If it has not been clear in our blog posts over the last year, let me state it here plainly: Greece is a land of paradox. It is simultaneously European and Asian. It champions democracy, although unable to elect a government that represents the people. The people are friendly, and yet strangely distant. The riots here demonstrate a deep anger, resulting in horrific destruction, yet retain a very curious respect for human life (reports suggest only minor injuries over the last week). Greece is indeed a land of paradox. As one BBC correspondent wrote,
This is a land of European prices and African wages. Many breadwinners hold down two or three jobs and still can’t make ends meet.
Although a clear generalization and somewhat of an exaggeration, this quote does demonstrate the paradox (in economic terms) that is Greece. As with most paradoxes, one cannot feel truly at home in Greece until one simply accepts it at face value. Pointing out societal contradictions does no good, serving only to alienate one from the culture. Constantly comparing Greek culture to American (or any other) culture is fruitless; one will quickly be driven back to the comfort of his or her home culture. Obviously, at times, one will – and must – compare and contrast, even condemn, but the point is that these must remain as temporary gestures rather than dominating postures, to borrow from Andy Crouch’s terminology. At the risk of sounding somewhat quixotic, one must enter into the paradox that is Greek culture in order to truly understand it.