Saying Goodbye to Ate in the Greek Debt Crisis

Ate (“Atis” in Greek) was the spirit (daimona) of delusion, infatuation, blind folly, and reckless impulse who led men down the path to ruin. Her power was countered by the Litai (Prayers) which followed in her wake. Today, in Greece – the culture that brought logic and philosophy to the world – Ate is in full force and spreading across Europe.

The debt crisis is reaching a tipping point. I don’t know which direction the country will fall but as a Greek living abroad, it’s extremely painful and humiliating to watch this slow but disastrous collapse.


The song “Mikri Patrida” (Small fatherland), comes lively to my ears

…Small fatherland, my body and start My land you, my breath and air…


I was working in Greece, in ‘09/’10, as the head of my company’s affiliate business when the crisis began. Even as the first bailout deal was being put in place, I could not see how the numbers would add up, nor did I think the people of Greece would be able bear the consequences. You can’t convince the citizens of a democracy to embrace extreme austerity and poverty – and keep the democracy intact; it’s highly imaginative to expect the same citizens to vote in favor again.

In the years since, that poverty has gotten worse. No surprise, in January ‘15, Greece elected the first, essentially, left wing government in the post 2nd WW Hellenic history, and the rift with the rest of Europe has widened. Until recently, I sensed two general reactions to Greece among the ordinary people of continental Europe. Some, in a clueless according to my opinion generalization, saw the Greek people as lazy tax avoiders who vacation too much; while others viewed Greece with sympathy – if not for the grace of God go I. These days, I hear a lot more anger. “Who do you guys think you are?” “Why should we – the office clerks, teachers and bus drivers of Italy, Spain, and Portugal – pay our debts and your debts, too?”

And so there’s tremendous pressure on Greece not only from the financial institutions and political elite, but also from the citizens of Europe.

As a business person, if I were to introduce a little logic (logiki) into the situation, here’s what I would say.

There is clearly a terrible job marketing this crisis. Whatever the ultimate goal may have been, some stakeholder sensing should have happened well in advance. That way, the new government would have realized that it was important not only to appeal to Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande but also the ordinary people of Europe, of Italy, Spain, Portugal and France. The support of ordinary people would be needed to explain the reasons why we’re all in trouble. A marketing campaign with a sound media strategy – not to mention a clearly defined messaging, USP and target audience – would have helped. How else could we persuade people that DEBT and SIN is not necessarily an INEQUALITY?

How can you explain this math to the average German who’s been brought up with the firm belief that the above is as an EQUALITY?

Sure, a comprehensive approach takes time, effort, expertise and resources to successfully build and execute. But I would argue that well-constructed and resonant messages are easy to develop and spread today with digital technology. You just need appealing stories and ideas to propel them.

If the Greek government could convince the average people of Europe that we’re in this disaster together, Ate would be banished and we’d all – primarily my small fatherland- be better off in the long run.


Christos Tsolkas June 17, 2015

Photo: Anna Hietanen Flickr