Ancient Greece and the Modern Madness

Greece, once the ancient birthplace of reason, seems to have gone stark raving mad in a very modern way.
On Sunday the Greek people rejected the European Union’s offer of yet another multi-billion Euro bailout for its disastrous economy, apparently persuaded by their Prime Minister’s argument that doing so will enable him to negotiate an even bigger bailout without any pesky conditions that Greece enact economic reforms that are necessary if it ever hopes to repay any of it. The argument might yet prove true, as the EU has been so eager to keep all its members on board that it’s gone along with all of the previous bailouts and might yet be willing to dole out another one rather than  admit that its one-size-fits-all currency scheme and post-nationalist political philosophy doesn’t work with a fissiparous coalition of vastly different-sized economies in countries that stubbornly retain their national self-interests, but then again it might decide sooner rather than later that Greece is simply more trouble than it’s worth. In either case the citizens of Greece will soon collide with the reality that it can’t keep on sending out government checks that total more than the economic output of the country, and that their fellow Europeans who are counting on their own generous government checks won’t keep making up the difference forever, and that the rest of the world hasn’t even any illusory reasons to help out, but in the meantime that great Greek invention of democracy allows them to vote against reality.
Although the futility of voting against reality is especially conspicuous in Greece, where the store shelves are empty and more than half the young people are unemployed and most 50-somethings are retired and the lines of the few gainfully employed are already long at banks that are readying to stop any withdrawals, the modern tendency to do so is nonetheless apparent everywhere. You’ll find it in Puerto Rico, where a similarly dire default situation is brewing, and in China, a more significant economy, and in Chicago, where the public sector unions are protesting the fact that their too-good-to-be-true contracts are at last proving too good to be true, as well as the debt-swamped broader American economy, and at the Supreme Court, where the latest rulings declare that a law doesn’t mean what it clearly says and that somewhere in between the lines of the Constitution there is definitive re-definition of the institution of marriage as it has been understood almost everywhere on Earth from the dawn of civilization until a couple of weeks ago, and you’ll find it in the electronic opinion pages of The New York Times, where a couple of white guys start talking about “whiteness” and wind up agreeing that the whole notion of reasoning from the objective facts of reality is a “white male Euro-Christian construction” and that such a useful and verifiably true concept as “true north” is “Nordo-centrism” and somehow rendered invalid by “insensitivity to people who live in the southern hemisphere.”
You’ll also find it on the cover of Vanity Fair, where a man quite artfully made to appear as a woman is expected to be regarded by polite opinion as a woman, at the Spokane chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, where the former president insists that despite her white ancestry she be regarded as black, in the ongoing debate about law enforcement that insists “black lives matter” when they are taken by police but that the far greater number of black lives taken by black criminals because of a lack of policing don’t matter, and of course in all those frustrating conversations with the ordinary people you no doubt frequently encounter who can’t see any fair reason why American government isn’t sending out evermore generous checks that total to more than the American economy produces.
The tendency is readily understandable to any observer of human nature and the rest of reality. Reality is so often unpleasant, and the alternatives that even the most limited imaginations might conceive are so much more desirable, that it is in the nature of human beings to vote against it. In this age of “virtual reality” it is tempting to conclude that better everyone should get that check in the mail, that the laws should mean whatever a majority of the Supreme Court thinks they should mean, that people should get to be whatever sex and race and species they prefer to be, that true north and other objectively verifiable facts be abandoned for their “Nordo-centrism” and insensitivity to the peoples of the southern hemisphere, and that the last rich person left on Earth should be made to pay for it all. After that we’ll all face the inevitable mathematical and biological and human nature reality, but until then at least the Greeks have bequeathed us all the right to vote against it.

— Bud Norman


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