Russell Shorto

Greece and Greeks

The thing that jumped out at me in reader comments on my article in Sunday’s NYT Magazine about how Greeks are living in the midst of crisis, and in emails to me, was how much raw and ugly vituperation there was directed at ordinary Greeks.  E.g.: “tell me again why i should care about the plight of (lazy, socialist, tax-evading, corrupt, lying, incompetent) greece?”  And: “Profligate, irresponsible, perfidious and immoral: that is how I would characterize the actions of Greece and its people.” More than a few people made comments about the weight of ordinary Greeks I featured in the story (who were also photographed).  The vitriol certainly seems to highlight how interconnected we all feel ourselves to be. What struck me most during my time reporting in Greece was the divide between the people and the system.  Greeks as a people (if one can generalize about any people) are hardworking and almost embarrassingly generous and friendly.  The Greek system is a failure.  Surely the Greek people are responsible for their system. Then again, whatever country you live in, look at your neighbors and at the system you live in; you will surely find discrepancies between the two.  The neighbors will probably seem fundamentally more decent than the system. In the case of Greece that discrepancy is particularly vast.  Yet so many people who reacted to my story went right at the people: at ordinary Greeks, not politicians or bankers.  The quality of mercy is…strained!

The comments from individuals seem in general much more angry and personal than those posted on blogs and websites.  Here is a sampling of the latter…

And how it’s playing in Twitter…

3 Replies to “Greece and Greeks”

  1. Janelle Ward says:

    I really enjoyed this summary of comments. So often articles are written with no follow-up on what the audience says, despite their ability to remark on everything. Fascinating stuff!

  2. Andrew Miller says:

    Hello! Will anyone be translating the article to Greek for the Greeks themselves?

    1. Andrew Miller says:

      Hello! I believe it is important for the Greeks to read your article in Greek. Is this possible?

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About the Author

  I was born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. I have three children (Anna, Eva and Anthony) and three step-children (Reinier, Hector and Benjamin).  I write books of narrative history; I believe history is most meaningful to us when it manifests itself through individuals in conflict. My books have been published in fourteen languages and have won numerous awards.  I am senior scholar at the New Netherland Institute and a contributing writer at the New York Times Magazine. My interests include the past, the present and the future, not necessarily in that order.  

photo by Keke Keukelaar