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Monday, 9 September 2013

A TRADITION OF FAILURE: SAMARAS' GREAT LEAP BACKWARDS (UPDATE)


A little-noticed excerpt from our Prime Minister's speech yesterday - addressing the Thessaloniki International Expo- has got me reaching for my datasets once again. Ignorance is bliss in Greece but there are limits to how ignorant one can be in public. Especially if they are the Prime Minister.

The original text, available here, reads thus:
Τέλος η εποχή που κάποιοι προσπαθούσαν να απαλλαγούν από την εθνική μας παράδοση κι από την πολιτιστική μας ταυτότητα, για να γίνουν τάχα «ψευτο-Ευρωπαίοι». Άλλους τους ενοχλούσε η σχολική ιστορία μας και προσπαθούσαν να την ξαναγράψουν με απίστευτες στρεβλώσεις. Άλλους του ενοχλεί η θρησκευτική παράδοση της Ορθοδοξίας. Τέλος όλα αυτά! Δεν είναι ευρωπαϊκή προσέγγιση αυτή. Οι Ευρωπαίοι σέβονται τον εαυτό τους, την Ιστορία τους και την παράδοσή τους. Παντού στον κόσμο, οι λαοί που προοδεύουν σέβονται και υπερασπίζονται την ταυτότητά τους και την εθνική τους κληρονομιά! Ενώ αυτοί που ξεχνούν ποιοι είναι, δεν προκόβουν, μένουν στο περιθώριο.
My translation:
'The times when some sought to rid themselves of our national traditions and cultural identity, so that they might become 'pseudo-European', are over. Some were annoyed by our history as taught in schools and sought to re-write it with unbelievable distortions. Others are annoyed by the religious tradition of the Orthodox (Christian) faith. Enough of all that! This is no European approach. Europeans respect themselves, their Histories and their traditions. All over the world, the peoples who progress respect and defend their identity and their national heritage! Whereas those who forget who they are, they do not prosper, they remain at the margins.'
Samaras, confident that a recovery will preserve his party in government, has gone on the offensive here (key word being 'offensive'), with some massively uneducated tripe. So I've taken the liberty of producing some pan-European figures that prove him wrong - each blue dot is a country in Europe and the near East. The red dot is Greece.

The broad gist of the figures is that both national pride and religiosity generally fall as people become more educated - both in Greece and Europe more generally. Very religious and very nationalistic countries are typically unhappy and poor places. Worse, the crucial break with 'tradition' happens not in supposedly commie-riddled Universities, but in early education.- simply finishing compulsory education makes the typical European join Samaras' nation-disowning enemies. Instead, it is the huge rump of uneducated masses that clings to Samaras' ideals, and Greece has more of those than the West. Not by accident, but by design.

Note also that University-educated people in Greece and the rest of Europe have similar levels of national pride and religiosity - it is the less educated that account for nearly all of Greece's deviation from European norms.

And what countries, I hear you ask, are furthest away from us on the nationalist/religiosity scale? Why, they are notorious hell-holes like Denmark, France and Sweden, where the majority of citizens aren't 'proud' of their nationality, less than one in six people claim that religion is 'very important' in their life, and less than 8% believe it's important to share the nation's ancestry if one is to be called Danish/French/Swedish.


Of course, some might argue that this is symptomatic of declining nations - that people in emerging economies tend to be more nationalistic and religious. Perhaps that's what Samaras himself was referring to. Never mind that emerging economies aren't good places to live - merely good places to rule. Even so, anyone arguing this would be right; the country furthest away from Greece and closest to Samaras' ideal on the religiosity/nationalism scale is none other than Turkey. If only we could join that glorious country, eh Tony? Think they would take us back?

Readers eager to know more can also check how the relationship holds for China - where nationalism increases with education as the regime's stranglehold on education works to give it legitimacy. That is one more reason not to seek to emulate this model.

All figures are 2008 figures, to ensure comparability. PPP adjusted per capita GDP Figures have been taken from here. All other figures are from my new favourite, the European Values Study. National samples are weighted to be nationally representative and based on 1,500 interviews per country (fewer for very small countries like Iceland, that has 808 responses). My full tables and all graphs are available here.

Hey, Truth Team, how did you let this speech slip past you?
Oh I forgot. You probably wrote it.

SOME FINAL NOTES

I cannot help but wonder what Samaras means by thundering 'enough of all that!' Translating less liberally (less liberally being the operant term here) he said 'an end [has/will come] to all of that!'

Is this a policy statement? Is the ersatz 'pride' of Borat's made-up Kazakh national anthem now the law of the land in Greece? Is the gay-bashing religious 'rebirth' of Russia a blueprint for Greece? Will foreign policy be guided by the prophesies of the Athonite Elders about Greece reclaiming Istanbul?

With polls suggesting the Neo-Nazi Golden Dawn would be Greece's third-largest party (with nearly 15% of the vote) if an election were held tomorrow, Samaras' electoral strategy appears to be to skim GD's penumbra of non-attached voters for himself by stressing his patriotic credentials. He's a fool to bank on them. This is a high-maintenance mafia clientele, willing to sell their vote to Neo-Nazis for a sack of potatoes or the promise of a vigilante patrol for their neighbourhood. They don't need a Prime Minister - they want a Genghis Khan style chieftain, and Tony boy will never be man enough for them.

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