Thursday, July 16, 2015

Greeks and Addicts

…I believe Greece right now is a nation of civilians, not citizens…
I will sneak up on that idea with some paragraphs about addicts:

Here in Canada it’s peacetime, of course; we’ve never declared war on drugs, and sometimes I think, “Let’s be charitable: A Canadian businessman can’t help doing a little marijuana, or some cocaine, or heroin or ecstasy.” Other times I feel a red rage against businessmen who “can’t help themselves.” Don’t tell me I can’t understand substance-losers. I’ve attended plenty of “recovery” from substance-addiction groups. I’m mostly charitable towards others in recovery, mostly.

Those who embrace recovery from, say, alcohol or debt—and yes, there are 12-step meetings for Debtors Anonymous—always start in the same way: Admitting they have a problem. And surrendering to this admission.

Surrender is a big step. Psychiatrist M. Scott Peck, in his best selling sequel Further Along The Road Less Traveled, tells of a man who claimed to understand “the 12 steps of recovery” after merely six months of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. (P. 140-141) The man claimed that step one, “being powerless,” meant it was up to him to refrain from taking that first drink (as he was then powerless to keep from drinking a second, third and forth drink, et cetera) He still had the power, he believed, to not take the first drink. This although he had been drinking throughout his six months of AA meetings: Obviously his power wasn’t working. Peck said, “I guess I can’t help you then.” In Peck’s eyes, the man had not surrendered: He refused to believe he was also powerless during the intervals between having his drinks.

Which leads me to Greece, and the year-long or decade or century-long interval before their next financial crises. I am not sure the Greeks as a nation are ready to have the courage to surrender into facing their faults. Naturally, we know states can change: The Germans used to carry their inflated pay home in wheelbarrows, and scapegoat, and believe in war. Now they have good banks and the most liberal refugee laws in Europe.

The Greeks, judging by radio interviews, seem to vaguely see that their current mess started with “lies” from “corruption” by “them,” by fancy people in Athens far, far away—and that’s their problem. You see, here in my home country of Canada, famous for ice hockey, we have found we cannot have a fancy National Hockey League without also having minor leagues, and a winter ice rink in every small community. As I see it, the Greeks have no reason to magically hope leaders in their national capital will somehow stop being corrupt and stop operating under cover of darkness, not unless Greeks in every small community start being willing to become transparent, responsible and non-corrupt.

But—dammit—Greeks don’t seem to be waving the flag and beating the drum for a Great War Effort to fix their national faults. Too bad. “Those who won’t own their history are condemned to repeat it.” (From Santayana) Judging from my newspaper it is clear: unlike tired reformed Nazis, Greeks still want glory and delusion.

'If only,' deluded Greeks tell each other, 'we weren’t oppressed by Big X.' (fill in scapegoat of choice) Greeks remind me of children who lose money or a toy. Children tell their parents, “It got lost.” An adult says, “I lost it.”

An active citizen asks, “What responsibility can I, can we, all take?” A passive civilian gets twisted up and says, “We couldn’t help it. It’s not our fault. We can’t do anything now. It’s all their fault.” Exactly what an addict would say. Or a Greek. Call it victim mode.

Meanwhile, a little woman in recovery is saying, “God grant me the serenity to change the things I can.”

And what if the Greeks exit the Euro dollar zone, and reprint their old currency, the drachma? And what if things then get economically worse? Will they, then, stand like serene adults saying, “OK, now things are worse, but at least we did what we thought was right, as citizens in control of our economy”? If you know addicts like I know addicts, then you know: The Greeks will just angrily shout, “Things are worse now because of Big X!” Victim mode.

I believe the Greeks, despite the crises, are not ready yet, not even ready to say “our” crises. Just as the Germans while taking inflated money home in wheelbarrows, and experiencing the hellish horrors of war, were not ready: Only losing a war made them ready to change.

Canada was right not to join the west in trying to bail out the Greeks: It’s time to let them seek their own destiny.

Sean Crawford
July 2015

~I hope you don’t think I’m avoiding reality too much, but I must confess: I’m typing this off when I could be working on my manuscript.

~I’ve learned from a debt book by Jerry Mundis that other cities (not Calgary) have meetings of Debtors Anonymous. Very informative. It seems you’re allowed to have a life while still paying off a debt, or still writing a manuscript, or still decluttering. It’s OK to be happy—who knew?
(Actually, self-made millionaire Paul Graham knew. Graham, my favorite web essayist, puts “remember to be happy” on his brief To Do list, ever since reading the findings of a palliative care nurse. His brief essay is linked here)

~Maybe I’m wrong about Greece, I’m no geography expert; in fact, I doubled my knowledge of Greece by reading the first chapter of that popular book by fiscal expert Michael Lewis, Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World, the one where the cover shows George Washington with a black eye. Lewis went around talking to ordinary Greeks. Very informative.

~I’m no addictions expert. I can say I’ve done both a “walk through” and a “work through” of the 12 steps of recovery. (The former was because my peers were ready to do the steps, and I did what I could alongside them) Please don’t worry about me; I’m clean and sober.

~I’ve often blogged here of my humble awe before one of my favorite epics, The War Against the Chtorr, by David Gerrold. No doubt Gerrold had fought his own demons before he was able to imagine the Chtorr, and a young adult growing to be a hero. Long before spaceships or flying machines, Americans knew that context, “birds of a feather flock together,” matters. For the hero’s growth, it truly matters that losing the war with Russia and the resulting Moscow Treaty, some years ago, had humbled the high-ranking adults around him.

In my version: In Book One the young hero, after being conscripted, is sent to the United Nations. There he observes some very angry U.N. delegates. He walks over to some fellow soldiers. Glancing over at the delegates, some veterans rub the young man’s nose into the fact some people would prefer to die before admitting they are wrong.

So if very angry Greeks have preposterous views, not admitting to facts so obvious to us over here, well, they haven’t psychologically “hit bottom” yet. High unemployment is not the same as an economy that is hanging dead, dead, dead.

~Any books I’ve mentioned above should be easy to search for, so no links to them: I am following my “no links” general policy, (archived July 2012) but here’s a link I found during the week as I was waiting to do my Thursday blog post. The comments to the piece have further links.


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