Date: 4th July 3645, somewhere on a human colony in the solar system. A schoolgirl is preparing for her modern classics assignment. The Classical Greek work, The Lucre Wars, written circa 2302, is required reading. Here is an excerpt:
‘The Greeks had by then taken measure of the forces ranged against them and convened a gathering of their elders to decide upon a course of action which would hasten the downfall of their enemies. Papandreou* spoke first and exhorted his hordes of officials to rebel against the yoke of the German invader. Standing in a temple called Parliament he said: “After all we and our ancestors have bestowed upon them, giving them a culture and the rooting of a civilisation that shone light upon the world for over a millennium, they have dared to incur our displeasure by imposing demands on us and threatening our very existence as a free people. Did the leaders of the Europa Alliance really believe these treasures were to be repaid? No, they were a tribute by Europa to us for the greatness we have bestowed upon them. I say to you in the name of all that is sacred to us that Athens has never feared anyone and we shall do battle. Today we Greeks shall bring Europa down from within just like we once did to the Trojans. Bring in Venizelos**, my indomitable Master of the Lucre Weapon so that we may instruct him….” The mob, roused from its apathy, screamed in unison and the name of Venizelos reverberated throughout the land, as it had been since war was declared…a Hero was unto them born.
‘The leader Papandreou, brave King of the Greeks, knew, as all Greeks did, that there was no European Union (the name given to the Europa Alliance now ranged against the Greeks) without Greece, because there was no Europa without Greece. Greece knew that the treasures it had taken from the European Union was its rightful payment for Greeks had given the Europeans everything they considered sacred such as a religion of old called DEMOCRACY, and languages and knowledge without which they would have been mere barbarians. In order to access those treasures, Athens was humiliated into giving up its beloved Drachma, but believed the sacrifice was worthy of the reward. No amount of treasure could compensate the Greeks for what the Europeans owed them and was truly theirs, or for the loss of their national currency…Greece had used stealth to enter the European Union and lull its enemies believing that its intentions were peaceful. But Greece only wanted revenge for the humiliation it had endured at the hands of the Europeans for over two millennia. It had bided its time and was now hoping the Europeans would relent and treat Athens equally. But when the Sorceress Merkel and her elders humiliated them, along with other more worthy empires on the rise, the Greeks found the time opportune to leave the ungrateful Europeans to their fate. Not since Alexander the Great had the Greeks been given the respect they deserved, and now, by bankrupting the Europeans, their victory would be decisive.’
We don’t know what will happen with the European single currency or even the European Union and we don’t know what will happen to Greece or the other P.I.G.S. (Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain). And we shouldn’t ultimately care. You might be relieved to know that it doesn’t really matter. What will matter ultimately will be what History decides. And when it comes to History, I would not be surprised if it is clement to the Greeks. I wouldn’t even be surprised if the Greeks were to write it – and heavily alter it to make them come out of smelling of roses. You see, those of us living in that disparate group of nations known loosely as ‘The West’ inhabit a world heavily influenced by a Greek view of the world where facts matter far less than what the Greeks thought of these facts. European scholars rediscovered Greek works after having lost touch with them during the Dark Ages thanks to the Arabs who translated them and reconnected the Europeans back with ‘their heritage’. Our language is peppered with words with Greek origin, things like Economics and Telephone. We attribute to the Greeks mathematics and trigonometry, as well the field of optics and so many others. Not only so, but we believe that our social and political system, in particular what we call ‘Democracy’, was a gift from the Greeks. I can carry on and on. But the fact is, the Greeks were amazing. They had great thinkers like Socrates and Plato, and playwrights such as Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides.
But what the Greeks were even more admirably adept at was spin – the ability to create myths that are so convincingly written, and with just the right mix of truth and fiction, that they would get past human cynicism. And they possessed something even more wonderful – a good sense for humanity’s need to believe in something, however far-fetched. They borrowed the vast majority of the knowledge of previous civilisations and called it their own. The Greeks ended up fooling us all and boy did we love it, and we still do. And if they didn’t like someone, which applied to almost everyone not speaking Greek, they literally destroyed their character forever.
Take their relationship with Persia, the great superpower of the age. The Persians, we now know, had a very sophisticated civilisation, far more advanced than that the of the Greek City states many of whom were clients of Persia. Greece pitting itself against Persia back then could be compared to Andorra declaring war on the USA. But the Greeks were better chroniclers and so when a few skirmishes between the superpower and the minnows took place, the Greeks made sure that they turned them into life or death existential struggles by the admirable and freedom-loving Greeks against the authoritarian swarthy Oriental foe. The battles of Salamis and Marathon and especially Thermopylae are engraved in our collective memory, thanks to movies such as 300, as epic battles between an enlightened West and North, against a brutal and authoritarian East and South. The Greeks not only gave us the gift of the gab, they gave us arrogance to boot. We could lord it over others because that was our entitlement and if ‘they/the other’, whoever they were, ever got too clever for their boots, then we could character assassinate them, take away their humanity and call our myths ‘facts’.
That is how we invented Iraqi WMD and got away with it, and that is why today any country from the South or East such as China is regarded with suspicion the moment it challenges our Greek-inspired world order. The West colonized the rest of the world armed with the Bible and the Classics of the Greeks and Romans. If the Greeks didn’t like anyone, they just called them ‘Barbarians’, which meant they could give them the Herodotus treatment.
Herodotus has been called the First Historian, but in truth he was the First Spin Doctor, writing histories that ensured that non-Greeks (read non-Europeans) were forever vilified. Naturally, only after Greece had co-opted the best things their civilisations had to offer and discarded the rest. The Persians, Egyptians and countless other civilisations were carefully edited by him to make Greeks come out on top. Herodotus was clever enough to show a bit of magnanimity. To make his stories more credible, he would always find the odd redeeming feature of the people or civilisation he was about to character assassinate and single it out as an exception which decent Greeks could learn from. That’s how we came to know about Cyrus the Great, the first great humanist. We came to love him, not because he represented Persian values, but rather because he was a civilized exception and more ‘like us’. You could say that the Greeks laid the foundations for that most condescending of notions, that of the ‘Noble Savage’.
For centuries European historians took Herodotus word as gospel, until modern archaeology was born in the 19th century. But by that time it was too late. We, the West, were the self-proclaimed inheritors of a Greek civilisation and everyone else was a barbarian. Ancient History was divided into two camps. The Classical period began with the Greeks. All that came before them was labelled ‘Archaic’, and therefore well, inferior and authoritarian. They were civilisations that were simply – how to put it – not truly ‘civilised’. To this day, ‘Classical’ has good connotations, and ‘Archaic’, well… Oh, and by the way, Greek democracy was only for men. Women and slaves could take a hike! But we choose to gloss over that, just as we choose to gloss over the glaring imperfections of our own so called ‘democratic’ political system where we have come to mistake voting for democracy and where our politicians would rather sink the global economy just to get voted in, as happened recently in the USA. Instead, we prefer to lecture others on democracy and human rights as if somehow we were paragons of either concept. The Ancient Greeks would have been proud of us.
Which brings me back to the first financial debacle of the early 21st century (there will be others)…
The facts are simple. Greece was economic (there I go again with that very useful Greek word, in fact I’m tempted to think it was invented for the sole purpose of telling porkies, hence the current predicament of our economies) with the truth about its finances when it got into the European Single Currency. It lied in a disarmingly irresistible manner which Herodotus would have been flattered to call his own. But if I were to bet on how History will view these events, I wouldn’t to bet against the Greeks. Don’t be surprised if history books show it to have been a Greek plan all along, and that the Greeks were anything but profligate. If anything, I expect History to show them to have been rather moral and that they lied for a noble cause. Eurosceptics already agree, thanking the Greeks for fatally wounding their Brussels arch enemies and exposing the fallacies of the European Super State Project which aimed to introduce federalism by stealth.
The Greeks may no longer have any globally acclaimed Homers to spin their biased yarns, but they will be glad to know that their skills have survived. The nexus of creative spin has simply shifted from Mount Olympus to Hollywood where films still use the Greek formula of letting the minnows, however undeserving, win at the end.
With the way educational standards are heading, in the year AD3645 Moses and Charleston Heston would be the same person, and Leonardo di Caprio would be remembered as having gone down with the Titanic. I also expect the film “300” to be considered an eye-witness report of the battle of Thermopylae. Most non-Greek politicians attacking Greece will be described as harpies talking drivel and shunned. History will be rewritten to thank the Greeks for throwing a major spanner in the European works because it was ‘a good thing’. It is only human after all.
I can just see the Greeks as heroes of a tale pitting them against an evil barbarian empire hell-bent on subjugating these poor Hellenic peoples. And let’s admit it, Brussels was never a sexy enough place to be the centre of a world empire! With the Herodotus touch, P.I.G.S. can indeed eventually fly if you give them enough time! History is on their side. Myths are just facts with a dash of time and hindsight thrown into the mix, and the Greeks are the best mixologists out there!
The Classical Greek work, The Lucre Wars, written circa 2302. Here is a final excerpt:
‘And on the day of reckoning, Venizelos, for that was the name of the Master of the Lucre Weapon, refused to pay back the golden Talents which the Germans falsely claimed were theirs but were in fact rightfully Greek…And the Germans eventually ended up with the Empire they always coveted, but without Greece, for it was now free of its shackles, and remained the only outpost of fiscal and monetary liberty. And the beloved Drachma returned to its proud peoples to engage in trade with Asia as they wished. And now, centuries after the event, after much war and bloodshed had vindicated the heroic actions of the Greeks and that the European Alliance lay in ruins, songs are sung around fires throughout the world about how a small nation of heroes taught the world a lesson about hubris and dishonesty. For if the Greeks had lied to the Europeans to save their dignity, the other Europeans lost theirs when they lied to their own people by telling them the European Union was for the good of the world… The Gods favoured the Greeks. Long life to Venizelos, Long Life to Papandreou…’