Sunday, July 26, 2015

If Thucydides had documented the negotiation between Merkel and Tsipras

by a good friend of mine (who has requested that he not be identified) and me

12 Juli, 2015, Brussels

Merkel:
Herr Tsipras, enough of the demagoguery: You can foment mass rage against the Nazis of yore, and I can whip up popular scorn at Greek Laziness, but such rhetoric changes nothing. Let me instead talk soberly, and you can stop me and object whenever you find something objectionable.

Tsipras:
0 Kuria Merkel, a free and frank exchange would be great, but you don’t want reason to prevail, but brute economic force that presents us with a choice that is no choice at all, either we do as you say and become your slaves or you will starve us with your economic demands.

Merkel:
Alex, economic facts are economic facts. If you wish to ignore them, you really don’t care about your country, and I’ve nothing more to say. If otherwise, then we can go on.

Tsipras:
Why did I fire Varoufakis? Fine, go on.

Merkel:
First, let me state the obvious: We Germans worked, and because we worked, we are now an economic power. Work has made us free to enjoy the fruits of our industry. You Greeks instead have leeched off the tax money of my people, and it is our right that we get it back. You may object that the Greeks are victims of economic terrorism and that you never intended to cheat us. Who cares? Justice happens only between equals. Otherwise, the powers that be dictate, and the weak acquiesce.

Tsipras:
It’s clear that you understand justice as expediency. Fine, then is it not expedient that the Germans respect the principle of the Summum Bonum, which is the raison d’être of the European Union, without which Europe would regress once again into factional anarchy. The Germans seek to persuade by bullying, and surely you know that Europe has a history of not being too fond of German bullying.

Merkel:
The Highest Good is economic stability, and our European Partners aren’t about to punish their strongest member, whose strength enables that very stability. We’re not a threat to the Highest Good, you are. For if we allow debt relief for you, other countries will want it, too, and then no one will pay their debts, and we’ll have a continent of cheats and thieves. There will be anarchy in the streets. That is why you must become our slaves.

Tsipras:
You cannot expect any country to understand their own enslavement as being in their own best interest.

Merkel:
Your interests are served by avoiding an economic apocalypse.

Tsipras:
But, dearest Angela, why must you embitter such a tiny nation? If you just let us off the hook this one time, we promise to be your most loyal partners and champions. We’ll even wear Lederhosen. Such leniency will not only transform the bitterness of my people into love, but Germany will also be transformed from a bean counting, petty miser into a paragon of magnanimity!

Merkel:
Please, get your skinny jeans away from me, Herr Tsipras! What you call “magnanimity” would only be a weakness of resolve to enforce the agreements that underpin Europe. Our partners would detect this immediately and exploit it to their advantage. An example must be made of Greece.

Tsipras:
You’ve already put the hammer down on much bigger states like France, Spain, and Italy. Isn’t that example enough?

Merkel:
No, because if we let you prevail, the bigger countries will think that we have become weak or have gone soft and will take that as a signal that they, too, can defy us. We dare not leave you unpunished.

Tsipras:
Okay. But surely you recognize another, more cogent threat: that by treating us so harshly you bring upon yourselves the potential enmity of your erstwhile friends, the U.S., Russia, China, Japan, etc.? Might they, for instance, think that Germany is trying to build up a Fourth Reich and decide to deal with you now before you’ve gotten too strong? Something like this has happened before, you know.

Merkel:
Oh, that’s just silly. Economic equals act in the same way. We know what they are going to do because they are rational and it is not in their interest to upset the balance of power. It is the weak, unequal states like you, Portugal, and Eastern Europe who act irrationally out of desperation. Therefore, they need the most discipline.

Tsipras:
Yes, we are weak and desperate because we are weak, but how is it irrational for us to resist enslavement? How is it irrational not to give in to ignominious subjugation but to stand up and fight? At least, then there is hope.

Merkel:
Die ewige Hoffnung! Hope works only when you have a leg left to stand on, but you have long since been cut off at the knees, O Etaipos, and in such a state hope can only serve as the handmaiden for an even greater disaster. Hope must draw on something to be useful, and you now have nothing. Your hope is a delusion.

Tsipras:
But in the eyes of God, we know we are in the right. How could we not be? For we are asking that you treat us with the dignity with which He Himself endowed us. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Also, it is not true that we have nothing but a false hope. The French will come to our aid.

Merkel:
We Germans, too, believe in God, and God is first and foremost the creator of the Natural Order, and the Natural Order gives the rule to those strong enough to rule and tells those who are not to obey. God created this law, and we are merely following his Holy Commandments. To do otherwise would be most grievous blasphemy. We are in no doubt that you would do unto us as we are now doing unto you were our positions reversed. So much, then, for your appeal to God. Now, as concerns the French, we admire the simplicity of your argument but do not envy you the folly of it. While the French talk a good game, and make a great show of their high moral standards, of all the people we’ve had the pleasure of dealing with, they are the most notorious for identifying what is pleasant with what is honorable, and what is expedient for what is just. Indeed, such are the people in which you’ve invested such a wide-eyed confidence!

Tsipras:
But what happens when Fortune does indeed reverse your position, and you find yourself in the same desperate straits as we are now? Aren’t you afraid that Spain, Italy, and France will do to you what you are doing to us and swoop in like vultures to gobble up what is left of your tattered economy?

Merkel:
I concede this could happen, but given the clear superiority of the German Protestant Work Ethic, it’s very unlikely. Once we sink our teeth into something, we don’t let go very easily – and so it is now with Greece. Thus far in the discussion, you have given little real proof that any of this so-called support will come your way. In fact, your strongest defense thus far has been the hope of deferring further economic sanctions against you – and, I can assure you, that is at an end. Unless you come to some wiser decision after our discussion today, I’m afraid that you are displaying an extremely hazardous lack of discretion. For surely you don’t hope to stand up to us Germans for the mere sake of honor when history has shown so many peoples ruined by such indiscreet resistance? By making so much of honor you run the risk of a far worse result than by being practical, even if it means a bit of dishonor. I beg you, don’t make such a miscalculation. Convince your people that there is no dishonor in yielding to so predominant a power as Germany and becoming our ally. We will leave you your sovereignty and you will take your economic medicine, which will ultimately make us all wealthier people. In the end, I personally believe that the best policy is to be moderate towards your inferiors, go head to head with your equals, and defer to your superiors. Go back to your Bouli, Herr Tsipras, and remind them that they are debating the future of their one and only country, which may be saved or destroyed by this most important decision.

After this conference, Alex Tsipras went back to his country and after extended debate word was sent to the Germans that this proud nation, the cradle of Democracy and Western Philosophy, would not bow to economic austerity.

Thereupon, the European Central Bank, on order of the Germans, cut off all further aid to the Greek Banks, leading to their imminent collapse. The French sniffed their indignation and did nothing. Greece plunged into a depression. For nearly four months bank remained closed and citizens had no access to their money. Pensions and salaries went unpaid, businesses big and small – especially those depending on foreign goods and services – closed, shortages of food entailed, and electricity and water services became intermittent. The heavy shadow of hunger began to creep over the land.

Later that year, the Greeks finally began printing drachmas. All Euro accounts, after a general haircut of 25% to help recapitalize the banks, were exchanged at the ratio of 1:1. On the open market, the drachma depreciated immediately to more than 20:1. Slowly, however, the countries’ economic wheels began to turn, though purchasing power was decimated and standards of living sharply curtailed. Businesses began to appear and a faint glow of hope was again felt across the land.

The Germans were not done. On the pretense of loans unpaid, they tightened the screws, placing a general embargo on the delivery of all essential products and services to the Greek nation. Within six months, with gasoline scarce and businesses again closing, the country’s economic recovery evaporated. Hunger and desperation began to spread anew and crime, especially theft and assault, became widespread. Within the year, the Greeks had had enough. New elections were called and the conservative Nea Democratea, with covert funding from the German government, returned to power. Within weeks, mining and gas rights had been pledged to foreign companies, while Germans controlled the harbors and tollways, all large supermarkets, and, most importantly, the banking system through strategic acquisitions of formerly state-owned financial institutions. Islands were sold off to wealthy individuals, movie stars, corporate executives, hedge fund owners, etc. and the monies used to repay the Eurozone nations and ECB. While the Greeks slowly got used to their new low wage structure and sharply lower pensions, interest and debt payments flowed with efficient regularity to Brussels. New laws were passed which declared that Greek stores must remain open six days a week, 12 hours a day. And, of course, the euro made a triumphant return.

The German language is now taught in all Greek schools.

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