Like a pig wallowing in debt

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Like a pig wallowing in debt


If there is anyone who knows how to throw a boisterous party brimming with good cheer, it is the Greeks. The movie, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” wittily shows the “big, fat” wedding culture of Greece in which every member of the family is actively involved. The reason for this is the pride the Greeks have in their traditions.

The movie is about Toula, the daughter of a Greek immigrant family, and her efforts to introduce her American beau to her family. Toula’s father believes that there are two kinds of people in this world: Greeks and everyone else - and everyone else wishes they were Greek.

He tells his future son-in-law, “While your ancestors climbed trees, we were discussing philosophy.”

Toula’s father even insists that the Japanese word “kimono” comes from the Greek word “himona,” which means “winter.” “What do you wear in the wintertime to stay warm? A robe. You see: robe, kimono. There you go,” he explains.

His argument that all languages are derived from Greek doesn’t seem all that farfetched because Greece, after all, is known as the cradle of Western civilization.

The mythology and philosophy of ancient Greece proclaimed a new era for humanity. This belief is almost absolute in Europe. Even the name “Europe” comes from Greece. It is from the name of the Phoenician princess Europa, who was kidnapped and transformed into a white bull by Zeus.

When Rome conquered Greece, the first thing the Romans did was pack the books and art found in the homes of Grecian noblemen to take home.

It became essential for intellectuals to read Greek literature. The Roman poet Horace even said that while Rome had conquered Greece, Greece was ruling its uncivilized conquerors.

In her series of books on ancient Rome, Japanese author Nanami Shiono wrote that the Romans were inferior in intellect to the Greeks.

The recent financial crisis, however, shows that intellect and traditions are helpless in the face of debt. The European media are now using the rather humiliating moniker, PIGS, to refer to the quartet of Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain.

The moral hazard of having lavished money on social welfare programs, such as pension plans, even as they wallowed in debt, and the inability to pay the money back, even if they receive financial aid, is driving the PIGS into a corner.

According to Plato, after drinking a fatal poison, the Greek philosopher Socrates spoke his last words to his disciple, Crito: “Crito, we owe a cock to Asclepius. Please don’t forget to pay the debt.”

Had modern Greece followed the advice of its great ancestor and paid its debts, maybe it wouldn’t have suffered the humiliation of being one of the PIGS.

*The writer is a reporter on culture and sports at the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Ki Sun-min
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