This is a crisis time for Greece but this often beleagured nation is surely used to this? Think of what they suffered under the Ottoman rule of 400 years, the Great Catastrophe of 1922 when they were driven out of Smyrna, literally into the sea, the towns burning behind them? Then look at what they experienced when they tried to defy to Nazis in WW2 and people slaughtered, whole villages razed in reprisal? The Great Famine followed as the Nazis drained the country of its resources to feed the German people. Men, women children dying on the streets of Athens daily and take away in carts to mass graves. Then the terrible civil war that followed almost immediately afterwards when brother fought brother with terrific atrocities were committed by both the Rightist and Communist followers?
Somehow they managed, the population revived and survived. But in those days life was far more rural and lest centrified than in the cities. Cities do not do well in crisis times. Where does the food come from, what work is there when things go wrong?
According to David Smith on Radio 4 this morning, the Greek economy is just beginning to see a glimmer of light and recovery. Like him, I feel afraid they may be reacting with their usual fiery impatience and determination, never ready to wait with that dutiful, exemplary patience of the English and the Germans to crisis. These latter races are less demonstrative, more passive and plod on until with hard work and resignation thing slowly improve. (Look how quickly the Germans recovered their economy after the penalties and devastations of WW2 – long before we did in Britain!) But that’s never been the nature of the Mediterranean races. They are hot, fiery, yearning to break through restrictions and problems somehow, anyhow. And it is true when we Northerners complain that to some extent the Greeks did bring a lot of these woes upon themselves. But then that’s the whole problem with the EU. The nations are so different in character and attitude. It should be a good marriage of the cautious, dutiful and hard working with the imaginative, more spirited and creative . . . but it isn’t. It’s a schism that may now be splitting like a crack in a pot that will eventually lead to its shattering altogether.
All the same, reaction can be useful. Maybe it’s even necessary at times if anything is to get moving and the EU is certainly stuck. Perhaps this will give us the EU the push it needs to make a new pot and start again, wiser and more flexible in nature, taking into account the diversity of the nations and not attempting to impose a blanket ideal which works for some but not others. Or simply remain in shattered pieces that will lead once more to the old conflicts of nations we had in the 20th century.
The difference in the cool Northern races and fiery Mediterranean temperaments has certainly shown up very recently. Look at the way we in England reacted to the Blitz in WW2. Then to the IRA and the series of horrific bomb attacks they perpetrated? And lately the July 2005 terrorist attacks when 50 people were killed and 770 injured in London? We were horrified, frightened, upset but carried on as always with that intriguing mix of passivity and long suffering that makes the British nation what it still is . . . even despite the present more fiery mix of nationalities that is slowly changing its character. But never quite, because this is the character of the country and whoever comes here will end up reacting in the same manner. Then, in contrast, take the French reaction to Charlie Hebdon. The French never suffered bombing in WW2 (they capitulated to the Nazis in order to save their city and I don’t blame them really) They have had problems with the Algerians, of course, but their reaction to this latest threat has been immensely emotional, indignant, reactive on a national scale seldom experienced here in Britain except perhaps to Margaret Thatcher’s poll tax! (We must also recall how the Spanish reacted very emotionally to the Madrid bombings in 2004)
The ancient Greeks considered themsleves the centre of the then known world. The omphalos at Delhi was the world navel, it’s belly, the solar plexus which, spiritually speaking, houses the will and determination. In a strange way they are always at the centre of things – from the days of WW1 when it was a strategic tool for the Axis and Allied Powers, for the Nazis in WW2 and now because it’s internal decisions may well lead to the collapse of the fragile uncertainties of the European Union.