The Bat Girl

The day before Victory Day we received a short, yet welcomed report, from our field agent on our northwestern borders, that distant place of fertile pastures, tranquil lakes and mythical beasts called Serprerps. Having spent the best part of the winter underground, living off his short supplies and sleeping off the freezing cold, our agent was able to make contact with the local tribes. At first the simple-minded inhabitants of Serprerps took fright from the wild appearance of our agent, a bear-like brute so typical of the rank-and-file of the Field Commission of which he is a lowly functionary. Thankfully, he was able to make friends after several tribulations, and went on to organize a display of fireworks that, apparently, was a real winner with the children.

Quid pro quo, the tribesmen led him to their sacred caves, the first time any from our race was granted permission to that mysterious place.  Clerks should take note: our agent’s mission has been accomplished and, upon his return to the capital – whenever that may be – he must be presented with a class G minus governmental citation.

According to the report, the caves form a sponge-like complex, not unlike human brain tissue, buried underneath the muddy bottom of the lakes. To get there, one must take a boat and sail to a secret spot where the lake water is siphoned three hundred meters into the ground. It is a perilous journey for if you do not know your way out you will end up been sucked into the siphon forever. But the local tribes know their way well in and out of the maze of galleries and caves. Our agent landed on soft ground, at the bottom of the vortex and, following his guides, descended to the caves. His report is short on detail, but we understand that he has no intention of returning. Scribbling quickly on the last page that much was there to be further explored, he passed the report to the tribal chief and it is through the good services of this uncultured but loyal subject that we today, ten years later, are able to read it.

What is particularly curious in the report is what is displayed on the opposite side of the last page: a picture of a person. Our forensic analysts have decreed that the picture was taken accidentally, the result of a rare combination of electrochemical happenstance. Something to do with the scarce light, the composition of the air in the caves and the mould of the paper after been stored under ice for months. Anyway, the picture shows a young woman with the wings of a bat. She hangs upside down from the ceiling of a cave. Her eyes are bright red. Who was that girl and what role she played in the decision of our agent to stay in the caves remains a mystery.

A young researcher who happened to delve into a relevant entry of the Grand Book of Knowledge has suggested that the girl is not real and that the picture is in fact a projection of our agent’s thoughts. To substantiate her hypothesis she has correlated a local tribal myth that describes a time when every man and woman lived in those caves and all reality was made of pure thought and nothing else. We are also told that this researcher has applied for the post of field agent and asked to seek the caves and our lost agent too; but Central Directorate has decreed that the bat girl story was too weak a reason to fund a long and perilous expedition, not with the way our Empire’s finances are going. We agree and file this complementary report to the Archives for future reference.


Why don’t they get it?

Whilst attending the World Conference of Science Journalists in Doha I fell ill with a cold and a fever. It was that terrible air-conditioning at the Conference Centre that did me in, and as a result I ended up spending a good time of my stay in my hotel room, in front of the television, watching events unfolding in Greece as the Parliament debated the new austerity measures.

During the last thirty years, the Greek political system – which includes every party in the Parliament, left right and centre – has created a bizarre, corrupt and quasi-socialist society in Greece, where small special-interest groups exercise disproportionate influence on the political process. Worse, at least two generations of young Greeks have been raised to believe it is their “right” to find secure and well-paid employment, low-cost but high-standard housing, free heath, etc. This childish illusion that somehow “money exists” was vividly, and ironically, articulated by the incumbent Prime Minister Mr. Papandreou during his election campaign. Mr. Papandreou believed that then, and he still believes now. How could he? Is he mad? No he is not. Read on.

The political system ofGreece, faced with a national catastrophe, has managed to turn the tables by cleverly manipulating Eurozone’s weaknesses. The new finance minister bragged to his European colleagues that “Greeceneeds Europe as much as Europe needs Greece”. Did they send him off with a kick up his fat butt? No sir. He was sent away with another 12 billion Euros of bailout money. This money, just like the previous one, will be used so that the minimum of change, or reform, takes place. Don’t bee fooled to imagine, or hope, that any of the laws passed in the Greek Parliament will be enacted. Apart from increasing taxes and lowering salaries things will remain the same.

Greece can only change if the Greek State and its crony statism are dismantled and reduced to the absolute minimum. Nothing less will have any significant effect. Alas, very few inGreeceget that, and even fewer support it. The political elite will not do it because this will mean the end of them. But the majority of the people cannot contemplate a free marketGreeceeither. As said, generations of young Greeks have been raised in the “Greek dream” of laidback and secure jobs in the public sector, long holidays and early retirements. If you can believe it, students at technical universities hated research because it created wealth! So they went and destroyed labs on a systematic basis. When you figure that out send me an email.

The masses of protestors who gather in Syntagma Square shout for everything except reform. In fact, they shout for all the blessings of Greek socialist utopia to return. For the bad dream to end and for every Greek to awake in the good old times. They want to pressure the government to make a deal with Greece’s creditors so that the huge debt is forgiven. So that Greece may start anew, i.e. to borrow money at low interest rates in order to feed its vast armies of public servants and thus grow an equally unbearable debt ten years down the line. They need not worry. Their government thinks the same way and is trying exactly that.

Greece will never change unless it bears the burden of default. The obvious problem with that is that all bets are off when government cannot pay salaries and bank runs make money disappear and prices soar. Given the political immaturity of Greeks and the lack of credible political alternatives it is not impossible to imagine anarchy, a failed state in the Med, a Somalia of  the Aegean.

Caught between Scylla and Charybde Greece could have benefited from visionary and truly reformist leadership at the helm of Pasok or New Democracy. Someone with the guts and intelligence to go against his/hers survival instincts; a self-destructive constructivist who would dear to bring down the statist monster that sucks every bit of creativity and talent that this country has. Short-lived hope: the current leadership of the two parties does not fit this description, not by a very long shot.

So what will happen? I am not a prophet but I know that one: nothing will be decided inAthens, neither inside nor outside the Parliament. As always, decisions forGreecewill be taken abroad.