The Full Catastrophe: Travels Among the New Greek Ruins
by James Angelos
This was a hard read only because there are so many facts and explanations in the text. They are needed, but slow down reading a bit. I found the best way to read this book was one chapter at a time. The chapters are relatively long, but this strategy works well as because each chapter really illustrates a key contributing factor to the political, social, and economic problems in Greece.
There are a lot of visits and interviews with people from all levels of Greek society – from old grandmothers that collected blindness disability when she wasn’t blind, to the doctor and prefect that signed for her to be able to. It covers them a lot of ground with people, from immigrant Muslims to immigration officers and people who can’t stand them, to politicians and civil servants.
This book covers all that I heard in the news- the corruption in Greek society and government, tax evasion, nationalistic and anti-German feelings that led to the rise of Syriza, racial and ethnic tensions that led to the rise of the Golden Dawn. It is all covered and well. The chapter on German relations was extraordinarily well written, I felt. It really brought the human element to life, and I really felt like I’d gained a more comprehensive understanding. Some of the personal histories about made me want to cry – the mass executions, 300,000 starving. Part of this chapter is the story about Manolis Glezos as a young man, daring to remove the German flag of the occupation. I think the author used these stories so well- I felt a gained a much deeper understanding of how the politics of anti-German sentiment gained so much traction and power. Later, discussing immigration issues the Greeks have, I could see The Golden Dawn became almost an inevitability.
The book is highly quotable in many places. It’s funny in others- imagine a country using aerial surveillance to root out people’s swimming pools, while defense spending for NOTHING that ever materializes is a black hole in politician’s pockets, or in a civil service system that considers working behind a computer such a hardship that workers need 6 extra paid days off a year for having to do it.
It is often as much an examination of the broader issues of democracy and capitalism, and political corruption as it is of the Greek situation specifically. I learned a lot from this book. What is so scary is that I see some of these same problems creeping up in America. I know I’d always thought of ‘political corruption’ as being a problem mainly with politicians. This book really illustrates how the participation in rampant corruption, the kind that bankrupts a country, actually can span from the poor and powerless to the highest social classes.
Disclosure: Disclosure: I was provided an unfinished product- an advanced reading copy, for purposes of review. This post does contain an affiliate link(s), however, Amazon has helped me arrange my account so that my payout can never be reached. I like the affiliate tools for the convenience only, it is never my intention to profit from my reviews of any item.