When and where did this Greek crisis start? There was a butterfly in Shanghai, you know… Well, not that far, but still pretty close. Or we could say “at the beginning of the Kali Yuga” but we obviously need a closer starting point than that. Hitler was involved, too. But enough teasing, it started in Germany.
Germans are actually very clever and disciplined guys but that didn’t save them from common misconception that money and material comforts can bring happiness and, specifically, from the misconception that capitalism is good, greed is good, and markets will naturally regulate themselves and make everyone happy. Germans actually gave the world Karl Marx who saw through this charade early on but Germans themselves didn’t take him seriously. Then Hitler happened, they lost the war, and had to rebuild their society in American, not Marxist way.
The result was spectacular and Germany quickly became one of the world’s biggest economies. They’ve become rich and prosperous and everything was fine, except they didn’t need capitalism anymore. Europe was becoming socialist then, with free healthcare and education for everyone and all other goodies. Germans could certainly afford it and they did. There was one little problem, though – Americans didn’t like it, it went against capitalist orthodoxy.
Germans even absorbed their Eastern compatriots and paid through the roof to get East Germany working, and still they had plenty of money left. Materialism didn’t do it for them anymore, greed wasn’t driving them as Americans expected, and for that they endured endless criticism. “Welfare socialist state”, “high unemployment”, “drag on productivity”, “moral hazard of creating a leaching class” – all kinds of accusations to get Germans back into the capitalist rat race. They didn’t really want it, they had enough material comfort to live happily ever after, but those pesky Americans and their UK stooges just kept pestering them for a reform. So one day they decided to listen.
By 2005 the reform was firmly in place. The idea was to get people off welfare support and back to work. People were forced to take all sorts of low paying, part time jobs just to get the state off their backs. They could even still apply for generous benefits provided they found themselves some sort of a job. Trade unions, for their part, agreed to suspend pay rises to help with reform burden.
As far as reform goals went, it was a big success. Unemployment was down, welfare expenses were trimmed, everybody was happy. However, like with all the “improvements” we initiate in our lives, there were some unexpected side effects. The one that concerns us most is suppression of the wages. It happened both for properly employed and for those weaned off state benefits. One result was lower consumption, another result was too much money left for the businesses. With both wages and consumption being low businesses had no idea what to do with their sudden windfall, and, as market economy dictates, they went around looking for folks to borrow. Guess who they found? Greeks, of course, and also Spaniards and all kinds of people like that.
Lacking opportunities for productive investment and in general pre-2008 climate buying real estate generated best returns. Mediterranean has plenty of coast for second homes, villas, apartments and what not, and it all grew in value with each passing month. There was a competition to find customers eager to take loans there, bankers awash with funds were shoving money down the throat of anyone who as much as opened their mouth expressing interest. Against their newly bought properties people were buying cars and boats and all sorts of trinkets appropriate for their new lifestyle. Times were good, and they were driven by bankers, make no mistake here.
Then 2008 came and even if neither Greeks nor Spaniards were exposed to American toxic mortgages everyone was affected by rising interest rates on their loans and by diminishing value of their property investments.
Who caused 2008? Bankers, of course. Ordinary people should have known better but it was the con perpetrated by bankers, they made promises, they showed examples, they hooked people and reeled them in, and desperately needed someone, anyone to take their money. They say that you can’t con an honest man and so those who went alone should have stopped and thought to themselves if the shortcut to prosperity was real, but it’s Kali Yuga, people are so blinded by money and the desire to keep up with Joneses that for bankers it was a safe bet – fools can be found everywhere.
When nobody could pay back, the bankers went after the governments and it worked flawlessly, too. Governments had no choice but to step in to protect their citizens, their failing banks, their balance sheets etc – that’s what they were elected to do, of course. So they borrowed money from the bankers to pay bankers back, and then borrowed again to pay for what they borrowed before, and so on and on and on, and at very punishing interest rates.
Eventually bigger bankers had to step in, for there’s a monopoly on financial slavery and it belongs to supranational bodies like IMF and European equivalents. At this stage IMF and “Troika” paid off the bankers and took full charge of government debts, and the rest is history.
If we could go back to Germans, though – first of all, it wasn’t them being thrifty compared to Greeks that caused the problem, their savings weren’t particularly high, they’ve never seen the money that eventually went to Greeks. If they got paid in full they might have spent it elsewhere and the bankers wouldn’t have to go around Europe looking for customers. They might have bought all those beach front properties themselves and got burned just like Greeks, who knows.
Secondly, if only they listened to Marx and learned their lessons. Capitalism does not bring happiness, there’s no point in forcing people to work against their will when the nation has enough money to sustain everybody. In retrospect, those on welfare would have probably be better left alone. So what if German overall productivity suffered? They didn’t have to keep up with the Americans (whose productivity per working hour is actually lower, afaik). They didn’t have to seek shelter of the mode of passion but recognize the peace and tranquility of simple life instead. Who knows, they might have discovered something really great that would have changed the world instead of sweeping floors for minimum wage. Creativity needs freedom and leeway, everyone knows that, but Germans listened to Americans and thought that everybody absolutely must work or the sky will come down.
If only Hitler didn’t screw up their country and forced them to accept American values they might have taught upaniṣads in their schools and everybody knew Bhagavad Gīta inside out. They had plenty of philosophers absolutely in love with Vedic school of thought, they could have turned into perfect jñānīs. It’s how it usually goes, isn’t it? First people get material comfort and mode of goodness, then they contemplate the world and realize that seeking sense gratification leads to suffering, then they are one step away from becoming perfect devotees. Alas, it was not to be, passion took over, promised to improve things, and brought unexpected destruction instead. The story of Kali Yuga, turned tragic for Greeks.