I was reading the latest news on Greece’s economic woes when it hit me that although the story datelines were current and the opinions reported were those of the new folks in charge of all sides of international efforts, nothing I read was actually new. It had all been said—and tried—before. I felt as if I were watching one of those looping videos in a Wal-Mart that every three minutes repeated some “new earth shattering housecleaning discovery.”
But for Greece, its loop de loop cycle of “new” miracle cures was more like three months.
Nine months ago: “The answer to Greece’s problems is more taxes.”
Six months ago: “The answer to Greece’s problems is austerity.”
Three months ago: “The answer to Greece’s problems is even more taxes.”
Today: “The answer to Greece’s problems is increased austerity.”
It reminded me of a parable on the wisdom of making a choice between bad and worse alternatives and sticking to it.
A man was summoned by his king to answer for crimes that the king believed he’d committed. But considering himself a fair king, he allowed the man to choose between two punishments: ten lashes of the whip or consuming a cauldron of the vilest concoction imaginable.
The man looked at the giant holding the whip and chose the cauldron.
But as he began to drink he became so violently ill that he begged to be whipped instead.
After the second lash he screamed for the beating to stop and went back to the cauldron.
But as much as he feared the whip, at the first taste he begged again for the lash.
Then he begged for the cauldron … and again for the whip … back and forth until his indecision had him nearly drain the cauldron and he’d suffered all ten lashes.
There was a lot of discouraging financial news this week on what Greece is experiencing, but what troubled me most was reading that 500,000 Greeks (almost 5% of the population) have no income at all, 45% of all the unemployed (a 17.5% unemployment rate) are under 24, and the country’s suicide rate is now the highest in Europe.
I don’t think there is any question that the great majority of Greeks believe a far-reaching, thoughtful plan to get Greece moving again, and determined political will on the part of Greek and international leadership to see it through, is long overdue. They know the process will be painful and drawn out. But they also know that the inevitable results of indecision will be far, far worse.