15 February 2012
Symbolic sacrifice in Greek
A quick observation: the President of Greece has announced that he is forfeiting his salary as a "symbolic gesture" of shared suffering as his country bows to the austerity demands of the European Union. Before this gesture impresses anyone, however, we should ask how much the president will actually share the suffering of many fellow Greeks. If the idea is to walk in their shoes, Mr. Papoulias might want to forfeit his savings instead. Again, I don't know how much money he has in the bank, or how much, being Greek money, it's actually worth. But I suspect that many of the Greeks who'll be hit hardest by austerity live from paycheck to paycheck, and that the president's empathy would be more authentic if he did so as well. While he's an old man, he reportedly fought Nazis as a youth in the resistance -- explaining his pique at taking fiscal dictation from Germans among others -- so frugal living shouldn't seem so tough to him. And if I seem hard on him, I should also at least credit him with the minimum of the gesture. There are some whose sacrifices might actually benefit their fellow citizens, but none are forthcoming that I know of from those quarters.