My first name is Nicholas (or "Niko-laos" in Greek) and it means the "victorious people". The first word "Nike" (victory) is already known to the reader as the "victorious" shoe company of slave labor fame. The second word "laos" is also known; "laity" (mass of people...), etc. However, as Mark Twain, that great American, claims in his famous "Prayer", for a people to be victorious it must massacre another people. So, it seems I was given a really "barbarous" name.
Now, suppose I was given the name "Makepeace", would not that be much better? Anyway, a Victorian Briton, William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863), had this luck. He became a famous novelist and his masterpiece was a novel with the title "Vanity Fair". Its subtitle was: "A Novel Without a Hero". Yet, there was a "heroine", Becky Sharp, the low class girl trying to claw her way up the social ladder; the usual pointless and brutal life of a female in Christian societies. In a quasi introductory note Thackeray writes: "Yes, this was VANITY FAIR; not a moral place certainly; nor a merry one, though very noisy." (London, June 28, 1848).
In 1868, a British literary magazine was published adopting the title "Vanity Fair" and lasted up to 1929. Then, as happens with colonies, a European-British colony, the USA, had its own "Vanity Fair" magazine.
In its October 2010 issue the USA version of "Vanity Fair" magazine has a 25-pages-long article by Michael Lewis, a financial journalist. The very original title of the article: "Beware of Greeks Bearing Bonds".
In this article Lewis comes to the conclusion that ordinary Greeks are morally disintegrated. For example he writes:
- Greece is "a society that has endured something like total moral collapse." (p. 16)
- "[T]he credit boom had pushed the country [Greece] over the edge, into total moral collapse." (p. 10)
- "The epidemic of lying and cheating and stealing makes any sort of civic life impossible; the collapse of civic life only encourages more lying, cheating, and stealing." (p. 10)
- "If there were any justice in the world the Greek bankers would be in the streets marching to protest the morals of the ordinary Greek citizen [!!!]." (p. 24) [Obviously, the emphasis was added].
- "[T]he hardest thing to do in Greece is to get one Greek to compliment another behind his back." (p. 9)
And so on.
Lewis is an intellectually mature adult of 50 years, educated in Princeton and the (famous) London School of Economics and is a citizen of the US; the most sophisticated society on the planet. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect that his conclusion is correct.
Let us try to confirm this.
The "homo sapiens" brain we have has a history of only about 100,000 years. Science tells us, that so "short" a time interval did not allow humans to differentiate brainwise. This means that the CORE moral values of humans are approximately the same. Of course, there are epidermal (skin-deep) differences which humans acquire in the culture they live, especially through the religious orientation of that culture.
Take the Christians and the Jews. The "Book" (their religious cultural manual) tells them:
- "And he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him..." (Leviticus 24:16)
- "And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the LORD thy God,..." (Deuteronomy 13:10)
- "And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day... And the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as the LORD commanded Moses." (Numbers 15: 32, 36)
- "Then shalt thou bring forth that man or that woman, which have committed that wicked thing [!!!],..., and shalt stone them with stones, till they die." (Deuteronomy 17:5)
And so on, and on, and on...
Much later, other cultures copied these "instructions" of the "Book" and applied them in their societies to this day (Iran, Saudi Arabia, and who knows which others). However, the more advanced (western) societies, now, instead of stones they use drones, cluster bomblets, Cyclon B, Agent Orange, etc.
Or, take other aspects of this epidermal differences of various cultures. For example: In Belgium, in Boston, in LA, in Regensburg of Germany, etc, etc parents sent their children to be raped by mostly old men who wield unbelievable power and who are above the law, by serving the LORD. I do not know if the good "Book" tells these parents to stone to death these priests, pastors, ministers,... monks, or whatever, but I know that these parents are living in fear; fear of losing their job, fear of the police, fear of religions other than theirs, fear of the IRS, fear of foreigners, etc.
[Parenthesis: Once more, it should be emphasized that most of the blood spilt all through History originated or was based on religious hate, or on religious economic greed,or on sheer religious stupidity. Honest people on the Left are afraid to even mention this or are afraid to do something about this. Even the elites have problems with this. See the latest saga with the Pastor in Florida and his threat to burn the Koran that had Obama et al to pray to Jesus in panic. Or, take the Greek-American priest, Chris Spyrou, who threatened to celebrate mass in Agia Sofia in Istanbul, Turkey, a few days ago, September 17, and almost started a diplomatic confrontation. Religion is unbelievably and unreasonably powerful. Why?]
But let us go back to... Greece. On the basis of the above, it is reasonable to conclude that the Greeks, of today, have the same core moral values as the rest of the world, including the graduates of the London School of Economics. Also, it is reasonable to accept that they have their own epidermal cultural peculiarities.
So, let us examine some of them as recorded by Lewis, in his article:
- It is hard "to get one Greek to compliment another behind his back", i.e., that, basically, Greeks hate one an other.
As an adult, Lewis by now should know that humans all over the world indulge in this "sport", sometimes justifiably. For example, in the late 1950s on a sidewalk in Manhattan during the lunch-break time I noticed a well-dressed clean-cut American young man who was talking to a young lady. The young lady seemed to not agree to what the young man was saying, and politely moved away from him. Then, I approached and struck up a conversation with her. Finally, the young lady told me ["behind his back"] that she refused the young man because to impress her he had pointed to one of the upper floors of a nearby skyscraper and told her that that was where he had his office. She thought that was ridiculous. She also told me to please not mention the price she charged me, as that was unfair competition to her colleagues. [By the way, the young woman proved to be not only a "lady", but also a very serious and interesting person.
A week ago, on September 12, in Fairfax County, in the US, David A. Patton, 44, shot and killed Stephen A. Carr, 48, after a dispute over a "speed hump" that the latter had installed in front of his house (Tom Jackman, The Washington Post, Sept. 13, 2010). Can we conclude that Americans hate one an other? Lewis talked to no more than a couple of dozen Greeks during the few days that he stayed in the country, yet he came to this very conclusion about the Greeks.
- "The epidemic of lying and cheating and stealing [by the Greeks] makes any sort of civic life impossible..."
Lewis' sources and perpetrators of misdeeds chosen by him to reach this conclusion were a few Greek government ministers, tax collectors, and monks; rather small fry. Compare that with President Nixon's: "I am not a crook". Or with President Clinton's: "I did not have sexual relations with that woman". Or with Senator Joe McCarthy waving a list of 205 names of communists in the State Department, when finally he couldn't produce the name of a single communist working in the State Department. Thus, the term "McCarthyism" became a universal term for immorality. Does that mean that the morality of ordinary Americans has being "collapsing" for the last 50 years?
It is rather redundant to go on examining more examples of Greek immorality. It seems more instructive to examine how Lewis went about his "research" of the morality of ordinary Greeks. This we do below:
But first we have to answer the reasonable question: what are the peculiarities of the Greeks, if Lewis got them wrong.
- The basic repulsive "peculiarity" of the Greeks is that they consider themselves a "chosen people". As do the Jews, the Germans, the Americans, the French, the Russians (especially the Russians), the British, the Italians, etc. Hence "peculiarity" is in quotation marks.
- The "chosen people" syndrome is combined with "ancestor worship". The usual "classical" shit. [See the excellent work of Martin Bernal "Black Athena"].
- Greeks are fervent patriots, therefore scoundrels, according to Dr. Samuel Johnson of Britain. Yet, not so patriotic as the Americans who have elevated patriotism to a legal Olympus through their "Patriot Act".
- Greeks are impolite.
- Greeks are "servile" to Westerners, especially the Greek (political, economic, etc) elites .
- Greeks have the very important merit of mature knowledge of what is going on the world. This is due mostly to the experience of the Greek family "gained" during the Nazi occupation of 1941-1944. The Bushes and Obamas cannot fool them.
- Greeks are not egotistically interested only to themselves. They have solidarity not only with other Greeks but also with other peoples; Palestinians, Iraqis, Afghans, etc.
Now, let us follow Lewis in his Greek "adventure":
The short excerpt that follows will be a helpful compass in this journey:
"Top secret State Department memoranda...show clearly that the future of Greek economic development lay exclusively in the hands of the American planners... Dated August 4, 1949, the subject of one memorandum was 'Capital Investment in Greece for Economic Development'... Parts of the conversation [in the memorandum] are highly illuminating. George C. McGhee, the Coordinator of Aid to Greece and Turkey, remarked that 'it would be necessary to bear constantly in mind the political consequences of negative decisions on Greek industrial development projects. It might be desirable to reduce the doses of American aid to Greece, so that the standard of living would gradually be brought down to a level which the economy of the country could support. However, this process would have to be carried out gradually and very carefully to avoid violent or unfavorable political reaction in Greece. It would have to be accompanied by some plan for large scale emigration...'
Further along in the memorandum, still another astonishing remark by another State Department official appeared: 'Mr., Dort commented that Greece will achieve economic viability at some level, and we do have to decide what that level will be.' " (Memorandum 868.6463/8-449, N.A., pages 2 and 3. Theodore C. Kariotis, Journal of the Hellenic Diaspora, Vol. VI, No. 4, Winter 1979, p.91, 92). [Again, obviously, emphasis was added].
This was in my ZNet Commentary of May 27, 2010.
I wonder if Lewis is aware if not of the excerpt, at least of the "history" included in it. Anyway, here is his "adventure". He writes:
"The morning after I landed [in Greece] I walked over to see the Greek minister of finance, George Papaconstantinou, whose job is to sort out this fantastic mess... [He] attended N.Y.U. and the London School of Economics... He's open, friendly, fresh-faced, and clean-shaven, and like many people at the top of the new Greek government, he comes across less as Greek than as Anglo-indeed, almost as American." No comment by us, but the reader should use the above compass.
[Note: Lewis noted that in the office of Papaconstantinou "the floor (was) linoleum". One should have reservations about this remark. Linoleum floors have disappeared in Greece since the 1940s. Fortunately the Greeks use marble, the same as the one used to build the Parthenon, even in public urinals. It seems, that the floor was of imported modern plastic tiles that have asbestos in them. Lewis can have the details from EPA.]
Then, Lewis was informed that: "Twenty years ago a successful businessman turned minister of finance named Stefanos Manos pointed out that it would be cheaper to put all Greece's rail passengers into taxicabs: it's still true"
Lewis and Manos (a right-wing politician) should educate themselves by going back 61 years and read about the 1949 trial in Chicago of General Motors et al condemned for conspiring to eliminate the very successful system of transportation based on a steel wheel on a steel rail; the streetcar and basically the railroad. They paid a fine of $ 5,000, but General Motors et al succeeded to dismantle all the streetcar networks and make the private car "king". The instrument to this goal was something called "National City Lines". Manos and Lewis should read the (late) Jonathan Kwitny's famous article "The Great Transportation Conspiracy" in the February 1981 issue of Harper's magazine. They can even find this information in the...Encyclopaedia Britannica.
[Note: This is a chance to ask Manos, my engineering colleague, if he, a right-wing patriotic Greek, made his undergraduate studies in the Athens Polytechnic, a public university, or in Zurich, in Switzerland. After all, the Polytechnic was considered one of the best schools in the world. Even Queen Frederika (of Nazi fame) thought so.]
Next, Lewis met with Peter Doukas (58) a right-winger (from Sparta, see below) who "had spent most of his career as a banker in Citigroup in New York. He was tall and blond [!] and loud and blunt and funny." ([!] added). Doukas had "a post in the Finance Ministry" and was "the official inside the Ministry of Finance first accosted by the Vatopedi monks". The monks who "had somehow been identified as the soul of corruption".
The monks were after 250 billion euros' worth of government property. " 'No fucking way I'm doing that,' he [Doukas] says [to Lewis] that he told them".
Then Doukas had to sign a document giving the land to the monks. According to Lewis Doukas told him that he [Doukas] said to the monks: "I said, 'Fuck you, I'm not signing it.' " [Tsk-tsk, US-educated Greeks are really immoral. Talk like this to a monk!].
According to Lewis: "In the end, under pressure from his boss, Doukas signed two pieces of paper". Ignoring the fact that so long after Moses documents are not of stone any more but of paper, one should ask: Who was Doukas' "boss"?
The answer: Konstantinos Karamanlis ["Black Ali", in Turkish] nephew of Konstantinos Karamanlis [the "Ethnarch", Leader of the Nation].
Karamanlis [uncle] was chosen, in the early 1950s, by the CIA to be an "Ethnarch" to the Greeks, which he did for almost half a century.
For almost one year, after Karamanlis [nephew] was dethroned as a Prime Minister, he refuses to talk about what happened to the Greeks under his watch. Who is protecting him? Why 11 million humans let a single person insult them in the most blatant way?
So, Lewis mentions other Greeks that he met or learned about:
- A woman [no name] who runs a big shipping firm.
- A former Wall Street analyst of European economies [no name].
- Miranda Xafa a former I.M.F. official turned Salomon Brothers analyst.
- Robert Chapman, adviser in the American stock market for the... monks!
All of the above people and probably others were not ordinary Greeks. My estimate is that it is rather difficult to judge the morality of ordinary Greeks by talking or learning about the opinions of these worthy persons.
Also, the background of all these people could give an answer to the question put by Lewis: "[H]ow on earth do monks of all people wind up as Greece's best shot at a Harvard Business School case study?"
According to Lewis, "Entire countries were told, 'The lights are out, you can do whatever you want to do no one will ever know'." So, the ordinary people in these countries sunk in immorality, by cheating, stealing, etc.
They were "told" by WHOM?
"Much of the land [of Greece] was held by [Christian!] monasteries and absentee landlords, and as the Turkish conquerors 'liberated' it and turned it over to the destitute peasants they [the Turks] were hailed as deliverers."... [Raphaela Lewis, "Everyday Life in Ottoman Turkey", Dorset Press, New York, 1971].
"Then when the Turks left, after 1821, the Christian monasteries grabbed back the land. To this day a great part of the choicest Greek land belongs to the monasteries. A few miles from my place there is the 'Monastery of Pendeli' at the foot of the Pendeli mountain. The mountain that offered the Greeks the marble to build the Parthenon. Now, this monastery started selling [!!!] the land to the Greeks [!] after the Second World War. The owned surface was and is vast. Also, the money earned by the representatives of God on earth was and is vast. As a matter of fact one of the main economic scandals of the present economic crisis in Greece is the "Vatopedi" scandal. "Vatopedi", of course, is a monastery in northern Greece."
Both passages are from my ZNet Commentary of May 27, 2010.
So, Michael Lewis of Vanity Fair visited "Vatopedi".
Vatopedi is part of a strange Christian "entity" called the "Holy Mountain", in northern Greece. Like the Vatican this entity, created 1,000 years ago, is a "state" in a state. As Lewis discovered, the monks do not allow not only human females on the "Holy Mountain" but also female... animals. When Lewis asked Father Arsenios, a Harvard-type financial "genius" [see below]: "How on earth do you handle life without women?" Arsenios replied: "I believe there are many more beautiful things than sex". It is blasphemous that Arsenios used the vulgar term "sex" instead of the biblical "that wicked thing". Besides, you do not need a woman to do "that wicked thing".
Years ago, a very close friend of mine, who had been one of the most important participants in the 1973 student uprising against the 1967 US-sponsored military dictatorship in Greece, a very serious person, visited the Holy Mountain monasteries. He found them so "odorous" he was almost angry.
To reach the Holy Mountain Lewis had to be "on buses driven madly along the tops of sheer cliffs by Greeks on cell phones... (p. 1 of the article)". First, that the Almighty had the meanness to endow Greece with a topography full of "cliffs" and not with the serene flatness of say... Texas, should not be accredited to the modern Greeks. Second, it is interesting to note that Lewis uses the expression "by Greeks" to denote some defect in the character of the Greeks. A practice of downgrading a people, applied diligently by Hitler, Sarkosy, and other great men. Third, my experience of 50 years of driving on the Greek roads has taught me that the adult professional Greek drivers drive safely even when driving "madly". What scares me totally, is the driving of the young offspring of the Greek economic and political elites, especially after 10 p.m. in Athens. Fourth, Lewis is right it is only a "Greek" that drives while on a cell phone.
By the way, why some persons or peoples tend to denigrate, even hate, other peoples (e.g. Blacks, Roma, Greeks, Turks, Iraqis, Afghans, etc). Is there a biologically-based defect in these persons or peoples, who are full of hate?
So, Michael Lewis finally meets Father Arsenios and Father Ephraim the two dominant personalities on the Holy Mountain; two Greek Cypriots.
Father Arsenios [whose name in Greek means "the one with masculinity"] according to Lewis "[i]s as famous as you can get, for a monk: everyone in Athens knows who he is." An unfortunate fact for Arsenios, because he might experience the same or a worse fate as Sioufas, the former Speaker of the Greek Parliament, who, a few weeks ago, on the island of Paros was obliged to leave a restaurant because the ordinary Greeks in it became hostile. Unfortunately, at the time, I was only a couple of miles away from the restaurant and I did not have the chance to participate in this act of resistance. And as mentioned above the spirit of this resistance goes back to the legacy of the Nazi occupation. Incidentally, were the hostile ordinary Greeks the immoral parties in this case or Sioufas the politician whose political party made Arsenios "famous".
Lewis goes on: Father Arsenios is "Mr. Inside, the consummate number two, the C.F.O., the real brains of the operation". Capable enough to impress the people at Harvard.
Arsenios to Lewis: "The Greek newspapers, they call us a corporation. But I ask you, Michael, what company has lasted for 1,000 years?"
I do not know what "Michael" answered, but the answer could be: the Vatican and the Christian Orthodox Church. Also, he could have pointed to the [masculine] Arsenios that it is the Jesuits who help the poor in Central America who do not last, as they are massacred by the CIA with the blessing of the Vatican.
So, the question finally is why a people, the American people, have reached such a point of "moral cllapse" that they condone or accept such barbarity as the existence of a CIA, of Blackwater, of Drones, etc or tolerate people like Cheney, Rumsfeld, ConDolcezza, Bolton, Albright, or "use" people like Ariel Sharon, Livni, Netanyahou, etc to massacre women and children.
Although, to go on with this article is rather irrelevant, we are obliged to make a few more comments on it:
Lewis writes: "The Greek public-sector employees assemble themselves into units that resemble army platoons. In the middle of each unit are two or three rows of young men wielding truncheons disguised as flagpoles. Ski masks and gas masks... so they can still fight after the inevitable tear gas".
Those were not "public-sector employees". As a last resort the syndicalist part of the communist party to protect its members turned the flagpoles into clubs resembling baseball bats. The "club-fight" with the riot police lasts about 10 seconds. The police use not "tear gas" but chemicals (bought from Israel) which are so dangerous that the demonstrators disperse in panic.
Lewis: "At the other end of the street a phalanx of riot police stand, shields together, like Spartan warriors". If I am not mistaken, Lewis, as most Americans, is an admirer of the Spartans. A society that demanded of its 18-yrear-olds to kill 3 slaves to prove their manliness!
Once more Lewis expresses his "disapproval" of the Greeks. He writes: "Inside Greece there was no market for whistle-blowing", as basically everyone was on the racket". I would suggest that he contact Peter Bohmer, a fellow economist of his, who is a friend of Daniel Ellsberg, and get his opinion about the Greeks and... whistle-blowing.
Before we close this long article, a well-intentioned suggestion to the readers of Vanity Fair magazine: Besides the articles in Vanity Fair its readers will find a new "world" by reading the articles in ZNet, of zcommunications.org. John Pilger, one of the most important and honest journalists in the world, writes: "The range of good journalism writing and scholarship on ZCom is astonishing..."
Finally, concerning Makepeace Thackeray, my estimate is that he would have agreed that the Greeks as part of humanity carry the "existing" (and rather unknown, according to Noam Chomsky) human nature. And he would agree that "Vanity Fair" is still a "noisy place".
I would recommend to Michael Lewis that instead of visiting the "Holy Mountain", he should visit the town of Amfissa, close to Delphi, where the two policemen that killed a child called Alexis in December of 2008, are about to hear the verdict of the court that is trying them. If the decision is unjust, then the situation in Greece will be worse than that due to the economic crisis.
Also, I would suggest that he should try to read the book by Elli Pappa, "Account of a Passage", published posthumously a few days ago. Elli was not executed by the CIA in 1952, because in prison she had a 7-month old baby. The father of the baby was Nikos Belogiannis, an intellectual of the Greek left, who was executed although he was innocent and whose face was secured for posterity through a sketch by Picasso. All honest people in the world will learn a lot from Elli's "Passage".