Greece: A Modern David vs Goliath Story

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Greece: A Modern David vs Goliath Story

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Greece is a new-born nation. A baby in international politics: kicking screaming and throwing its rattle out of the pram. The European Union has tried to pacify the Greek nation, through fiscal packages and promises of growth through integration, but thus far this has not been enough.

These may be taken as unfair jibes against the Greek state, but I would firstly like to expound the view – without sounding too much like Michael Palin – that Greece is a country of beauty and conglomeration of culture, reflected in its people. Having recently spent a week in the Hellenic State – the term the Greeks use to describe their nation, I had the chance of seeing the impact of austerity measures on the state Capital. Poverty was not as widespread as Western media would have one believe. There was poverty, clearly due to the numbers of homeless, but they were the very clear and distinct minority. What was rife, gleamed from speaking to people on the street, was genuine discontent; wages have dropped from €800 a month to €500. At the forefront of people’s minds is money, because money provides security. The fall in wages has impacted upon that security, with the decline in job prospects for the young, university graduates meaning that the previous Greek government had lost the support of the country’s future. It is these conditions which have facilitated the rise of a new agenda in Greece, one of change.

Despite the current poor economic situation, the Greeks are not disheartened. The election of Syriza on 25th January 2015 has provided Greece with the best stimulus package possible: hope. In Greece there is genuine hope that their newly elected Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, and his cabinet of neosocialists (loosely using a term which the Western media have used to brand them) will provide Greece with a solution or die trying. It appears that the Greeks have adopted the stance of brinkmanship, which stems from their history.

Many forget that Greece has existed as a country for less than 200 years, re-established following the revolution of 1821. Even more shocking, based on their classical legacy on the world, Greece has only been a democracy for 40 consecutive years.  It is their history of occupation, by the Ottoman Empire, which has resulted in a sceptical outlook on the world. Even today, the Greeks fear invasion and thus have national service for all males between the ages of 19 and 45. This history of occupation, Greece last being occupied by the Axis in WW2, has resulted in a perceived necessity for self-protection. It is this perception, which has morphed into isolationism – Greece is not afraid of standing alone.

Fear and isolationism, salient in Greek culture, have contributed greatly to the current political discourse against the EU. Germany and Greece, with their historic relations, have held each other at arm’s length. While Greece joined the European Union in 1981 they have increasing come to view it as a Franco-German syndicate for European control. Indeed, increasingly the EU – and the fiscally binding nature of the euro – has acted as a Rottweiler, herding the countries of Europe. The Greeks, with their national pride and strong history of occupation have become the first to openly resist the EU, drawing upon nationalist arguments from 1821.

Such resistance and negotiation brinkmanship has demonstrated the ability for a mediocre power to challenge a regional hegemon in the 21st Century. Germany (due to their currency ties) is anchored to the Greek ship, whose engines are spluttering as Syriza are drawing everyone to the life rafts. Due to the EU, it is partly Germany’s responsibility to kick-start the Greek engines or face their own capsizing. This metaphor provides the basis for a general insight into the Greek mentalité regarding Europe. While the Greeks would be happier on the EU ship, a much more comfortable boat but is making slow progress, they are also willing to risk it all due to the possibility that the life rafts may save them.

The Greek debt negotiations are a critical juncture for both the Hellenic State and the EU. Greece risk expulsion from the economic union, which could spell its end. Or, the more likely eventuality, the Greek government will be forced to accept a new debt repayment deal. Nevertheless, if Greece does accept a European debt deal, they will have undoubtedly inspired the other PIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Greece, and Spain) countries to adopt similar tactics in their own debt negotiations. Indubitably, Spain and the Podemos party will be watching the Greek debt negotiations with wide, unblinking eyes.

Greece has shown a turning point in international 21st Century politics, that a small power can stand up to a big power and make them flinch. This is through the dominance of international interconnectedness, with states being tied through webs of culture, politics, and most importantly economics. With the Greek mentalité, which has been formed through its culture of occupation and determination to keep their national identity alive, has meant that there is no better suited country to stand as David against a political Goliath.

The Hellenic State’s youth means that it still has the vitality to stand and develop on its own, through hardship. Regardless of the outcome, the current events are important to Europe and its future and as negotiations drag on the repercussions are only going to become greater. Ultimately, as Greece tests the power of the EU, it also places strain on its own resources and people. All that the EU can do is hope that the ripples caused by the struggle on the Greek ship do not dislodge others from their berth.

Written By Jason Soutchott

Edited By Sam Toombs – Editor for Canvas and Head of the Radio Station