I was talking to a co-worker today who just got back from Greece to settle an estate. I always find it fascinating to travel to other countries or to get first-hand accounts of what others have recently experienced when they travel abroad. There’s plenty to criticize here in America, but I’ll tell ya, I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else!
In the case of my co-worker, she’s of Greek descent but has lived in America most of her life. So, she’s American. She works hard, is married to a hard working executive, does all the stuff Americans that I associate with do. She gets it. She says Greeks don’t. She just had to make a quick trip over there to settle an estate from some distant relative who owned some rental properties and she was astounded by how much it has changed since she was there years ago and by just how bad it is there – how bad the people are, really.
A Few Anecdotes.
- Entitlements – Pension from 40 for life – So, her aunt has been living off a pension of something like 3,000 Euro/Month for 27 years now. She’s only 67. She retired at 40. That’s right. What was her occupation? Something hazardous? Something where one can only stand 20 years of it before the state must fund your retirement? She was an interpreter. Talk about stress! So, assuming she started working at 20, she’s been living off a higher pension that the maximum you can get out of Social Security if you’re a six-figure earner for life and contributed up until 65 as an American. And she collects from 40 until whenever; let’s say 85. Work 20 years, collect for 45. Not a bad deal. Well, given the recent austerity measures enacted to account for the fact that Greece blatantly lied to get into the Euro and derive the benefit of their lower interest rates, Greece has had to cut pensions country-wide. The individual in this case only saw their pension cut like 10%, so not entirely drastic, especially considering the “deal” they’ve had for decades now. So, now they’re all ranting and raving about how their pensions have been cut. Never mind working. Never mind cutting back. They’re entitled. More on cutting back next…
- Cut Back? 3 Trips to the “Cafe”? No Way, Reduce My Rent! One of the things she couldn’t get her head around was if people are struggling so much with their pension cuts, why aren’t they doing something about it? Like, you know, maybe getting a job? Or cutting back? She found that these retired people – in their forties, fifties, sixties and beyond…what they do is go around town all day and meet different sets of friends at different cafes 2-3 times EACH day and sip coffee and bitch about the government, Americans, and immigrants (more on that later). The simple solution would be to cut the trips around town drinking coffee every day and you’d be right back to even. But no, they’re entitled to that lifestyle for more years than they actually contributed to society.
- America/Turkey Conspiracy to Steal Oil from Cyprus – This one came from an educated man. A lawyer in fact, tied to the estate settlement. He started ranting and raving about how America has conspired with Turkey to overtake Cyprus so that they could use an oil exploration company to lay claim to a massive oil find in the region and then use a depressed Greece to supply cheap labor to extract the oil while the economy is in the doldrums. Genius! Aside from the fact that, well, America doesn’t have a government oil company. We have what’s called “private industry”. And many major oils aren’t even American – you know, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, etc. And well, I could go on about how absurd this theory is. But she said he was citing how prevalent this theory was and that as an American, she was either naive or should be ashamed for lying about her government’s ambitions.
- When the Landlord Dies, all the Tenants Stop Paying Rent. When the Heirs Want Backpay, Outrage Ensues – Her Aunt died a year ago. And basically, the moment the various tenants in various apartments found out she had died they immediately stopped paying their rent. Since it took a year for all the various legal proceedings, probate, etc., now that she finally got out there with a lawyer, etc. and started talking to the tenants they were angry that they were being called out for monies owed. They really felt as though either a) nobody would coming asking or b) they shouldn’t have to pay during a time when the landlord was dead. So they deserve a free ride? Even better yet, many of them demanded that she reduce their monthly rent because their pensions were cut. Amazing. Like that’s the landlord’s fault? Again, cut the coffee…
- Americans Are Rich Assholes – She heard repeatedly in country what a bunch of arrogant rich assholes Americans were. She had to remind many of them that, well, we work hard. We work until we’re in our sixties. And while there is a social safety net (being wildly abused these days), it’s nothing along the same lines of Greece. And most importantly – we produce. Americans invent stuff. Americans take risks and start businesses. Americans create, manufacture, export, and lead in virtually every industry. Greeks? They have shipping, olive oil and tourism primarily.
- Immigrants – We’ve seen the neo-Nazi parties winning elections in Greece which is disgusting enough, but my co-worker said a common complaint she heard consistently was about all the damned Pakistanis taking over the city. Kind of like Americans complaining about Mexicans I suppose. She said she only saw a couple people that looked to be possibly Pakistani the entire time there and wasn’t really sure what the big deal was. It’s kinda like Nazi Germany blaming Jews and gypsies for everything. Iran likes to blame the great Satan. When your country’s screwed up and you don’t want to blame the leadership or the citizens, blame and ethnic or religious group. Educated people usually see through that, but Germans were highly educated in 1930. See, they had high inflation and high unemployment. Scapegoat. Greece is going through the same thing now. (See Greek racist attacks)
I know, I know, this sounds like an anecdotal account. But don’t take my word for it. Here are some facts:
- 26.4% Unemployment (source). This is an absolutely horrific number. It’s worse than most “third world countries” and “emerging markets”, of which Greece is now one.
- 61.7% Youth Unemployment (source). If you thought the prior bullet was bad, this is just abysmal. Imagine almost 2/3 of recent highschool and college grads with nothing to do but protest, join anarchist protests and sit around. There are no jobs for these people and their generation is truly screwed. How there’s not even more civil unrest with this situation is beyond me – I guess living in their parents’ basement isn’t as bad as it is here.
- Greed, Corruption, Tax Evasion, Special Interests Make the US Look Honest (source) – this is just one example, but they basically can’t collect taxes from a good part of the population, when crime is reported or found, nothing is done to prosecute, everyone is protected and nobody cares – because it’s normal.
As screwed up as we are, I’m glad I’m not living in Greece.