Ancient Greek philosophy is unanimously hailed as the mother of all incisive thought and radical reasoning. The European renaissance owes a lot to the Hellenic republic for theknowledge repository in diverse areas including polity, philosophy, ethics, metaphysics, ontology, logic, biology, rhetoric, and aesthetics. Ironically, Greece today stands on the brink of disaster, a tragedy that poignantly fulfils most of the defining features mentioned in Aristotle's Poetics:
“Tragedy is the imitation of an action that is serious and also having magnitude, complete in itself; in a dramatic, not in a narrative form; with incidents arousing pity and fear, wherewith to accomplish its catharsis of such emotions”
The Greek debt crisis indeed presents a reversal of fortune: serious, complete, of high magnitude, exuding pity and fear in equal measure. What now remains is the catharsis of emotions that, unfortunately, is being overshadowed by ripe speculation on the likely fate of the beleaguered nation that was oncebetter known as a fascinating tourist haven.
Predicting the Greek status in the Eurozone, more than an apple of discord (again thanks to Greek Mythology) for the nation’s warring political groups, is todaya worldwide pastime. Even the June general elections have not cleared the mist over the tangle that now threatens to cause widespread damage to Europe and the world. With Italy and Spain already showing symptoms of the Greek ailment, the Greek bankruptcy can inadvertently establish a culture of distrust and default in Europe that will necessarily affect the rest of the world. Hope one’s not forced to recall American poet and author Richard Armour’s humorous book “It all started with Europa” in a ghastly context.
Although Greece’svictorious New Democracy is blatantly unfurling a ‘bailout’ mission as directed by the EU and IMF, the common man in Greece knows the trouble is far from over, what with political opponents condemning the austerity drive what they label as a “sell out” and premier Eurozone members like Germany adamant on the non-negotiability of loan terms.
The Greek tragedy beyond doubt has several faces, some of which could be external. Some experts opine that it’s unfair to examine the Eurozoneon a common scale: that differing economic situations and cultures of fiscal discipline cause different countries to either combat crisis or to compound it. Few economists also question the supposed role of austerity measures in reviving a fraught economy.
Despite the multi-faceted nature of the Greek’s crisis, it finds its roots in the pre-Euro era, in the form of grave indecision and gross inequality cocooned by a dismal political leadership that protected the vested interests across spheres only at the cost of ruining the common man’s life.
For India in particular, the Greek debt crisis is a premonition of a similar catastrophe that could engulf any nation that seeks to live beyond its means, has little control on its public spending and suffersa long history of rampant corruption, irresponsible populace and idle cynicism. Such a nation invariablynurtures an unbridled disorder that could turn malignant with meltdown or negative growth.
Agreed, India’s domestic economy is far more robust.Our resources – human in particular – are far more inventive and our industry (tourism included) continues to hold worldwide attention but our social, political and cultural fabric is similar to Greece, if not the same. A cesspool of corruption across ladders, India’s quality of political leadership is far from ideal too. So, even as our prime minister and finance minister are vociferously rejecting the theory of India’s ‘stagflated’ state and Flitch ratings respectively, we all know all’s not well. If not an alarm, the Greek crisis is definitelya gentle wake-up call for India.
Coming back to Aristotle’s Poetics, it’s pertinent to note his description of the root cause of a tragedy. He remarks,“The tragic flaw is hubris, an excessive pride that causes the hero to ignore a divine warning or to break a moral law”. In the context of financial tragedies, hubris could well be the collective complacency and conceit that breed inertia and indecision.
Today, Greece’s national tragedy, as Aristotle would have readily validated, has certainly become greater than its offense. We sincerely hope and pray that trust and credibility is soon restored in the Island nation, more so for the nation’s industrious man. At the same time, we Indians needto do more than merely feel sorry, we should try and feel safe by resolving our own inherent systemic flaws. As important as the political will to expedite the litany of long pending reforms is the social and cultural will to exercise fiscal discipline and prudence –by regulating public spending, eliminating corruption and fulfilling our national obligations including prompt payment of taxes.