Holger, from Frankfurt, arrives at the Athens airport.
Customs official: Name?
Holger: Holger von Alteboesefeind.
Customs official: Occupation?
Holger: Not ziss time. Chust visitingk.
A few more elections like the recent ones in Greece, and I may have to reconsider some long-held opinions. Oh sure, sure, I know, what will come of it, all a big fizzle, no doubt, no doubt, but it’s been pretty damn exhilarating up to this point. Mostly because of what it implies about how public opinion can change dramatically after a few years of what the new Greek PM, Alexis Tsipras, called “fiscal waterboarding”. If nothing else, Syriza’s willingness to use blunt and accurate language is a breath of fresh air, or rather, what a breath of fresh air would be to… to… well, to a person being waterboarded.
Will Amurricans ever stop trying to be ersatz Romans and start learning from the Greeks instead? I know: sounds crazy, doesn’t it?
Not least among the pleasures in this recent turn of events is the constipated rhetoric effortfully squeezed out by various solemn hard-money Germans. It’s difficult to pick a favorite, but here’s a good one, from Martin Jaeger, identified as a spokesman for the German finance ministry:
“We are prepared to work further with Greece … But we will not force our help onto Athens.”
And Athens is no doubt very grateful to Berlin for its manly restraint. That forced help is a bitch, and particularly a bitch when it’s Made In Germany.
Another, less Pecksniffian and more in the old Pickelhaube mode:
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said the Greeks should abide by their commitments, adding: “There’s no arguing with us about this and, what’s more, we are difficult to blackmail.”
As if all this weren’t enough to gladden my gristly old heart, Syriza has entered into a coalition with the small right-wing party ANEL, which really makes me giddy with delight. ANEL has the usual anti-immigrant craziness and a deep romantic attachment to the established Greek Orthodox church, but it is also solidly anti-austerity and has no use at all for the Germans. So here we have realized the terrible specter of a left-right populist alliance leaving the respectable, responsible centrists and liberals high and dry.
This splendid and exemplary piece of opportunism — in the best sense of the word — on Syriza’s part has disappointed a few of my more beautiful-souled Lefty comrades, of course, but surprisingly few. Most of us seem to get what a brilliant move it is.