"What discords will drive Europe into that artificial unity—only dry or drying sticks can be tied into a bundle—which is the decadence of every civilisation?" A Vision, William Butler YeatsThe bundle of sticks Yeats was referring to back in 1937 was of course the fasces, an ancient symbol that subsequently gave us the word fascism, then on the rise in Europe. Today, Europe's decadence - and Greece's tragic demise - is now tied up in another artificial union that is sure to fall apart.
Greece - and the rest of the European Union - should have spent the past five years helping Greece depart the euro. Instead, the artificial unity has been preserved at all costs, and to Ireland's shame we have been playing the part of Germany's loyal Rottweiler in the negotiations, ignoring Germany's own history of debt forgiveness.
The Greeks are far from blameless in this sorry saga: after all, they still manage to spend 2.2% of GDP on defence, far above the EU average and enough to pay for much of the pension and other spending they are now obliged to cut. Though it may be the price of keeping the Colonels happy.
Someone - a Greek as it happens - once said that there is no such place as Greece. The Greek mindset is in a sense 'pre-nationalist': more focused on regional, party and tribal loyalties. Hence the general antipathy to paying taxes. A bit like Ireland until at least the 1980s come to think of it.
But Greece - and the rest of Europe - deserves better than this shoddy treatment of a people whose ancestors gave us much of what makes us Europeans. There's only one thing a bundle of dry sticks is good for, as Yeats witnessed only a few short years after penning his prophetic words.
HT The Archdruid Report for the Yeats quote - I hadn't come across it before.