Second-hand smoke, closed-society and low collective standards: the root causes of the crisis in Greece

Doing the rounds catching up with my friends in Athens, I met up with Andreas, a buddy from an improv comedy group we were in last year. We sat on a side-street in the gritty and lively historic center, enjoying the bright Attic sun and simultaneously also the fumes of second-hand smoke from the table next to us. I asked Andreas, hoping for a miracle since my last visit in September, “this ban on smoking in public places still isn’t being enforced in Greece, is it?” He took the opportunity to enlighten me on a observation that has more substance than any New York Times editorial I have read about the Greek financial-political situation, “The day you come to Athens and the ban on public smoking is being observed, will be one small step for Greek man, one giant step for Greek mankind,” he said as I observed inquisitively the two puffing Neanderthals next to us and wondered what their brain-processing capabilities were. “This attitude of me-first, I don’t care, it’s my right to impose my attitude on others, I’m a special exemption.  This behavior of imposing yourself on others, is the very cause of why we have political, financial instability and chaos in this country,” he exclaimed, as the heirs to Pericles and Aristotle next to us, continued rolling, licking and smoking another round of the hand-made ubiquitous rolled cigarettes across Athens. I reflected what is it that makes this behavior acceptable here, in Greece, and thought about the common rhetorical question many Greek emigrants abroad lament, “Why do Greeks prosper everywhere, from Sydney to San Francisco, but not within Greece’s borders?” I...