While the music industry fiddled in Hollywood last night at the 54th Grammy’s, the birthplace of Western civilization—Greece—burned. Literally. After learning of yet another series of unavoidable budget cuts passing their parliament, the over-unionized descendants of Aristotle, Plato and the austere Spartan warrior took to the streets in order to exact revenge on the very leaders they themselves have voted for over the past half-century. Trapped in a self-made quagmire of bailouts and threats of bankruptcy, the people of Greece are lashing out at a system of government that began bribing the current generation’s parents and grandparents with “Bowl of subsidized soup for your birthright?” policies 60 years ago and never looked back. Greek politicians have never had to. Their customers were hooked from the first sweet taste. But just like all good episodes of VH1’s Behind The Music, eventually the narcotic-induced, high-off-the-hog living lifestyle must come to a crashing halt. From Reuters:
“Cinemas, cafes, shops and banks were set ablaze in central Athens as black-masked protesters fought riot police outside parliament. State television reported the violence spread to the tourist islands of Corfu and Crete, the northern city of Thessaloniki and towns in central Greece.”One piece of reporting—“the northern city of Thessaloniki” in particular—stood out to me as I read this latest disheartening account of Grecian madness and mayhem. This isn’t the first time Thessalonians have been in need of a rude wake-up call when it comes to the topic of dependency. Just nigh of 2,000 years ago a man named Paul wrote a letter—two of them, in fact—to citizens of the port city of Thessaloniki. Among a litany of eschatological matters addressed, Paul of Tarsus confronted the rampant problem of idleness, laziness, needless dependency and inappropriate intervention into the lives of one’s neighbors.
“But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one” (I Thess 4:10-12) “For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies.” (II Thess 3:10-11)Some Christians were bringing the church into disrepute by, among other things, depending on wealthier Christians to provide for them rather than earning their own living. It was breeding resentment, jealousy and self-loathing among the community of believers. The problem was spiritual, but manifested itself easier through certain behavior patterns than others. Sure, there were (and are) hard-working people who provide for their families and are consumed with a soul-darkening pride that few outsiders can detect. But just because a marathon runner dies of a heart attack that is no reason to proclaim that exercising and not exercising are equally beneficial. Laziness, greed and ungratefulness are the seeds of destruction in even the most pious, kindest person. Paul knew and warned against this. Greece is nearing societal rock-bottom because of this. The United States, meanwhile, sees all of this and has chosen to lube up their proverbial snow saucer with Clark Griswold’s special welfare state wax and is currently plummeting down the gorge of cultural collapse toward fiscal ruin at an alarming rate. If the violence in Greece is hard to wrap your mind around, think of it like this: When bundled together over decades, things like free health care, education, guaranteed salaries and early retirement become “rights.” We know and love “rights” here in America more than almost anything else. We’re rightly proud of our Bill of Rights. The procurement of civil rights for minorities is one of our nation’s most noble chapters. We defer to the people who possess the “right of way” out on the road. Once something is deemed a “right,” all bets are off in terms of how the citizenry will react if that “right” is ever taken away. Someone my age, a young man in his 20s over in Greece, knows nothing but government-funded everything, union membership and a prevalent “Ask not what you can do for your country, but what your country can do…” attitude permeating his cultural experience. I have to ask myself: What would I do if someone took away the Bill of Rights—or “reduced” any of the freedoms therein? I would absolutely be inclined to take to the streets if the right to freely assemble or petition my government with grievances were removed from federal law. Granted, I would not burn down my local Starbucks or a RedBox machine to prove my point, but I’d be prepared to do something a tad more substantial than blog about the reduction of my rights. When a country builds its government and economy upon the redistribution of wealth and policies that reward the worst behaviors among them, things can only end one way. Same goes for the individual who chooses (or is allowed) to live off the hard work of others. The moral decay is inevitable, even if on the outside everything appears fine for a time. Thessaloniki is emblematic now, as it was in Paul’s time, of human nature. My intent here is not to dump on the Greeks; it’s to remind all of us—including myself—that there are better ways to live than others. There are better ways to organize a society than others.
“Work with your hands … so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one”