On BBC Radio 4 on 26 July I heard Peter Aspden give his Point of View on Greece, especially in relation to the current financial crisis and the question that has been hanging over Greece’s continued EU membership.
As I listened I found myself tuning in to the heart of what he was saying. I realised he was articulating what I feel about Greece, which has been running along in the background of my thoughts as I’ve listened to the agonising saga of the recent months’ negotiations between Greece and Germany.
Peter Aspden spoke about “the fun-loving spirited” character of Greece, “contemptuous of material things”. He referred to the Greek people’s most prized quality of hospitality, and their most self-defeating weakness of tax evasion. And by contrast, he characterised the Nordic mind-set as “the way of rigour, high discipline and control.” These two world-views must necessarily conflict, and I can vouch for this from my own life, in many different areas.
I listened carefully as I realised that in describing the symbolic power of Greece in our hearts and minds, he was expressing something that I find profoundly relevant to my own sense of identity, my own personal story. And why despite all the words that have been expended over this terrible financial dilemma, I have in my heart of hearts remained mystified that such a situation could have arisen for a country which has given such riches to the world in terms of wisdom, romance, poetry, history and many, many other joyous, life-affirming things. I speak as one who has visited Greece and some of its islands and for whom Greek music, dancing, food, ambience, culture, philosophy, mythology and literature all hold an enormous romantic and idealistic power.
My first (unpublished) novel (the manuscript of which currently lies in the bottom drawer of a filing cabinet) centres around a Classics Professor who really believed in the ancient Greek gods, and I had great fun – and considerable empathy for him – as I worked this belief of his into the way he handled conflicts in his personal life.
I studied Ancient Greek tragedies and comedies at university, and once attended a performance of ‘Agamemnon’ at the outdoor theatre below the Acropolis Mount in Athens. Peter Aspden speaks about a performance of an ancient Greek comedy which he attended at the theatre in Epidauros. He notes the contempt of politicians and those in authority which is evident in the humour of Aristophanes, and is part of the Greek national consciousness. All this I could affirm from my personal experience of Greek people, of Greece itself, and from my studies of ancient Greek history and philosophy.
I could say much more of my feelings for Greece and all it represents in my own heart, but suffice it to say here that I believe Greece’s unpayable debts should be cancelled. This country has given far more to the world than any monetary value can match.