A conversation with your average Greek about debt

-This debt is unsustainable.

What do you mean?

-We have to get more loans just to pay the interest!  We will never manage to pay it off!

So what do you propose?

-Write all the debt off so we can recover.

But that would mean other Europeans having to pay for it.

-Yes, but you are all richer than us.  We have very very high unemployment.

You do, eh?  Are those unemployed looking for work?

-Of course they are!

So why are the cafeterias full of young people paying three times the price of a coffee in other European cities?

-That’s not typical. There are really poor people in Greece in other areas.

Oh really?  Can you show me one indicator that supports the idea that Greeks are poor?

-We don’t need indicators.  People are dying on the streets.

More than they are dying in other European cities?  This is inaccurate.  You have the least deaths of homeless people or elderly people.  They are living better than others.

-Because we care!  We have extended families.

No, because half the population lives with handouts from the Public Sector.  Either pensions you receive much earlier than other Europeans, or civil servant positions which are ridiculous…

-We work more than other Europeans!

Well, it must be pretty unproductive work, because your country keeps needing more money.

-Not our fault.  All our governments are sold out to the Americans and to Europe.  They suck our blood and get richer as we get poor.

Well, why are you allowing your government to make fools of you in Brussels now, demanding ridiculous things in the most rude way possible?

-They are heroes!  Someone had to stand up to the bloody Germans!

Germans have less than 50% home ownership.  Greeks are above 90%.

-That is simply a different culture.

Germans share car rides, prefer buying used clothes, have price differentiation in their product lines because they shop around for price.

-Well that’s just miserable!  We Greeks don’t bother with rubbish like that.

My point is, Germans and other Europeans try to save their money.  If they don’t have enough money, they go to the movies on a Monday afternoon when it is cheaper, they split their restaurant bills based on what they ate.

-What an awful idea!  In Greece we don’t scimp like that!  We order plenty food and then fight over who will pay the bill.

Oh really?



Communication Society

Goebbels needed in Brussels to change the flag

“The European flag consists of 12 golden stars in a circle on a blue background. The stars symbolise the ideals of unity, solidarity and harmony among the peoples of Europe.

The number of stars has nothing to do with the number of member countries, though the circle is a symbol of unity.”

That is all you get when trying to discover what the flag is about from the official site.    Contrast it to your nation of choice’s story.   You probably have several versions of your country’s flag as it developed, rich in history and people, wonderful colorful fairytales connected to your past.   You probably know this information by heart because you learnt it at school.   You probably have some emotional response to your flag.

To anyone in communications or branding, what the European Union is doing is suicidal.   While there is much talk about “nation branding” and what individual countries do to themselves or to each other regarding negative press, nobody seems to care about the Union itself.   This goes against millenia of wisdom concerning economic and cultural development.   According to a summary:

“Images of the EU are split:
positive images:

the EU as “strategic opportunity” for the partner countries; a trade giant; a
supporter of multilateralism (or at least multipolarism); a model of regional integration; and
a possible counterbalance to US hegemony, a protector of the environment;
negative images:

an actor whose policy is severely influenced by its own security or
economic concerns; a neo-liberal actor in its external relations; and a protectionist power
(CAP).  EU’s self-representation as a solidaristic actor is called into question. Moreover:
 Little evidence of the EU being widely seen as a “normative power” exporting
universal values of democracy and human rights.
 No evidence of the EU being widely regarded as a social model to be imitated.
 No public reward for EU’s development cooperation policy”

The current global economic crisis is focusing on the European Union for good reason; it is easy!   Any single sovereign country can deal with an external attack.   But in Brussels they decide by…committee.   In the worse sense of the phrase.   According to Nicholas Moussis in “Access to European Union law, economics, policies” “…the edifice of the European Union is divided horizontally in floors. The floor of the common market was built on the basement of the customs union. Apart from the four fundamental freedoms (free movement of goods, persons, services and capital), the common market floor consists of numerous horizontal and vertical compartments, which contain the common policies…”

At least this author is trying to make it understandable.   Because moving from separate countries to any other system is something which citizens of Europe have not quite perceived yet.   The task is made harder by politicians in every country using the EU as a scapegoat for their political problems.   They used to point to some neighbor or other threat when they needed to rally up support; now they just point to Brussels.

From a communicational point of view it is amazing.   We would assume that when you give a handout, you will demand some sort of media attention.   If I am bailing out French farmers, the least they can do is put up an EU flag.   Even better they should commit to some cultural change towards European integration.   Somehow the EU managed to squander its capital (economic and in terms of good will) without getting anything in return.   A feat only possible by a committee!   In any other human-to-human interaction there would have been more.   If the United States were set up as a “melting pot of cultures”, the European Union is set up as a feudal parody.   Immigrants entering the US learn about its constitution.   In Europe we can’t even manage that.

The film industry is a great example.   A variety of Euroinitiatives concerning film making, film distribution and other cultural aspects of film and the results?   Absolutely nothing.   On average, European don’t watch more locally produced content, nor is European film thriving abroad.   We are neither helping Europeans become more aware of their cultural heritage nor telling the rest of the world anything about us.   And of course we are nowhere near making it a viable business in any of the country – members.   For the size of the internal media consumption market and the depth of talent in this field it is a simply amazing feat of incompetence.

So now we need a Goebbels.   I don’t care who runs the ECB, I want to know who is in charge of propaganda.

Business Communication Technology

VISA, Google and racism

“We would like you to confirm a transaction made yesterday in San Fransisco.”   A few years back I used to get a lot of calls from my bank.   Customers that travelled as much as me and shopped a lot online were obviously an extreme rarity in Greece.   So I had hardly hit an airport shop or finished buying something on the web and my cell phone rang…

Their logic was algorythmic:  an individual buying a lot of stuff with a credit card in widely different parts of the world is likely to be a fraudster.  But imagine getting a call like this:   “Mr Chalkidis, we know you are an illiterate schmuck so are you sure you bought all those high brow books from Amazon today?”    It would be similar to the British banks that denied me a credit card when I landed to study in England because of my Greek decent.  (Too many Greeks before me had ran enormous bills and then skipped the country!)  

I fought (and won) the banks then, like the European Union lawyers can fight Google now.   Racism!   Forget complex tech talk about algorythms, focus on human rights.   Google cleverly has tried to make their search contextual.   Based on past searches and other customer data.   ie hazy enough to confuse provability.   So get several brand new computers in different locations and build carricatured profiles on them.   Log what they surf and what they fill in as a profile.   Then do a web search.   Any differences in search results and you can yell “racism!” “sexism!” “nationalism!” or any other “ism” you like.

It is easy mainly because this language of rights makes no sense really.   It is however extremely succesful in the court.   Especially if you manage to find a difference, no matter how trivial, between different races or ethnic groups; anything that affects an underpriviliged group.   If one personae has declared he or she is crippled in any way and they don’t get as many sports results for example.  

It may sound ridiculous but imagine actually been cripple and getting a telephone call like this:  “we notice three charges for fancy running shoes on your credit card this week.   Can you please confirm them?”