better demonstrates this than the German government’s view of Greece. To see this, let’s look at six words and their meanings to both cultures: Honor, debt, guilt, shame, austerity and agreement.
Honor. An honorable person, to Greeks, does what is right in the concept of philotimo. Philotimo is translated as the love of honor. However, what exactly honor is differs between the two cultures.
To Greeks, honor means to do what is right. An honorable person can be poor, in debt or weak. The defining attributes are duty, charity, gratitude and kindness. Debt defines no part of philotimo. In the truest sense, repayment is not expected. When one gives a gift, it is to help another human. In the case of a loan, repayment of what was lent is the only expectation.
To Germans, especially the German government, an honorable person has earned what he has and owes nothing. If you do owe a debt, you repaid it immediately at any cost. In this way, the more wealth a person has, the more honorable they are. This has been true since feudal times when the wealthy were “noble” and those with less yielded to them in all areas of life because they were better people. People of worth. People in debt had no honor or dignity and those who did not make any sacrifice possible to pay them were, essentially, criminals.
To the Greek mind, honor has nothing to do with money. It does not make one person more honorable than another. As a result, “honor,” and the subsequent dignity it provides, means something very different to Greeks than it does to Germans. In short, Germans PAY honor and respect whilst Greeks GIVE honor and respect.
This may seem to be a matter of semantics, but in practice, it is a significant difference. When Germany first “gave” Greece money in the form of a “bailout,” Greeks received it as a gift given through philotimo. They did so because that is how the German government presented it.
Debt, Guilt, Shame and Austerity. These words need to be taken together because they are the same things to Germans. The Germans have a word, “schuld.” It means debt, guilt and shame, all of which makes one deserving of austerity.
Once Greece accepted German money, they accepted the German meaning of debt. They did not know they were accepting guilt, shame and austerity. The very thought makes no sense to the Greeks, and had they known, Greece never would have accepted it. The German government knew this, but as making money is honorable, letting the Greeks make this mistake was a good thing.
To the German government, this debt moved Greece from honorable to guilty. It also put Greece in a position where it deserved to be shamed until all resources available were sold to pay Germany.
Austerity is understood by Greeks to mean “sternness,” but to Germans it means more. It means to forswear any indulgence, including the giving of “gifts” to the poor in the form of charity and pensions.
Greeks did not understand this as honor has nothing to do with money or debt. Through philotimo, Greeks feel that they should give to the poor regardless of the cost and the preservation of human dignity should be the top concern in all things.
Hence, Greeks do not understand why the Germans insist on austerity and, as part of that, should stop supporting their poor. This is exemplified in the areas of social security and pensions. Germans see this as gifts and, as Greece is in their debt, it is in no position to offer gifts.
From a German perspective, the Greeks should accept their shame and if it means working at slave wages and starving, then so be it.
In 2015, Greece elected a government to attempt to end austerity. When they tried to negotiate austerity, the Germans simply refused. To the German government, the act of trying to avoid paying their due went beyond shame and into the realm of criminal.
Thus, Greeks became a shameful, guilty and lazy people who dodge paying their debts. To negotiate this was impossible. If Greece would not accept austerity, it had no right to anything, except for even harsher austerity as punishment for its crime.
What crime? By debt, Germans do not mean money alone. Greeks see money and human dignity as two separate issues. To the German government, they are one and the same, and trying to avoid paying what was due, meaning austerity, they were guilty. Schuld.
Agreement. This one is quite simple. Greeks, as do many other cultures, assume that what is included in a debt agreement is all that is included in a debt agreement. A contract, after all, includes what it includes and doesn’t include what it doesn’t.
The German government, however, feels it is their right to inflict that austerity at its whim. Hence, when the Germans demanded things not in the agreement, specifically austerity, Greece took issue. Germany didn’t care because they feel that Greece deserves to be treated harshly simply because it is, to them, a shameful race.
When the Greece government accused them of treating Greece with indignity and cruelty by demanding more and more not in the agreements, the Germans simply shrug their shoulders and think, “Yes. That is because it is what you deserve.”
To the German government, Greece should starve and suffer like the criminal state it is. That is what austerity is. Public services and pensions should be cut, if not canceled. Greece should sell everything possibly for any amount they can get.
Greeks are a people of no value or worth whatsoever. They are a shameful race who would rather give people free food and medicine than pay their debts. Any aspect of Greek life and culture that can be sold should be sold.
In the mind of the German government, this is what Greece agreed to do and, in light of its attempt to end austerity, what it deserves.
What Next? If Greece wishes to feed and provide for its people, it needs to stop the German austerity. The German government has no hesitations in leaving Greece a starving race of slave workers for the consumption of the German industrial machine. They are masters of blaming their victims for the crimes against humanity they perpetrate.
As truly stated by German officials, the forgiveness of debt is, to them, both unconscionably and illegal. This will never change. The German government has no interest in helping Greece. They will put Greece in further debt and are more than happy to profit from Greek suffering. This is a very honorable thing to do in their minds, just as slave owners felt they were moral people.
Modern Germany may not be the old Germany, but Greece must understand, the differences are slight. If the German government thought for a second that they could get away with it, they would march an army to take Greece by force. Still,the German government is waging war on Greece. A financial war.
The German government will not stop until they are successful. It is their law to do this. It is illegal for them to stop until Greece is either consumed or they are forced to stop against their will. It is a predatory government that uses predatory lending practices that are illegal in most of the civilized world.
Need more convincing? Recently, the German government made a deal with Turkey, and in the process, Turkey did something for the them placing the Germans in “schuld” to it.
The Germany people believe in a free press. It is their law. However, because Turkey has demanded Germany prosecute a comic for making “insulting” comments about their leader, Germany will do so. Angela Merkel explained this in a single comment that all Germans understood. They will do what the Turks demand as “part of our schuld to Turkey.”
The German government does not even respect the civil liberties of its own people. What path of reason would make anyone think they would hesitate to do this, and more, to another people? Most of the suffering in Europe today is a direct result of German predation. The German government has no respect for humanity.
Even more worrisome for Greece: what will they do if Turkey wants Germany to give them part of Greece?
The issue here is simple: The German government is repeatedly raping Greece, and, at every turn, blaming Greece for these crimes. That should not be surprising. All rapist blame their victims.
Gerry W. Poulos
Gerry W. Poulos, 53, is a children books author, a veteran of the US Air Force, a former campaigner, “an American born of Greek Immigrants.”
In his email to KTG, Gerry Poulos explained that as a diaspora Greek, he was always trying to find out how different meanings and attitudes of different cultures lead to misunderstandings and misconceptions.
“Being raised “Greek,” and with the included affection for talking politics, I have often seen how simple cultural differences lead to conflict and misunderstanding. One simple example is how we “give our attention” from a place of consideration as opposed to “paying attention” from a place of obligation. Likewise, when one doesn’t give attention, it is rude. When one doesn’t pay attention, they are scolded (guess where that word comes from lol). Depending on your interpretation, these actions may, or may not insult people.Working in politics, this has become so apparent as has almost become laughable. Many people think a law or proposal means one thing, while others think it means something else. This is very apparent in the current (and past) Greek financial crisis negotiations. What one side thinks is reasonable literally angers the other making things worse. Hence the article.”
And the question is: Is it just a matter of different culture between Germany and Greece? Or just a greedy lender using mafia-style methods to get his money back from a bankrupt borrower?
PS oh, Pride and Prejudice …