The Greek tragedy that is, well, um, Greece, continues to unfold before the eyes of an alternatively horrified and bemused world. Grexit, the involuntary exit of Green from the EU end the Euro creeps closer sending financial markets into spasm of uncertainty.
What is most fascinating to watch is the behaviour of the guilty parties in this crisis, specifically the Greek government and their supporters in the public. Greece didn't enter this position of bankruptcy overnight and without warning. Rather the situation was created by multiple governments that paid steadily rising benefits to an increasingly less productive workforce. It was assisted in this by a tremendous sense of entitlement on the part of the Greeks themselves. They were quite happy to take the money their government didn't really have but when they were asked to cut back to alleviate the situation they weren't so generous.
At the national level the current government has been acting the same way with its creditors. Sure we may owe hundreds of billions of dollars, they have told an annoyed Angela Merckel, but since we can't repay it you should just write it off and then loan us more!
The final laugh, if you will, was the referendum last weekend in which a majority of Greeks voted to refuse the austerity terms of a further financial buyout. The Greek government, bolstered by the result, insisted that Europe and especially Germany must acknowledge the democratic voice of the Greek people. The German response was classic: well we also have a democratic voice and it has said that it wants its money back.
They say maturity occurs when a person realizes his parents were right to force him to eat his spinach when he was young. In Greece it seems they're still having ice cream sundaes for breakfast, lunch and dinner while resenting any suggesting that they might benefit from fruits, vegetables and bran.
Now as Jews we have a long history with Greece and especially Greek culture. There has been an entwining of theirs and ours for over two thousand years, ever Alexander the Great stopped over in Yerushalayim on his tour of the MiddleEast and south Asia. Our Chazal held a special respect for the Greek language and a special loathing for its culture.
As opposed to Judaism which emphasized the spiritual and rejecting physical hedonism as a valuable goal, Greece seemed to philosophize its way into a culture in which physical perfection was everything. A great example of this was Greek opposition to Jewish circumcision during Maccabean times. For Jews circumcising is a final step towards perfecting the body that God left in our hands to perform. For the Greeks it was simple mutilation.
This Greek philosophy seems to have found its way into the culture of its descendants. Modern Greece as it collapses today is the final end run of a philosophy that demands physical gratification without consideration of its cost. The Greeks have been happy to take hundreds of billions of Euros for their pensions but refused to believe that the tap would be turned off if they refused to be accountable. Faced with the consequences of that idiocy they simply insist they should not have to be "punished" and demand more free candy from the story.
Why does this matter to us? Because the Green attitude is contagious. In any prosperous society there is a greedy tendency to demand entitlements from the government but resent any attempt by the government to receive the finances to pay for those entitlements. We are instead subject to moronic statements like "Well just tax the rich more!" and "Tax the corporations!" Tax anyone, just not us! For the West Greece (and soon Spain, Portugal and Italy) is an advanced warning as to what happens when governments allow their populations to become spoiled brats who want a five star society while paying one star rates. As citizens of the West we ignore this vivid warning at our peril.
But worse and perhaps very ironically, the Greek attitude has infected the part of the Torah observant community that styles itself as the true vanguard of the Jewish nation against assimilation and outside influence - the Chareidi community.
Take a look at the Chareidi community in Israel, especially that segment that sits and learns all day long while living on outside donations but more significantly, on Israeli government largess. Look at the behaviour of their politicians, especially over the last few years when they were in opposition and forced to deal with cuts to their entitlements. The resemblance to Greece couldn't be more obvious. Give us the money, they and their representatives shout, but don't expect anything back from us, not even a 'thank you'! The degeneracy and immaturity of the socialist entitlement system has created a culture of dependency that is not to be ignored.
When the very community that imagines itself exemplifying the opposite views to Greece is itself displaying those values we need to seriously appreciate the power afflicting the Torah community and the battle that will be needed to overcome it.