Monday, 8 July 2013

Greece is a Startup: The world of emergence and disruption


I have been going Greece almost every year since the 2010 currency crisis started.  On the surface it is a Greek tragedy: the city is dirty, full of graffiti and lined with angry people.  Shops and businesses have closed down everywhere.  Greece is in crisis.

I did go to Greece in early 2007.  Athens then was very expensive, the main areas were full of corporate events, and it was hard to get a hotel.  Things have changed so much.  And it is fair to say it has been a decline.  But everything new needs a decline.

I have also recently been to Octoberfest in Germany: smart clean German city with smart clean Germans confident that they have found the proper route for all of the EU.  Its hard not to conclude that Germany has won and Greece has lost.

But on a deeper level this is what I have observed.  Everything in Germany is doing so well these days that only conventional businesses are able to operate.  Germany is rich and clean but boring and unengaging, and frankly Germans are more and more seeming isolated from the larger time, their recent economic prosperity (after a lost decade of stagnation) has isolated them.  They are happy to lecture Europe on what to do, but seem not only not interested when their mandated solutions fail to deliver results but actually fully content that it does not work.

The German's seem to reverting to some kind of Hegelian idealism.  History has a direction, and the German obsessions with time and order are the ultimate expression of a spiritual battle against Chaos.  The fact that Spain and Greece don't get the same benefits from budget cuts as Germans imagine they are getting is generally attributed to a failure of the southern people to share in the higher values of the Germanic.

I know this sounds harsh, but I have to say again and again this is what I have seen and heard.

I will go further and say that I find Athens, with all its problems, a more interesting place right now.  Not only is their a greater sense of social experimentation among people especially the young, but the collapse of a cheap money economy has opened huge new spaces for new kinds of social innovation.  There are amazing bars, restaurants, galleries, and spaces that challenge conventional categorisations.

It is far easy to find innovative high quality high concept projects in Athens than in Germany.  Frankly its somewhat challenging to even find a good well priced bar and restaurant in Germany.  In Athens I have found a number of places that have combined art, music, food and drink in a a real experience.  The graffiti covered streets of Athens are providing a chance for more experiments in culture, and Athens is way cooler than Berlin these days.

There is a necessary creative anarchy that is at work now.  My point is I think Germany is kind of the kid who didn't get chicken pocks during a local epidemic.  I would not be surprised if in 10 years we are talking about the innovative economies of Greece and Spain and wondering how the stagnate Germans found themselves left behind.

But only time will tell.


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