The antics of the Greek government these past 100 days have achieved what nobody for decades had managed to shift: the image of Greeks. As correctly identified by various spin doctors, the image of a Zorba type lazy Greek at the cafe was holding us back. No matter how many advertising campaigns we tried, millions spent with consultants and the dedication of previous tourism ministers…all to no avail.
Enter Yani Varoufakis.
The man started by taking one “n” out of his first name. Because he is a blogger, not a politician. We forget it, but his title for a long time had been “blogger economist” or “economist blogger”. He had toured the media and the world on the borders of pseudoscientific economic revolution. If he stayed in the US a bit longer he would probably end up with a YouTube channel, selling doomsday catastrophe theories like so many other conspiracy theorists.
But he became finance minister.
Probably because hardly anyone else in the cabinet speaks English. Maybe because his crazy theories are popular with lazy Greeks. Zorba, sipping his eight coffee of the day, likes to hear that it is someone else’s fault. Why face your own shortcomings when you can point a finger to global economic discrepancies? “The eurozone is broke”. Oh really? The eurozone has been broke since the day it started and thousands of people have been trying to fix it ever since. How are you helping?
Well Mr Varoufakis decided to take an unusual communication route. Namely complete insanity and inconsistence. If everyone is wearing ties, he goes without one. If everyone submits proposals in writing, he just glosses over some points with a mini lecture. If everyone is polite, he will act like a spoilt brat. The worse kind of spoilt brat as his parents (the rest of the cabinet and the prime minister) all support it, no matter how ridiculous his actions. One day he says A, the next B. The next he refuses he said either A or B and denies the existence of the alphabet for good measure. A week down the line he insinuates that use of the alphabet is in fact a Western though trap and the minister of Defence (from the far right nationalist party which shares power now) claims that the alphabet is a Jewish invention to be avoided by true Greeks. A month down the line he repeats A and says “this is what I have been saying all along”.
He can go on forever like this apparently.
The rest of the world however cannot. Greeks are no longer considered lazy Zorba types. We are now considered crazy, rude, irreverent, unorganized, spoilt brats. You no longer pity us for shortcomings of our economy, you hate us. We look like we know what we are doing and like we are purposely trying to get you to pay the bill for us being lazy. This is no Zorba, this is the grandson of Zorba, playing Candy Crush on the beach and wanting everyone else to serve him the coffee.
Of course many Greeks are not like this. However at least 30 percent voted for this government and more than 30 percent support this crazy approach. Mr Varoufakis and his crazy gang have pulled back the blinds and uncovered what 40 years of corruption has done to my country. We are nowhere near the end of our troubles. This generation will live through poverty like the country hasn’t seen since the time before Zorba.
In a way, I am grateful. Rock bottom is a tough place to start but at least it is stable.