In a narrow sense, the Greek parliament has to choose between a second bailout and a disorderly default. But the prospect of default merely epitomizes a broader bankruptcy – political, institutional and moral. The choice facing Greece is simple: will this be a race to the bottom or a race to the top? There are two Greeces out there, and the battle is on about which Greece is going to prevail.
One Greece is laid back and relaxed. It is not particularly ambitious, and it dreams of a job that pays well but demands little. It is a Greece that wants to eat well, drink well and live well – so long as it can do this without having to work hard. It is content and not at all shamed to work two or three hours a day and get paid a full day’s work. It sees nothing wrong with evading taxes, crossing a red light, or throwing trash onto the ground. It treats laws as guidelines – follow them when convenient, ignore them when not. It is a Greece that glorifies rebellion and roots for the underdog, not matter what the rebellion is about or what the underdog stands for. It is a Greece that wants to judge but fears to be judged. It knows and celebrates that no one is watching – and acts accordingly. It is paranoid and conspiratorial and finds blame everywhere else but in itself. It is a petty Greece, violent, entitled, spoiled and lazy. It is insular and insecure – insecure about its position in Europe, about its capabilities, about its potential to succeed. And it is a Greece that fears success and envies the success of others – better if we all fail or better yet if no one ever tries.
The other Greece is hungry and anxious. It is ambitious, and wants to succeed and do big things. It is proud of its history but wants to make its own mark in the world. It is a Greece that can win championships and that can host the Olympics. It is confident, intelligent and highly educated. It has studied or teaches at the world’s premier universities. It conducts research at world-class labs, staffs the world’s top companies, and writes award-winning music and films. It is a Greece that can compete in cut-throat businesses like shipping – and come out on top. It is an entrepreneurial Greece, one that will look for the tiniest opening to profits. It is liberal, tolerant, and commonsensical. It has real worries and real concerns and it has no time for fake battles and illusory struggles. It wants to get things done. And yet it sees that its future is held hostage, that there too many shackles that hold it back. It is a Greece whose one hope and demand from life is to be given the opportunity to succeed.
Bailout or no bailout, default or no default, the Greek people have to make up their minds. Which Greece do you want to live in?