Lots of debate around who is the victim and who is the bad guy in Europe nowadays thanks to the financial crisis gripping Greece and, as a consequence, the rest of the European Union. It seems to point to the underlying fundamental difference between the way creditors and debtors think which is not too different to the difference between the way capitalists and labourers think.
Hold that thought for a moment while we examine what’s really at work here on the surface. It comes down to the simple question even ordinary people with a bit of cash on hand face every now and then:
Would I lend money to this person?
The key to answering this simple question is in the result of an assessment as to whether or not said person is capable of paying you back.
In short, do you see in that person an inherent ability to honour commitments he enters into?
Obviously, Greece’s creditors saw that in Greeks — twice already as far as risky national bailouts go; and a third time perhaps if things go well in the on-going negotiations this week. See the irony in all this? Considering Greeks today are whining about the powers that be not giving them a break, it seems it is Big Bad Germany that actually finds within itself an ability to feel optimistic about Greece — a lot more than Greeks are willing to grant themselves!
In short, Germany is saying: You can pay us back if you do this and that. But the Greeks tell themselves: We can’t do those things. We are not capable of it!
Sounds familiar? It’s likely because you’ve probably heard a similar conversation between a rehab therapist and her alcoholic patient. Says the rehab therapist to the wino: You’re in this rehab program but the cure to your alcoholism ultimately depends on your ability to commit to certain measures. Alcoholics will always say they’ll comply — after their next drink, that is.
So let’s come back to the earlier train of thought — the idea that creditors and debtors think differently in the same way that sets apart the capitalists from the labourers. The fact is, creditors and capitalists see possibilities in the risks they take. But for the most part, chronic debtors and lifetime labourers are driven primarily by need and can’t see beyond that, much like the avarage wino can’t see a future beyond his next drink.
Is the cure to alcoholism more alcohol? Not a chance. Most addicts who successfully come out of rehab completely free of their demon substances are, in a lot of cases, dirt poor after they’ve lost everything to servicing their addiction. But the key word here is free — which means they are free to start over.
The only way Greece will get out of its predicament is if it is willing to start over. The alternative, of course, is to play ball subject to the rules. It needs to decide which path to take. Suffice to say, the biggest humiliation in being a debtor is to be in constant need of the resources of a person or an entity who you’ve come to regard as your biggest tormentor. As such, the challenge lies in imagining a different path. If you are in the midst of a baseball game and you suddenly want to play football, you need to get out of the field.
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