A Look at What Has Happened to Greece

In the January/February issue of our magazine, president elect of the Association for Evolutionary Economics James Galbraith has a review of James Angelos’s new book: The Full Catastrophe: Travels Among the New Greek Ruins.

Journalist James Angelos’s The Full Catastrophe, a book of seven vignettes, recounts the author’s experiences as a visitor to Greece from 2011 through 2014, the years of economic collapse. They sketch, as vignettes do, a portrait of the country; the picture is not pretty.

Angelos, a Greek American, traveled first to Zakynthos, an Ionian island, to report on the sale, by an ophthalmologist and island prefect, of blindness benefits to hundreds of sighted residents. He went on to explore tax evasion (“a national preoccupation”) and corruption in military procurement; a village mayor’s murder by two local treasurers who continued, even in prison, to receive salaries; the zealots of the Orthodox Church; the plight of immigrants; and the rise of the fascist Golden Dawn party. Apart from the story of Manolis Glezos, the nonagenarian Syriza member of the European Parliament (MEP) who as a boy in 1941 scaled the Acropolis to pull down the Nazi flag, there is little to admire here, and even in the case of Glezos, Angelos is scathing: “I found Glezos’s energy and passion admirable, and I wanted to admire him.… But this desire ran up against the reality that I often found Glezos to be wrong, if not actively misleading, and populist.”

The book also contains an epilogue that explores conditions in Greece at the time of the January 2015 elections that brought Alexis Tsipras to power.

If you’re interested in the financial collapse in Greece, this review will help you weigh some interesting questions, including how to allocate culpability between the Greeks and their European overlords, and also a chance to explore what the financial and political hardship has done to the Greek people and how its impacting their attitudes towards immigrants, the European Union, and their own image of themselves.

Make sure to read the whole thing.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.