There’s an inherent tragedy in what is happening in Greece. Not that a country is falling apart at the seams, but that the rest of Europe’s reaction is to be thrifty, reductionist and selfish.
Countries of all stripes have had to bear considerable strife and take difficult public expenditure decisions since the 2008 financial downturn. The human cost, as we see with continued benefits reform in the UK, has been heartfelt, real and an altogether painful example of not what happens when systems fail, but what happens when it’s time to pay the bar tab.
It is a woeful example of collective amnesia that Greece is treated like a pariah and not as a patient requiring different treatment. What worked, or what averted total disaster at least, for the United Kingdom, France and Germany is not what might be good for Greece. Indeed it clearly isn’t. The country is saddled with debt that has left it with a stark choice of paying creditors or ensuring some semblance of civil society remains. I’ve read with disappointment some in the UK liken the Greece referendum to calling up your building society and saying you’re not paying your mortgage because it’s leaving you cash strapped.
The analogy is not without merit but ignores the conflation between government and society. The two are linked but not bound and holding to account an entire people, near bankrupt and living on pittance a day, is the worst kind of snooty vengeance that takes nothing from the lessons of history when crippling a country’s economy to make a point. The Greek’s will return to form eventually and the kind of country, the kind of partner, we want when they do is one not that is bitter for decades of imposed iniquity.
The human suffering in a country on our backdoors step is what should be the guiding principle here for saving Greece. If that principle cannot, or will not be respected then the European Union as a Whiggish, upward, ‘End of History’ enterprise is dead in spirit.