I should be ashamed of myself. After the Greek football team triumphed in Euro 2004 Iwas the only person in the country and probably the planet, publicly stating (and even writing
) that we didn’t deserve it
. I claimed the Greek team was doped (any other way to explain how a team that never lasted past 65′ suddenly went into overtime running like Ben Johnson?) and that opponents took bribes. It was an Olympic year, we had the budget! To add insult to the injury I am fairly sure that even our first ever modern Olympic medal in marathon running, back in 1896 with Spyros Louis
was in fact the result of Greeks giving him a couple of lifts at parts of the route not covered by judges
. OK, I am an obvious cynic.
One of the reasons I got particularly annoyed at Greek doping scandals is because I experienced the disappointment in kids that looked up to them first hand
It is not just because they are unusual that these views didn’t get much airing. There is no public forum designed to feel ashamed of itself. When Kostas Kenderis was almost caught just before the2004 Olympics ( a ridiculous story with him escaping doping control on a moped and then staging an accident so as to avoid a blood sample being taken) it hit me even more strongly. The reason everyone gets away with such behaviour is because we are not acting in a natural, tribal way. Can you imagine the same athlete being of Japanese decent? He would have been found dead in his apartment for the shame. The shame he brought to his country, to his fellow athletes, to the Olympic ideal.
You only had to look at the hearings for the Toyota case recently in the US to see this in vibrant colors. Toyota’s only sin was spreading too thin in terms of control of its enormous supply chain. They didn’t do an Enron. But the shame of it all… So why don’t we just purposely design controls in business and in sport to encourage the tribal approach to guilt.
“Guilt” as a legal term is way to shallow. Someone can be pronounced “not guilty” even though we
all know he is; and he can laugh straight into the cameras as he glides away from the court. And people can feel deep guilt or remorse about things they never controlled or were in any way responsible for. It is a social construct. The whole concept of “corporate responsibility” was always inadequate in my mind. It is like trying to sell a product that nobody really needs. “You really need this product, buy it!” sell which gets a “and why the hell do I need this?” response type of situation.
Tribal guilt is not like that. Get that athlete to go to court with his entire team. Introduce penalties to his federation. Make the negative publicity a communal hit, not something personal. Shrugging it off as a whim of a particular person is too easy. This is not some kind of twisted mean streak, it makes perfect sense. The reason we need guilt is to reinforce our common values. Tiger Woods apologised not because it is any of our business what he does in his bed or a hotel room, but to show us he is not evil; he feels remorse and agrees that the societal norm of not sleeping around too much in an obvious way is correct.
Get Kenderis, Enron board members and the Greek football team in the limelight with the system that turned a blind eye to their misbehaviours and we achieve a similar pressure point. Which seems to me to be a pretty similar set of problems and solutions to Greece’s current financial mess. Individual citizen’s as wrongdoers hide behind the “everyone else was doing it” facade. Politician’s hide behind the “every other government did it” scenario.
It is common in such situations to assume that the system that creates the problem, can’t solve it. Especially amongst Greeks it is taken for granted that it is too deeply ingrained in our characters, our national “style”. Heck, even in the war of liberation against the Turks in 1821, it is well documented that Greek soldiers refused to fight if their pay was late. (With the battle raging right next to them!)
This is not the case. It only takes one prominent working example of the shame system I propose for it to become established. It could catch on like a Greek summer wild fire and spread as fast. And maybe sports is the ideal place to start. I put myself forward as an initial victim of this approach. If footballers in the 2004 Euro team, Kostas Kenderis supporters or relatives of Spyro Louis want to, I am willing to be put in front of a jury of fellow bloggers to test whether this slander I am spreading is justified or not!
Maybe they will start commenting things like “hey, alex, this post seems preposterous!” instead of just letting me get away with it so easily next time…