I've been keeping a "professional" eye on Greek politics and government for the last thirty years and my conclusion is that the progression of time has a negative impact on Greek government -- the more time passes, the more pronounced the various dysfunctions of the system become.

Greece seems to use time to make things worse, not better. The current crisis, which has already begun the demolition of Greek "stability," as it was defined in the years since 1974, is only the latest stage of the gradual dissolution of the postwar Greek state.

We can certainly enumerate, and elaborate on, many factors that play a role in how Greece's government deteriorates over time. Much has been written on the subject already. I am (unfortunately) keenly aware of the deleterious impact of bureaucracy; the ills of nepotism and political patronage; the resistance to modernity when it is time to upgrade ways and means; and the effects of corruption, waste, fraud, and mismanagement. But all these factors remain "mechanical" in nature; the driving force behind progress or stasis, modernization or stagnation, and smooth operation vs constant breakdowns rests with the "worldview" of the Greek collectivity and how this "worldview" translates into action and reaction during day-to-day operation.

In other words, the key variable here is the aggregation of individual behaviors under conditions of both stress and relative stability demonstrated by the Greek people, not to mention the ways and methods of individual "decision-making" on routine everyday matters that form the Greek socio-political and economic environment.

Several features of the social landscape in Greece can be mentioned as contributing factors to what the majority of foreign observers recognize as the ingredients of the Greek "chaos."

• Greeks have little tradition of grass roots organization as demonstrated by the relative lack of voluntary associations and other groups dedicated to promoting the public good or worthy targets; and any such associations that do exist, at least in name, usually demonstrate absence of any meaningful activity that has even a cursory impact upon the wellbeing of the social whole.

• Greeks find almost impossible to observe basic civilities that are taken for granted in other developed cultures. While they can be remarkably kind and accommodating when acting individually, they are usually difficult and provocative when in groups: they hate observing the queue, they will elbow and push their way through in order to gain pole position which they do not deserve, they will disagree for the sake of disagreeing, they will demonstrably ignore those who happen to help them and cower before those who practice browbeating as the chosen method of "administration," and they generally avoid to notice what is happening around them in society until the influence of events reaches their pockets or the safety of their very wellbeing.

• Greeks are rather notorious when it comes to getting prepared for a rainy day. At the slightest mishap, they will point to the state and its perceived inability to correct the problem, be it damage from a natural disaster, failings at the private level, or any other situation that would be treated as strictly a personal challenge in most developed societies.

• The proclivity to seek a tether, which provides "insurance" in the form of quick fixes and/or extra-institutional ways of settling disputes at one's own benefit, is pronounced throughout the "system." Greek daily routines are foreign to meritocracy and suspicious of any person who shows genuine application at what he/she does. The vision of the "fixer," the smart cat who knows how to take the proper detours and discover back doors, has a far greater attraction than the image of a person who places his chances of success on conscientious service and attention to the rulebook.

• Finally, the outsider will be hard pressed to discover Greeks who take pride in what they do, irrespective of the type of the job involved. The third country person exploring both the public and private sectors will run constantly into people who wear long faces over the "difficulties" of the job and express the burning desire to be somewhere else and doing something quite different. Job satisfaction is generally unknown in Greece and at the root of a whole host of adaptability problems and wider breakdowns in every field of endeavor.

In conclusion, Greeks are perennial seekers of "emancipation" -- emancipation whose very quality and objectives are usually murky and, even, unknown and without justification that sounds credible. The legions of the dissatisfied leave little room for those few who believe in a more organized (and honest) approach to one's own goals and plans. These latter few would eventually drown in the sea of discontent extending all over "Greek-dom" as certainly as the fact that the sun rises in the east every morning.

Hence, the almost universal admission of Greeks about "Greece eating its own children."

Try to have good government under these conditions.

Tassos Symeonides

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