Where is the momentum?

The Maybrit Illner Discussion last evening included a Greek entrepreneur – Mr. Athanasios Syrianos, the owner of the Hellenic Breweries of Atalanti S. A. The most impressive German participant was the former Governor of Bavaria, Edmund Stoiber. The other participants would not have been missed had they not been there.

Mr. Stoiber correctly pointed out that the issue which Greeks needed to decide on was their standard of living. The Greek standard of living is still very much a function of Greece’s being a member of the Eurozone (easier access to foreign funding). Should Greece disorderly default and/or leave the Eurozone, Greece would face a dramatic fall-back in her standard of living (an orderly default could avoid that).

On the other hand, Mr. Stoiber said, staying in the Eurozone will require of Greeks continued and very significant adjustment pains. That cannot be avoided. Mr. Stoiber stressed that Greek society would need to reach a consensus which of the two paths they wanted to follow. And he expressed hope that Greeks would opt for staying in the Eurozone.

The surprise came from Mr. Syrianos (perhaps because he is an entrepreneur and not a politician). He didn’t talk about sovereign debt, budget deficit, PSI, etc. Instead, he talked about the progress – however minute – which Greece was already making. He talked about the increase in exports; the lowering of costs; etc.

Most importantly, he referred to the EURECA-project and the “Greece 10 years ahead report” (to be complete, he should also have mentioned the EU Task Force, but nobody is perfect…).

Any Greek opinion leader – from politics, business, academia, media, etc. – should feel called upon to get a momentum going. A momentum which shows the battered Greeks that there can be a positive future. Any Greek opinion leader should feel called upon to propose ways out of today’s mess (politically, economically and spiritually). That’s what a country’s elite is there for!

I have zero sympathy for smart people explaining why Greece cannot compete in the world because she is a poor country. I have zero sympathy for smart people explaining why it is all someone else’s fault. That is plain immature!

Greece has never really made an effort to develop her potential. Greeks have never really experienced how much fun it can be to develop one’s potential. Bring some motivated Greeks together for some brainstorming and it won’t take long until they can see Greece as the future economic tiger of the Eastern Mediterranean.

JFK had appealed to the American youth at the time. In Greece today, the appeal has to be made to the Greek brain power, the Greek opinion leaders, the Greek elites of all walks of life: “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country!”

It seems to me that if people like Mr. Syrianos would make that statement their “battle hymn”, positive momentum could indeed be generated in Greece so that Greeks are motivated to help themselves.

I am fully aware that when main power centers of a society – like political parties, business leaders, professional guilds, public sector unions, the media, etc. – are fighting to preserve their privileges, it is almost a mission impossible to overcome such resistance. However, it can be done if there is unstoppable momentum backed by the people.

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2 Responses to Where is the momentum?

  1. Gemma says:

    Good morning, and thankyou for an interesting article, Herr Kastner.You say: "Greece has never really made an effort to develop her potential. Greeks have never really experienced how much fun it can be to develop one's potential." If you are to develop your potential, you need hope and courage. You also need faith in yourself. With modern education being what it is, these qualities are the exception not the rule. This is a puzzle to those who try to understand this, and the reasons are not easy to describe. However take a careful look at the way people are taught to deal with our world: they are taught that facts and evidence are all-important. The essence of the problem is that facts and evidence are all part of the past, they are all things that have happened. As we well know, history never repeats itself. The future cannot be foretold. How then to deal with the future – which by necessity is uncertain – with a mode of thinking limited to examining its footprints. The modern European has a capacity for thought that is powerful beyond measure. Yet it is constrained to follow narrow, delineated paths. These are the result of reasoning that something might happen – or not. I say “these” with due care here: for one person will reason in one way, and someone else will reason in another. No two reasonings are ever the same, yet they are all based on the interpretation of the evidence. We live in a world where evidence needs careful sifting to arrive at a reality that conforms to our view of the world. Whilst there is a commonality amongst these thinkers, in that they all base their reasonings on evidence, it is that the very things they choose as evidence that is revealing. Each person chooses to examine their own individual path of thinking and can see only their own pattern of evidence from the myriad paths that may have been trod. Even within a group of thinkers who largely agree which evidence to accept as valid, and which not, will have some points of contention. What they will do is to have narrowed their field of thinking to agree with the consensus. There is a problem with thinking based on evidence: it is that evidence needs to have happened. That one thinks in terms of what one can reasonably conclude is the appropriate evidence is also part of the problem: there is a lot more evidence out there than can easily be handled rationally. To retain one's rational mind, one must limit oneself to a manageable slice of evidence. Not for nothing are academics often “narrow minded” – my father is a good example of someone who whilst unerringly brilliant in his field, has little ability to deal with things that lie outside it.What if a person were not to constrain themselves to the rational, but were to include the irrational. To a rational person is extremely dangerous thinking. The irrational is, well, irrational. It has nothing you can handle, it is slipperier than an eel. As soon as you nail it down, it becomes a fact and the irrational vanishes before your very eyes: in a very real sense, it dies. Which is the very real problem we have here: how to deal with things that are not rational. We do have statistics, which is a crude way to rationalize the irrational. It is like measuring water by putting a bucket under a tap. It is certainly better than using a ruler but you are still missing an important element, which is the very flowingness of the water. If you are wanting to try to understand the irrational, you need to be able to accommodate the irrational in your field of thinking. But why do we need to understand the irrational at all you say? The reason is simple: you cannot foretell the future. Like the stream of water, it will not help to put a bucket under it to understand it fully. There is a very real problem with the future: it is the realm where facts do not exist. Which is where an understanding of the irrational comes into play. The problem is how to. [end of part 1]

  2. Gemma says:

    Let me explain it this way: look not to the facts you deal with, but their character, the commonality. Look not to the facts themselves, but the character of the facts that you have chosen. Do this and you come close to a better understanding of yourself, after all, you would not think in this manner at all were it not for your characteristic manner of thinking. Something that has a character will have had that characteristic yesterday, has it today and will have it tomorrow. The pattern of its doings are a constant, but they are not limited to factual evidence. Yes, you can say that character is a variety of factual evidence, but this is to remove its very real power. Character can tell you what is likely to happen. Whilst not being certain, it does at least give you some idea of what is to come. That Nr. 8 bus might just have “your number on it” the next time you cross the road in London whilst looking the wrong way. Whilst character is no guarantee it is way better than dealing with no guarantees at all. Which brings me back to our Greeks: they all want guarantees for the future, where there are none. That they cannot deal without guarantees means that they cannot deal with the future – and thus have a very real fear of it. Which is what makes the kind of people who are not entrepreneurs, the kind of people who will always “kick cans”. They need the future to do as it is told. The future has a very real way of telling people that this cannot be so, but that does not stop them huddling in quiet corners where everything is fixed and delineated and measurable. [Sorry, my image was not allowed 😦 😦 ]The spirit of the entrepreneur is one of passion and vision, but it relies on this broader manner of thinking that allows the future to be – the future. They know that their attempt may fail, but that won't stop them having a try. After all, where would you be if you only lived with the way things are? The world would be a very gloomy place indeed, but in a world where the future can be so terrible, what would you prefer? Just re-arrange the deckchairs neatly, that way you know where you stand. After all, it worked for a generation on board the RMS Olympic!

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