Το πολυαναμενόμενο άρθρο του Μάικλ Λιούις για το Βατοπέδι στο Vanity Fair είναι πλέον διαθέσιμο στο site του περιοδικού, μπορείς να το διαβάσεις -12 χιλιάδες λέξεις, ζωή να ‘χει-, να χαρείς τη φωτογραφία του τσαχπίνη και ποζάτου πάτερ Αρσένιου, και να βγάλεις πλούσια και θαυμαστά συμπεράσματα. Αν παρακάμψεις κάποιες τουριστικές περιγραφές για τα επεισόδια στο κέντρο της Αθήνας και τα μούσια των μοναχών, υπάρχει πολύ καλό υλικό εκεί μέσα. Τα συμπεράσματα ενός σκεπτόμενου ξένου που για πρώτη φορά έρχεται σε επαφή με την τριτοκοσμική πραγματικότητα αυτού της Ελλάδας (με νούμερα και ντοκουμέντα) είναι μια εύγλωττη, ωμή, εξαιρετικά οδυνηρή αλλά και απόλυτα εύστοχη περιγραφή αυτού που είμαστε ως λαός και ως χώρα. Χαρακτηριστικά αποσπάσπαματα αποκάτω (προσοχή: προκαλούν κατάθλιψη και ακατάσχετη ενδοσκόπηση)
In Athens, I several times had a feeling new to me as a journalist: a complete lack of interest in what was obviously shocking material. I’d sit down with someone who knew the inner workings of the Greek government: a big-time banker, a tax collector, a deputy finance minister, a former M.P. I’d take out my notepad and start writing down the stories that spilled out of them. Scandal after scandal poured forth. Twenty minutes into it I’d lose interest. There were simply too many: they could fill libraries, never mind a magazine article.
Individual Greeks are delightful: funny, warm, smart, and good company. I left two dozen interviews saying to myself, “What great people!” They do not share the sentiment about one another: the hardest thing to do in Greece is to get one Greek to compliment another behind his back. No success of any kind is regarded without suspicion. Everyone is pretty sure everyone is cheating on his taxes, or bribing politicians, or taking bribes, or lying about the value of his real estate. And this total absence of faith in one another is self-reinforcing. The epidemic of lying and cheating and stealing makes any sort of civic life impossible; the collapse of civic life only encourages more lying, cheating, and stealing. Lacking faith in one another, they fall back on themselves and their families.
I am told 50 times if I am told once that what Greeks care about is “justice” and what really boils the Greek blood is the feeling of unfairness. Obviously this distinguishes them from no human being on the planet, and ignores what’s interesting: exactly what a Greek finds unfair. It’s clearly not the corruption of their political system. It’s not cheating on their taxes, or taking small bribes in their service to the state. No: what bothers them is when some outside party—someone clearly different from themselves, with motives apart from narrow and easily understood self-interest—comes in and exploits the corruption of their system.
Here is Greece’s version of the Tea Party: tax collectors on the take, public-school teachers who don’t really teach, well-paid employees of bankrupt state railroads whose trains never run on time, state hospital workers bribed to buy overpriced supplies. Here they are, and here we are: a nation of people looking for anyone to blame but themselves.
Even if it is technically possible for these people to repay their debts, live within their means, and return to good standing inside the European Union, do they have the inner resources to do it? Or have they so lost their ability to feel connected to anything outside their small worlds that they would rather just shed themselves of the obligations? On the face of it, defaulting on their debts and walking away would seem a mad act: all Greek banks would instantly go bankrupt, the country would have no ability to pay for the many necessities it imports (oil, for instance), and the country would be punished for many years in the form of much higher interest rates, if and when it was allowed to borrow again. But the place does not behave as a collective; it lacks the monks’ instincts. It behaves as a collection of atomized particles, each of which has grown accustomed to pursuing its own interest at the expense of the common good.