I was sad to read that the Attikon Cinema on Stadiou Street in central Athens was burned down by anarchist scum pretending to protest against the E.U. Nazis. The Attikon was built in 1870 as part of a beautiful, ochre-colored neoclassical edifice constructed by a German architect, only to be torched 142 years later by professional troublemakers posing as freedom defenders. I first went to the Attikon with my German nanny during the war—it was packed with Wehrmacht officers—and I saw Hitler’s favorite blonde actress, Kristina Söderbaum, on screen. I fell in love, like any healthy six-year-old would. As did the German officers who applauded whenever she came on the scene. Fraulein was not best pleased and kept telling the young officers to keep it down. They cheered even louder but were very polite to a strange old lady dressed all in black, holding the hand of a little boy and going “shhh” nonstop.
Par for the times, to burn down a beautiful old building in order to show the world how civilized we modern Greeks are. Hundreds have lost their businesses in one night’s looting by extremists, most of them probably well off and posing as anarchists. Let’s take it from the top: For the last 30 years Greeks have been paying 80 percent of their standard of living. The remaining 20 percent has been financed through loans. The loans have come from abroad—French banks, mostly. Now the banks are saying no more; hence, the Greeks are rioting. The Greek parliament has over the past two years put on the screws, but the system is not working. Tax collection doesn’t work thanks to a nonfunctional civil administration and widespread corruption. A bloated civil service—one in three Greeks works for the state—and closed professions stifle efforts to streamline the economy. The wrong people are holding key positions and are unwilling to step aside. Honest entrepreneurs look and live abroad. But the locals do have an excuse: For years the wild overspending was encouraged by reckless lending by foreign banks. Now the chickens have come home to roost.
The only way Greece could ease the suffering of her people is if all debts were suddenly canceled. “Nein,” say the bankers. Greeks are trapped between the Scylla of the one-size-fits-all euro and the Charybdis of default. Staying with the euro means paying off billions upon billions of debt interest, in an economy has been in free fall for the last four years (down over 21 percent). Defaulting on the debt means losing all international credits, the closing of banks, and the collapse of the economy.
So what are the Eurocrats doing about this mess? The first thing was to install a technocrat as prime minister of this ancient land. The second was to impose austerity measures that have seen pensions cut by a third, credits refused, and all savings go to service the debt. The European Union has proved time and again that it is a profoundly antidemocratic institution, by ignoring whenever a nation’s vote goes against decisions taken by unelected bureaucrats in Brussels. Now it has decided that Greece must tighten her belt and pay off her debts to the speculators and the banks. There is only one problem with this: It’s like asking a boxer to go up two weight divisions while he is forcibly kept on a starvation diet. It is a physical impossibility. How can an economy grow whilst businesses are closing every day and all extra money goes into servicing debt?
Yet the unelected nabobs in Brussels insist that, if Greece follows orders, everything will be hunky-dory by the year 2020. Their plans are like Hitler’s phantom divisions in the closing days of the war. He played with flags and diagrams and planned counterattacks while the Russkies were in Berlin’s suburbs. The Brussels bureaucrooks have one fear only: contagion. If Greece drops out, others will follow. Their dreams of running the Old Continent for the duration will be kaput. Greece did live beyond her means for a generation, and blighted by successive corrupt governments and a corrupt tax-collection system—one had only to bribe the collector, openly—she practiced financial chicanery taught by the masters, Goldman Sachs. But the wrong people are paying the piper—the poor, the sick, the elderly, and the law abiding. This is not democracy, but Gulag-like authoritarianism as practiced by the Godzillas of Brussels, Berlin, and Paris. Beating the people up in order to impose the will of the banks and hedge funds cannot be right. And the cops doing the beating are facing the same hardships, loss of pensions, redundancies, and a cut in their already meager salaries.
The Brussels gangsters have decided to sacrifice the Greeks to the market in the hope that their sacrifices will appease the gods of speculation. We Greeks have always led the way, in victory but also in defeat. We were the first Europeans to fall to the dreaded Turks back in 1453. We’re going down for good, but there will be plenty of others to keep us company as long as Brussels continues to be our Führer.