During the economic crisis, the Greek voters have been the completely eliminated from public debate against opponents of the prevalent economic and political doctrines.
Those who oppose the Eurozone, the EU, or simply the austerity measures, are stamped with the “scarlet letter” of being “nationalists,” “xenophobes,” or “fascists.”!
Such rhetoric became even more polarized following the Brexit referendum result. The Brexit result and the rise of “populism” have themselves been demonized, while poll results that contradict the mainstream narrative are habitually buried by the supposedly “objective” major media outlets.
So the Greeks want the Euro at all costs, even if it means more harsh austerity measures and cuts to wages, pensions and social services. Or so we are told. These claims would be believable if they were the product of robust public debate and deliberation on the respective pros and cons of remaining within the “European family” or departing. But in Greece, and in most of the global mainstream media, there is no such debate and never has been.
Throughout the crisis, the austerity measures that have been imposed on Greece, the arguments in favor of the necessity of remaining “in Europe,” the mythos surrounding the “European dream,” and the horror that would result from “Grexit” have been propped up by a series of lies and scare tactics that have been repeatedly propagated by politicians and media outlets alike.
One such myth pertains to the idea that Greece “doesn’t produce anything” and is therefore reliant on imports. These imports must, of course, be paid for with hard currency; therefore, the conventional line of thinking suggests that Greece would be unable to import vital necessities with its own “soft” currency.
Outside of food production, Greece is a strong producer of such resources as aluminum and bauxite (first in Europe), magnesium, meeting 46% of Western Europe’s production, second in the world behind the United States in the production of steatite clay, and is the only European country with significant nickel deposits. Greece is also a significant producer of laterite and marble, as well as steel and cement.
Greece possesses one of the world’s largest shipping fleets, ranking second worldwide in total tonnage, while the Greek flag fleet and merchant fleet rank second in the EU and 7th globally. In addition, Greece is 14th in the world in tourist arrivals (but 23rd in tourist revenue).
In 1981, the year Greece joined the EU, production of fresh vegetables was at 123,298 tons, lemon production was at 216,874 tons, apple production was at 337,091 tons, almond production at 73,181 tons, tobacco production at 130,900 tons, tomato production at 1,884,600 tons, and potato production at 1,056,000 tons.
Thirty years later, the figures for each of these crops had sharply declined: 74,393 tons of fresh vegetables, 70,314 tons of lemons, 255,800 tons of apples, 29,800 tons of almonds, 20,287 tons of tobacco, 1,169,900 tons of tomatoes, and 757,820 tons of potatoes.
What the mainstream public opinion survey results in Greece aim to accomplish is threefold. First, they seek to impact public opinion in Greece by making it seem like there is such an overwhelming majority in favor of continued EU and Eurozone membership that resistance is futile.
And the product of “fringe” elements of society. Secondly, it impacts the international media in their reporting on Greece and the crisis, as they regurgitate these poll results without question.
In the minds of many Greeks, the old drachma is also associated with crippling inflation and economic instability, a perspective which the major media outlets have done nothing to dispel.
Listening to certain Greeks discussing the pre-2002 era, one would think that prior to the euro Greeks must have lived in caves, without electricity, automobiles or running water, and that such days will swiftly return if Greece dares to depart from the common currency.
The head of the Eurogroup, the committee of Eurozone finance ministers, and member of Holland’s Labour Party Jeroen Dijsselbloem stated earlier this year that Greeks spent their money on “drinks and women.” In turn, Dutch “eurosceptic” politician Geert Wilders claimed that Greeks spent their money “on souvlaki and ouzo.”
One of the many end results of this constant barrage of disparagement and insults towards the Greek people is that they have become ingrained in the national psyche.
A common refrain heard in Greece in reference to anything negative occurring within the country is that “this is who we are.” Greece lied and therefore it must be punished.
Greeks lived beyond their means and are now getting their just dues. Greeks were corrupt and “ate it all together,” in the words of ex-politician Theodoros Pangalos, and therefore collectively must share the blame.
Herein lies a paradox: on the one hand, Greeks are consistently ranked as among the unhappiest people in the world. Greece ranked fourth in this year’s Bloomberg misery index, and has been found to be the unhappiest country in Europe by both the Eurobarometer survey and by Gallup International.
In such a toxic environment, the prevailing policies of economic austerity, cuts, and privatization are therefore met with tacit acceptance.
The euro is essentially a debt instrument: According to economist and former central banker Spiros Lavdiotis, the European Central Bank does not lend directly to its members—i.e. the member states of the Eurozone.
It instead lends to the private sector, at interest. In turn, the private sector lends to states who seek to borrow money, at higher interest. This perpetuates the debt cycle, while the higher interest is often financed in the form of budget cuts or higher taxes.
Yanis Varoufakis has famously uttered that the EU (and by extension, the eurozone) are like the Hotel California: you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave. It’s one thing, of course, to understand why a country like Greece, and its economy—may be at a disadvantage within the Eurozone and the EU. It’s another thing, however, to actually leave these institutions.
Sputnik / AA-Magnum Analyst Blog News 2017.