Posted by: cochinblogger | January 23, 2013

Is Greece European?

The West takes credit for Greek contributions to civilization, but how Western are the Greeks anyway? Here are amusing first-hand observations of M.J. Akbar when he visited Greece in 2005 (from his book, Have Pen, Will Travel):

I wonder why Greece is hyphenated with Western civilization when it is so Eastern. At the airport immigration counter, a corpulent official lounges behind another sitting at the desk. The latter is doing the work; the former, having served the nation in his prime, is preparing for retirement, which is only ten years or so away. What could be more Eastern than this? On a road to the Acropolis, one municipal worker is busy repairing a drainage outlet, while three others stand around him, chatting and smoking. This is not injustice. They will work in turns, one at a time. But work together to finish the job in a quarter of the time? No chance. What could be more Indian than that?

No wonder, as I left Athens airport for Delhi, I felt I was leaving home to come home.

Akbar may be on to something here. Take a look at this article (whose title I’ve borrowed for this post) on the topic: Is Greece European? I was struck by this:

George Papandreou, the grandfather of the recent prime minister of the same name, actually headed a party called the “George Papandreou Party.” Political parties have been family businesses to a greater extent in Greece than in other Western democracies.

We in India are familiar with family influence in politics: India’s first prime minister was Nehru, his daughter Indira also became prime minister and so did her son Rajiv, whose Italian wife, Sonia, heads the party in power today. And her son Rahul has recently been elevated to an important party post.

This is a record (of the dubious kind) that any country will find hard to beat; it’s almost like a monarchy sans the ceremonial trappings. 🙂


  1. Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals will give you more insight into Greece. They are just like Indians in many ways.

    • Right! I’ve read that gem of a book more than once and have it at home. The name Corfu springs to mind …

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