Wikipedia defines that wonderful German expression as « describing a great situational awareness, and the ability to respond most appropriately and tactfully. »
Imagine prostrate Greece thinking she deserves kid glove treatment considering her political leaders,’ all parties, lying for decades. Her upper echelon citizens demonstrating no patriotism, cheating their government.
Why should the Greeks be granted any leeway?
The country’s crushing history.
Skip over the first 1500 years of Greek civilization, we get enough of that from our museum visits or reading what Nietzsche thinks is owed the Greeks; forget stopping the conquest of the west by a despotic Persian empire outnumbered 9 to 1 at Marathon; let’s not bother with how Greek culture absorbed Rome’s eastern empire making it a Greek-speaking Byzantium that lasted over 1100 years; or how their Christian brothers of the west sacked the Christian capital of the east,Constantinople, hastening her fall in 1453, sparking the exodus of her scholars to western Europe. The happy coincidence of the appearance of Guttenberg’s press that same year igniting the renaissance.
Forget Socrates and Alexander and the Parthenon. That’s so long ago as to be irrelevant history, right?
Let’s get to modern times.
The Greeks were the first to cast off the yoke of 5 centuries of Ottoman enslavement of southwest Europe.
We recognize the damage to a black man’s psyche in America after 200 years of slavery. Imagine what 400 years did to the Greeks, how normal, necessary lying and cheating and bribing were to survival.
Greece fought against the Kaiser’s Germany in WW1 while Turkey did not, and at the Paris Peace conference was awarded much of the 3000-year Greek lands in Turkey. Which she promptly lost because the dumb, vain king (German) went for more at the urging of Lloyd George and Clemenceau.
Greeks haven’t talked about their genocide at the hands of modern Turkey. They lost hundreds of thousands in those well-documented Armenian death marches. And then there was the destruction of 700,000 Pontic Greeks on the Black Sea, and hundreds of thousands on Turkey’s Aegean coast.
As recently as 1955, thousands of Greeks were ethnically cleansed out of Istanbul.
World War Two. Greece’s demolition of Mussolini’s attempted invasion gave the Allies their first victory.
Then the Greeks fought the Germans to the death all the way to Crete and held up Hitler’s invasion of Russia, The Russians know, as does the German military how that contributed to Hitler’s failure in Russia.
Greece paid for that dearly. One-eighth of her population starved to death or was executed in reprisals for her relentless resistance. Payback the other way, in the form of German reparations payments for her destruction of that country never materialized. Maybe Greeks should consider the Euro bailout led by Germany as an installment payment on Germany’s debt?
And even as Greece was being liberated from the Nazi occupation, the Communist-led civil war broke out lasting 3 years, killing many more thousands.
Greeks didn’t stop fighting after that fratricide ended, sending the first foreign military contingents to join the Americans in Korea.
And all through those years her young people emigrated to chance building a better life as had so many throughout her history. To Germany as gastarbeiters, America as greasy Greeks slinging hamburgers or working on the railroads, or Australia as wogs. And yet look at the accomplishments of the children of these diaspora Greeks in each country. Matched only by the diaspora Jews.
And still her western allies think Greece petty when she fights to lose no more of her heritage. There was no Slavic language or people at the time of Alexander. He and his court spoke Greek. His teacher was Aristotle. Greeks are supposed to think it’s OK to give the name of Alexander’s kingdom to a non-Greek state?
Greece has been forced to spend the highest percentage of her GDP on defense of any country in the world, because she cannot be sure of her NATO allies help in the event of a Turkish invasion. Remember another batch of dumb Greek politicians and their Cyprus fiasco, and how Kissinger saw to it that Greece’s most important ally, the USA, sat on her hands and did nothing?
And yet Greek and Turkish friendship is not a hard sell to the young people of those countries. Check out college campuses in the USA, Canada, England or Germany, in which foreign students room together, are best friends, Greek and Turkish. We need to understand why that happens and why that must give hope, despite their long, tragic shared history.
You want to cut Greece’s deficit? Start by cutting defense spending by 90%.
Give the remainder to Israel and let her station her troops in Greece. Both are prisoners of their geography. Cutting defense would mean she doesn’t buy three more German atomic subs or 20 more French built ships. Dumb/corrupt Greek politicians? Or is it a form of blackmail?
Greece needs Europe to be as brilliant and generous as America when the Truman Doctrine saved that country and Turkey from Communism. Because Greece’s road to recovery will be long and painful.
Greece needs the strongest economy in Europe to remember its own history, not so beautiful: two world wars and a vicious holocaust.
Germany needs to remember that her economic recovery was not achieved by Germanic frugality and work ethic alone (the average Greek workweek is 33% longer).
Germany owns the record as the default champion of Europe, despite being bailed out after the second world war by its conquerors.
Germany, the country that cost the world so much pain and suffering and loss needs to copy American/Allied attitudes of generosity and compassion in dealing with Greece.
Greece’s pain inflicted on the rest of us today could be described as what in comparison to Germany’s?
There is no stain in the millennia of Greece’s history.
In fact it is that track record of accomplishment over 3500 years that encourages her people. And should make it possible for Germany and Europe to be as sensitive in the coming years as if possessing a little fingerspitzengefühl.
Only dumb politicians ignoring history would bet against this old, stubborn, proud people. « The Greeks took Troy because they never stopped trying » – Theocritus 254 BC. Nothing has changed. It’s a character trait to be admired and respected.
The Huffington Post
By Bill Tragos
Retired founder TBWA