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Maria Paravantes

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Greece: A Teenage Nation

Posted: 05/02/2012 12:00 pm

Greeks are like teenagers. They live with their parents until they get married. And even then their parents live really close by, like up or down stairs from them always having a key to the house "just in case." As teenagers who refuse to grow up, they marry on a whim -- usually resulting in divorce. They have kids without serious thought and they vote rashly.

Don't get me wrong. I'm no Greek hater. Quite the contrary, I love Greeks, I have fallen in love with Greeks, and I continue to live in Greece to this day despite the trying times. The reason? Adolescence. The recent crisis -- fabricated or not -- has brought to the fore "the Greek" in every possible light. He's been hurled under the microscope, scrutinized, analyzed, criticized and stigmatized. But a step back and a taboo-free look and "defining" the Greek is as simple (or as complex) as life itself.

The Greek's impulsiveness is what makes him Greek. It's as if an entire nation is a spoilt teenager who just doesn't see why he should grow up. And why should they? Don't we all remember our carefree, responsibility-free adolescent days with nostalgia? Don't we all wish we could turn back time and have fun in the sun for as long as we can and then some?

In the very same way, my friends, the modern Greeks live their lives. So what if there are over 200 political parties vying for our vote? As for imminent bankruptcy and Frau Merkel, the suited gentlemen of the IMF and our respected EU partners, well, do you remember what you did (or thought) every time a knowing adult told you off? Ignored. I now understand why the teacher on my favorite Charlie Brown cartoons was portrayed as an annoying buzz in the background: because that's how youngsters "heed" patronizing advice. They don't. It's all just an acoustic blur that fades away the instant a friend suggests coffee. And that's frankly how the Greeks perceive all of the mayhem behind their current predicament.

It's evident in these days leading up to Sunday's polls. Like everything they wait until the last minute to see what pans out. That's what we did at school right? Oh no exams! In a state of panic, we would gather all the carbs we could find and cram all night really expecting to learn 365 pages of calculus in 10 hours. And so the Greeks pay their bills on the last day, go to the doctor only when they can suffer no more and think... only when it's absolutely necessary. Why waste precious brain cells on 200 or so parties promising brighter days when they already know deep inside that each and every participant is lying through their recently whitened teeth? So what do they do? Vote for whomever depending on their diathesi ('mood') at that given moment...

So this teenage nation of 11 million plans to vote "out of revenge," to "teach them a lesson," to "give them a chance," to "give them a second chance," to "get a job," to avoid "losing a job," "for the right reason" or simply "just to vote." And then there are those too who just won't vote at all. It's like that piece of profound wisdom that teenagers throw at us at any given moment and catch us off guard.

There are those of course who are deeply political and can most likely provide at least three convincing reasons for voting for so and so, but they're a minority and frighteningly reminiscent of the teacher's pet.

Admittedly, like teenagers, the Greeks can also do wonders when they put their minds to it (see the Athens Olympics and much more). They can, as passionate teens, dive off the deep end with absolutely no regard for fear, potential consequences and/or results. And when all's said and done, they take the credit for the good and blame others for the bad... just like your average 15-year-old. You can't have it all. So, much like life itself, so do nations behave: some as mature adults, others in a more balanced way, some with bitterness and others hungry for power. And, finally, some prefer to be the way they are: good, bad and beautiful.

Trust me, the world may be talking about the upcoming Greek elections but the Greeks -- true to their adolescent hearts -- are out in the sun swimming, tanning, drinking coffee and enjoying the moment. Tomorrow is another day.

 
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