A Short Historical Background
Modern Greek bureaucracy, which is characterized by this sort of ambiguous western-Oriental “aftertaste”, is a “dish” that came down to us from the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire and which has also been seasoned with a great variety of heavy Ottoman “spices”. In the Byzantine and Ottoman empires people could buy most of the public offices. If you dreamed of a career as a church beggar, for instance, the priest had to get his commission in order to reserve for
you a seat on the church steps. If the church was a cathedral the profits were high and so was the commission. If on the other hand you dreamed yourself as the Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire, first of all you had to have loads of money to bribe the sultan. Second of all you had to be a serial killer in order to make sure that no one would get your spot. In the Ottoman Empire, for example, the patriarchal throne was auctioned many times and was offered to the man who paid most handsomely. He in turn would
lose the throne, along with his head, to another man who’d pour more gold into the sultan’s coffers.
The Foundation of Today’s Greek Bureaucracy
Today’s Greece has one of the greatest Constitutions in the whole Civilized Western World and some of the most democratic, humane and philosophically based laws one can find in the Human Rights Markets in our entire solar system. Sometimes these laws are quite surreal, but that’s another story and has to do with the Greeks’ love of the arts, Picasso, Dali and Surrealism. So, anyway, things like bureaucracy have no place – Alas, not in Greece. But…but there
is that damned Byzantine-Ottoman legacy and those last minute amendments in the house of the parliament that make room for more public servants, who in fact are no less than an immeasurable army of much needed voters who set in motion this gruesome bureaucratic machine. Almost a third of the Greek population are public servants in one way or another.
The Taxpayers’ Response to Bureaucrats
Greek citizens hate bureaucrats the way alley cats hate stray dogs. They believe that they’re all corrupt and lazy bedbugs. They speak badly about them. They make nasty jokes about them. They attack them verbally and some times even physically –many bureaucrats quite often find themselves in hospital beds. Other than that most Greeks dream of a government job because there is a certain safety (nobody can give you the boot) and great benefits; for example you don’t
have to work and that’s good enough. Besides you can also have a second (real) job or even take advantage of your government position to earn some extra money by helping out some small or big time law violators, and that’s even better. And oh, you can just let a stupid colleague of yours do your job at the office. Probably he or she is a prude anyway and a fussy workaholic with heavy lenses, cheap clothes and old fashioned ideas – a true office idiot!
The Bureaucrats’ Response to Taxpayers
All bureaucrats see taxpayers the way alley cats see mice. They believe that they’re all some sort of mafia characters, who try to trick the government or steal government money (their money) and therefore they must suffer. They chase them everywhere, they pester them, they attack them verbally and sometimes even physically –many taxpayers often find themselves in hospital beds. Other than that most bureaucrats love taxpayers the way leeches love buttocks.
Conclusion #1: Put the Blame not on Mame but on the Greek Voters
Today’s Greek bureaucracy is built on a very sturdy foundation; namely all the Greek voters, who flock to the offices of MPs and government ministers in an attempt to get public posts in exchange for their votes; much like the people from the Third World who sell one of their kidneys to get themselves a better life and who finally get more misery instead.
Conclusion #2: Corrupt politicians
We are faced with a vicious cycle: the politicians in their despair to get a parliament seat, and therefore power, bribe the voters with government jobs, and the voters in turn bribe the politicians with their votes. Who’s to blame? To ask this silly question is like asking “what came to being first, the egg or the chicken?” Only God knows.
Conclusion #3: Bureaucracy is Here to Stay
All Greeks, besides being free spirits and notorious party animals, are potential bureaucrats no matter what they say.
Stavros Mellissinos: Poet-Philosopher-Artist-Sandalmaker
For assistance in getting through the Greek bureaucracy see www.athensguide.com/dorian
For more information read Greek Politicks for Dummies