An encouraging sign that financial markets are returning to a semblance of normality: a wire search for “Greece” on Friday brought up a series of stories on soccer.
The list of items brought up by a Google search on the country was headed by a New York Times story that 56 bundles of marijuana turned up unclaimed on a beach in Greece.
And the story that made headlines on a site called greece.greekreporter.com was that a 4.3-magnitude earthquake struck central Greece shortly after dawn on Friday. “The weak tremor caused no particular damage.”
The same site reported that the National Bank of Greece had cut interest rates on business loans.
However, the absence of breaking stories showing a country threatened with bankruptcy may only mean the disease is in remission. The damage inflicted by the mountain of government debt that surfaced in Greece at the start of 2010 is still a work in progress.
The economic crisis that followed has spawned unemployment, poverty and the emergence of a sinister far right political phenomenon, Golden Dawn.
Greece’s public order ministry has decided the police’s anti-terrorism division will handle the investigation into the murder of the left wing rapper Pavlos Fyssas, allegedly by a Golden Dawn supporter.
Earlier this month Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported: “More than 300 attacks – starting with the murder of a Bangladeshi immigrant in May 2011 – have been attributed to the openly racist organisation whose meteoric ascent on the back of economic desperation has ensured it is now Greece’s third-biggest party and fastest-growing political force. Recent opinion polls have shown it has the support of 15 percent of voters – more than double the figure it won in elections 14 months ago.”
Hard times certainly can bring out the worst in people.
The Greek government has promised to crack down on Golden Dawn. Let’s hope it has more success than Germany’s Weimar Republic in dealing with a similar situation between the world wars.
Ninety years ago an attempt by Adolf Hitler to take over Munich was put down by the central government. Hitler was sent to jail for five years but served only eight months. He used the time to write Mein Kampf, which was to become the foundation of his racist philosophy.
When he emerged from prison, he went from strength to strength with the support of a racist rabble. And by 1941 he had taken over most of Europe. He met a nasty end by his own hand in 1945 but not before causing the death of millions of people.
However, hard times also bring out the best in people.
The economic miracles performed after the war in Germany and Japan have been attributed to a number of factors, including a massive inflow of aid for reconstruction as well as political and economic reforms.
But the will of the German and Japanese people to survive their near death experience also produced a surge of energy and innovation.
They must also have been aware of how important it was to pull together, whatever their differences.
There is a message in this. How Greece deals with the Golden Dawn could determine its future.
The message is not just for Greece but for all countries coping with hard times and social divisions. The choice is often whether to get on with the job to the best of your ability or sit and complain about other members of society.