In the «Τις Πταίει;» or ‘Who is to blame?’ manifesto Trikoupis blamed the king for Greece’s terrible political instability, in particular, for his by-passing public opinion as expressed in elections, in his selection of prime ministers. Eerily enough, Trikoupis presided over Greece’s valiant attempts to secure bailout loans and that country’s ultimate declaration of bankruptcy in 1893.
Listening to a song on the radio I had not heard for an age, I have come to the radical conclusion that it is neither the politicians nor the banks, the world powers nor our enemies who have contrived, jointly or severally, to bring the fair land of Greece once more to its knees. Instead, blame can be ascribed fairly and squarely to the Greek popular band ZIΓΚ ΖΑΓΚ, who enjoyed the peak of their fame in the late eighties and early nineties – that is, during the period in which the current crisis has had its genesis.
The hirsute members of ZIΓΚ ΖΑΓΚ have been a source of concern for me ever since they released a song whose lyrics, είμαι ερωτευμένος με μια δεκαεξάρα, κι ότι κι αν μου λένε, εγώ δεν δίνω δεκάρα (I’m in love with a sixteen year old and do not give ten cents for whatever anyone else says) appear, at their worst, to evidence a contravention of the Victorian Crimes Act, and at their slightest, an incitement to civil disobedience.
ZIΓΚ ΖΑΓΚ further provide cause for disquiet with their unsubtly named song Βόλτα με κλεμμένο αμάξι (Ride in a Stolen Vehicle), in which the object of the bard’s affection is invited to come for a ride in a stolen vehicle because her lover is poor but loves her even more, possibly in anticipation of Timbaland’s The Way Am Are, a generation later.
«Είμαι άφραγκος μωρό μου, τι να κάνω. Σ’ αγαπάω όμως κάτι παραπάνω. Έλα, έλα, κοντά μου έλα, έλα, έλα φύγαμε, έλα. Βόλτα με κλεμμένο αμάξι». Is this truly a song about the straitened circumstances of youth, or, indulging our paranoia for just a moment longer, are we witnessing something much more insidious: the justification of theft?
Without a doubt ZIΓΚ ΖΑΓΚ want us to think that they are merely idolising the transient state of youth. Yet in the aptly-named 1997 hit Ευτυχώς που ξέχασα να μεγαλώσω (Lucky I’ve Forgotten to Grow Up), the band makes this prescient observation of the future state of Greece: «Σε παίζουνε στα ζάρια και σε χάνουν κάθε μέρα εδώ πέρα. και σβήνουνε τα ίχνη της αυγής τα μεσημέρια τα ξεφτέρια». (They gamble you away on the dice here every day, and at midday, the smart-alecs wipe away all remains of the dawn.)
Is this smug foreknowledge both of successive Greek government policy and the economic stylings of Varoufakis? In actual fact, are the nefarious ZIΓΚ ΖΑΓΚ, by their vocal celebration of youth, seeking to lull the Greek people into a state the infantilism necessary to allow their politicians to systematically bring the country to ruin?
The answer lies a few years earlier in their 1992 song Γεια σου Έλληνα (Hail the Greek) which enjoyed unprecedented popularity. By means of its pernicious verses, I contend that ZIΓΚ ΖΑΓΚ single-handedly attempted to brainwash the erstwhile humble, hardworking, modest and self-effacing Greek into the extravagant, loud-mouthed, entitled spendthrift that, if the troika is to be believed, is at the root of the current crisis.
Let us consider the prescriptions embedded within the lyrics: «Λένε πως δεν νοιάζεσαι για τίποτα, ότι δε σου καίγεται καρφί& κι όλοι σε κοιτάζουνε καχύποπτα, οι πονηροί». By saying that “they say that you don’t care about anything and that everyone is suspicious of you, those shifty people”, the band is inculcating a sense of nonchalant irresponsibility into the Greeks, while simultaneously puffing up their pride.
They go on to claim that: «Λες πως σε λερώνουνε με ψέματα, ότι σε ζηλεύουν δηλαδή. Είναι κάποιων άλλων μαγειρέματα, δε φταις εσύ» .
Here ZIΓΚ ΖΑΓΚ again embed within the Greek a false sense of superiority and irresponsibility. According to them, nothing is the Greek’s fault. He can do no wrong. Instead, it is those who are jealous of him, who spread lies about him that are to blame for his woes. Accordingly, the band is surreptitiously divesting the Greek of the necessary introspection required to conduct an analysis of his deteriorating condition.
The manner in which ZIΓΚ ΖΑΓΚ methodically sets about to prepare the Greek for his fall becomes ever so more blatant in the chorus: «Γεια σου Έλληνα, γεια σου δαίμονα, είσ’ ο πρώτος σε όλα, μεγάλε, ψηλά το κεφάλι. Γεια σου Έλληνα, γεια σου δαίμονα, τσιφτετέλι χορεύεις τρελό, και όπου σε βγάλει».
By praising the Greek’s intelligence as daemonic, telling him he is the first at everything and should therefore keep his chin up and finally, by suggesting that his problems can be superficially cured by an exotic eastern dance, and “wherever it goes”, not only has the band succeeded in fuelling the Greek’s vanity beyond all point of return, it has also achieved the Geek’s complete incapacity for responsible action. From now on, all acts, of self-preservation or otherwise will be as ill-conceived and as useless as an eastern dance. That is, the Greek will be happy to engage in such activities, as they will make him feel he is doing something, but thanks to the evil ZIΓΚ ΖΑΓΚ, will be unable to perceive the futility of his actions.
In the final verse, apart from inciting the Greek to be «της κομπίνας .. πρίγκιπας», (ie. the prince of scams) ZIΓΚ ΖΑΓΚ cruelly predict a narrowing of the easy path for the Greeks. Instead, however, of suggesting solutions or steeling the Greeks for their trial to come, the band falsely predicts a rosy and easily surmountable future course: «Λένε ότι κλείσανε οι δρόμοι σου, μα εσύ με χίλια προσπερνάς& κι ύστερα ζητάνε τη συγγνώμη σου κι εσύ γελάς».
Of note is the duplicitous prediction that not only will the Greek surmount his difficulties without pain or struggle, but will also triumph over the troika, which will be compelled to seek an apology, said statement of contrition to be met by the Greek with peals of laughter.
What cuts one to the quick is that later, in their song «Γαλάζιο Ταξίδι» (Blue Journey), a clear metaphor for Greece’s modern history if there ever was one,) the perfidious ZIΓΚ ΖΑΓΚ proceed to completely contradict their assurance that the future will be one of smooth sailing. Instead, it is envisaged as a veritable Golgοtha: «Ξέρω καλά το δρόμο που μου ζητά για να βαδίσω/Τα μονοπάτια τα καυτά που πρέπει να περάσω/ Για να σε φτάσω».
By this time however, the Greek, as metamorphosed by ZIΓΚ ΖΑΓΚ, is a shallow creature, a slave of his passions and a dependent upon the Greek state, unable to heed the warnings, let alone do anything constructive about them. Therefore, the band has indemnified itself against liability cleverly, warning us that as they know the road that needs to be trodden upon in order to reach [financial security/the bailout/exit from the euro], and even the by-lanes and short cuts, which are apparently quite hot, there is nothing that their poor listeners, divested of all their critical and creative faculties, can do except follow them blindly.
As if that were not enough, having lulled everyone into a state of political narcolepsy, ZIΓΚ ΖΑΓΚ, in their height of arrogance, see fit, in the song «Παραμύθια της Χαλιμάς» to indulge in a bit of triumphant self-criticism of their own, admitting that they are telling their people untruths and discarding them as so much refuse: «Με τελειώνεις και με πετάς/ Μου λες παραμύθια της Χαλιμάς/ Με τελειώνεις και με πετάς στην άκρη του δρόμου.»
If Greece is ever to emerge from the current crisis with any sort of comprehensible social structure or finances, the nefarious activities of ZIΓΚ ΖΑΓΚ must be accounted for. Furthermore, the question as to why Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and his immediate three predecessors and ZIΓΚ ΖΑΓΚ have never appeared in a room together requires an urgent answer. In the meantime, let us console ourselves in our hysteria with this offering, a telling description of our modern times and the movement in the Athens market, from the masters of delusion’s prophetic 1997 song «Χωρίς Σκοπό» (Pointless):
«Χωρίς σκοπό, χωρίς σκοπό
Έτσι μ’ αρέσει ν’ αγαπώ
Δεν λογαριάζω, ούτε μετράω
Δεν αγοράζω απόψε, δεν πουλάω»
* Dean Kalymniou is a Melbourne solicitor and freelance journalist.