One shouldn’t have been too surprised because only recently did Mme. Lagarde drop a similar bombshell in an interview with CBS where she said that “it is not certain that Greece will avert bankruptcy and a forced exit from the EU and its common currency, the euro.” The lady does not mince words for sure!
There is no question that Mme. Lagarde violated every rule in the book of diplomatic conduct. There is no question that many Greeks now feel (justifyably) insulted. This hurts even more when one considers that no one in a position like that of Mme. Lagarde’s would make such comments inadvertently.
But let’s look at the facts.
I have always argued that it seems, at least to me, that there are at least two different kinds of Greece’s and two different kinds of Greeks. On one hand, I know the correct and decent Greeks of high personal character; hard-working and clean-living; open-hearted and extremely friendly and hospitable; perhaps even a bit simple-minded when it comes to dealing with others. I would call them “the nice ones”. And on the other hand, I know those whom I would call “the clever ones” (of course they are also nice…). Petros Markaris wrote an article where he identified even four kinds of Greeks.
Including Greece where we now spend about half the year, I have lived in 8 countries and travelled the world. I know of no other country where the “clever ones” have taken the “nice ones” so much for a ride (and so easily!) as in Greek society. The only country which might come close is Argentina.
Argentina, like Greece, has always had an elite which had many interests but doing something for the well-being of Argentines was never one of them. Similar to the Greek elite, the Argentine elite treated their country as a kind of “home base” where they would reap the benefits which allowed them to play big shots in New York, London or Paris. The amount of wealth in the hands of the Argentine elite is unimaginable. So is the amount of poverty in parts of Argentina.
Argentina has had Peron, and here is a difference with Greece. Peron did not agitate all Argentines against foreigners. Instead, he agitated those Argentines whom he called “descamisados” (people without shirts) against those who owned mansions in Bariloche and Punta del Este, in New York, Paris or London. His wife Evita added a very special blend to this agitation which lasts to this day.
Alexis Tsipras could make himself very popular with foreigners (and with Mme. Lagarde) if he, too, started to say “the time is up; it’s payday!” Not to the surplus countries but to his own compatriots who were the “clever ones” and who have amassed fortunes which few tax payers in surplus countries can imagine. And, frankly, I think that he would make himself even more popular with Greeks, the “nice ones”, who – I would like to think – are still in the majority.
This is no call for a revolution. Instead, it is a call for a reckoning day.