This column is not about the Greek Eurozone crisis. How could it be — what more would I or indeed anyone — be able to add to the reams and reams of stuff that has already been written, rewritten, said and resaid about the topic?
The facts are well known: Greeks will vote on July 5 in a snap referendum that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras says will give the country’s long-suffering people the final say on whether he should accept the tough terms of a cash-for-austerity deal from creditors at the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
Tsipras wants Greeks to say no, apparently arguing that creditors are bluffing and will not take the catastrophic step of ejecting Greece from the club of 19 nations that use the euro currency.
The creditors say they’re ready to push the nuclear button. Enough is enough. Throwing Greece out of the Eurozone won’t matter that much. It’s a small economy, the impact will be limited. Eighteen countries will still be in the Eurozone. Life will go on.
Of course it will. Life always goes on. After wars, earthquakes, tsunamis and suicide bombings, life goes on. People come out of the crisis, pull up their socks, get back to work.
But think about it: life is never really the same ever again.
So, Grexit won’t bring Europe to its knees. The Eurozone will not unravel, neither will the European Union. The other eighteen countries of the Eurozone will soldier on even if Greece exits the currency bloc.
Also worth noting: even if it does leave the Eurozone, Greece will still be a member of the 28-nation EU.
But let’s make no mistake: If Greece is ejected from the Eurozone, it will — even further — destroy the heart and soul of this continent.
In fact, the soul of Europe is already half-destroyed. This protracted crisis is taking its toll on Europe’s self-image, self-confidence, its links with ordinary Europeans and its role and influence on the global stage.
Born in Asia, grown up in Europe, I have always admired my adopted continent for its ability to put past animosities behind, to work together for the common good, to make sure war never erupts again in our lifetime and beyond.
I love the variety and the diversity of Europe, the freedom to travel, work and live in any of the 28 countries, the freedom to say and do what I like, without raised eyebrows or reproachful, critical glances.
But Europe is changing. The last 70 years since the end of World War II have been peaceful — but the EU showed its feet of clay during the devastating and blood-soaked Balkan conflict.
Tolerance and human rights are universal values but Europe has been their most determined defender. And yet as thousands of hapless refugees arrive on its shores, Europe is showing an indifference which beggars belief.
As the Far Right narrative of hatred and racism becomes ever shriller, the voices calling for peace and calm are drowned out. No politician has the courage to say that Europe needs immigration and desperately needs foreign skills and talent.
The debate over Greece has polarised Europe, splitting it in half. Those in favour of austerity argue that Greece spends too much, doesn’t save enough money and doesn’t tax its rich people as much as it should.
They want Athens to cut spending, slash pensions and increase taxes.
Others argue equally powerfully that a country in recession cannot be punished even further and that what Greece needs above all is a fiscal stimulus to get back growth and create some desperately-needed jobs.
Greek Prime Minister Tsipras and his Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis have been engaged in a seemingly un-ending battle of wills with their Eurozone colleagues for months.
I have lost count of the number of marathon discussion sessions held so far, the constant tweeting by the key players and the false dawns that a deal was just around the corner.
But something strange appears to have transpired over the last few days. Initial sympathy for the Athens duo appears to be fading, with more and more insiders warning that Tsipras and Varoufakis have lost the plot.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose nation has lent more to Greece than any other in the European Union, is often seen as the architect of Greek austerity. But some of the countries that are now coming down hardest on Greece are the smaller, poorer Eurozone nations that have accepted the bitter pills of austerity and say the Greeks should do so as well.
As the debate grinds on in Brussels, Athens and other capitals, it would be heartening to know that the interest of the Greek people was top of the EU and the Eurozone agenda.
It isn’t. Europe, which was once about the people, the citizens, the demos, is now transformed into an argument about money. It’s about austerity versus growth.
My question is: how will Greece ever get back on track — ever start growing again — without the support, involvement and contribution of its people?