Greek Gifts

Greek gifts have enriched the world for several thousand years, most recently last week.

Fira, Santorini

Fira, Santorini

Greece’s myths show us how different kinds of human energy play out. Zeus, king of gods, is a rapist and wielder of thunderbolts who will stop at nothing to get what he wants. His power must be tempered by his brothers, sisters, sons and daughters, wife and lovers.

Today, as Cretan jewelry designer Carola Poppinga reminds us on Facebook, Zeus has taken the form of a bank. But delinquent Greece, in trying to stand up to the European Central Bank and to Germany, its major backer, has brought several glimmers of soul into fiscal equations that lack any humanity.

Carol's Workshop, Mirthios, Crete

Carol’s Workshop, Mirthios, Crete

French Socialist Party chief Jean-Christophe Cambadelis wrote a letter to Germany this week asking how it can insist on such crippling austerity in Greece after the help Germany received following World War II.

“Has your country forgotten the support France gave right after all the atrocious crimes committed in your name?” he wrote.

When I was researching my novel, Cally’s Way, which is set in Crete, I learned about Germany’s deceitful World War II propaganda, the Nazi atrocities perpetrated in Greece, and the brave ingenuity of the Crete’s threadbare Resistance. Sixty years later, as German tourists flocked to the island, an aged Cretan Resistance fighter told me:

“Those (WWII) Germans were not these Germans.”

A BBC video filmed this week on German streets confirms this. Every citizen canvassed says Europe is a community now and “we must all help each other.”

Meanwhile Denmark, not a Eurozone member, is offering money to help the Greeks through this crisis: an act of unparalleled generosity.

Greece is in the fiscal doghouse because of corruption and tax evasion. A reason — not an excuse — for this might be that this nation has spent the last several hundred years under the rule of foreign tyrants: Venetians, Turks, Germans. Corruption and underground economies probably flourished.

Fiscal irresponsibility exists everywhere. International banking made this clear after the markets crashed in 2008. Multinational corporations move their operations and accounts all over the world to avoid paying taxes.

Greece, Crete, coast

Skinaria, Crete

On the up side of the ledger, what do the Greek people give us?

* Passion and animation born on ancient, sun bleached coasts.
* Fellowship and generosity unequaled anywhere else in the world.
* A long history of strength, endurance and resourcefulness in the face of hardship.
* The Mediterranean diet’s appreciation of healthy, delicious home-harvested foods.
* Wine and Cretan raki, a liqueur offered anywhere anytime to passing visitors.

Bank, corporate and parliamentary boardrooms all over Europe could benefit from these qualities.

Efcharistó Greece, (thank you) for stirring some of them to life!

Sheep in the Cretan mountains

Sheep in the Cretan mountains