My father's family immigrated to America when he was a teenager. There's a good reason they left Greece: It was a mess. And it's still a mess. It's not that Greeks aren't willing to work hard. Ever been to a Greek diner? They're open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But for more than a century, most of the hardest workers have left Greece if they could, rather than suffer through wars, poverty and corruption. Brain drain ensued.
Greece got into this depression by borrowing billions of dollars that a small, rural country can't possibly repay. Before we cast the ninth stone, however, let's remember that America's subprime mortgage crisis is not yet cold in the ground. Have some empathy for the struggling families that inevitably bear the brunt of economic disasters, despite the bankers and lawmakers who continue to encourage and profit from irresponsible behavior.
The European cure for Greece is to continue bleeding the country, rather like leeching someone who's in a coma. Raise taxes (and collect them properly), slash salaries and pensions -- and if all that doesn't work, leave the eurozone. Harnessing the innovative American spirit, I propose that more creative thinking is needed, like the recent attempt to crowdfund a Greek bailout on Indiegogo.
Here are 26 more intriguing ideas from my network of entrepreneurs, journalists and philanthropists, not including Muslim American comedian Aman Ali's helpful offer to "spray some Windex on it" and a few vague suggestions like "Bitcoin" and "find oil." Add your own, and perhaps someone will take us up on it.
- Create a global market for Greek liquor (Ouzo, Raki, Tsipouro, Retsina), similar to what we've seen happen with yogurt.
Get Bollywood to deem Greece the new Alps, complete with big-budget love songs and dance numbers around the islands and archeological sites. Negotiate the return of the Elgin Marbles from the British Museum, kicking off a year of cultural festivities around Greece. Get a major research university to open a campus in Greece, like Cornell in Qatar and Technion-Israel in New York City, and develop more study abroad programs for university students from around the world. Create a signature international sports event. There's a New York marathon and a Boston marathon. Why not a Marathon marathon? Open Mount Athos to women a few times a year. Instead of selling off islands, offer long-term leases. Create a contest where people have to recreate the Odyssey journey from Turkey, perhaps in traditional or homemade vessels, culminating in a festival in Ithaka. Birthright Greece program (modeled after Birthright Israel) to bring Greek diaspora teens and young adults to Greece for 10-day cultural trips. Bring back the royal family. (No public subsidy; maybe just give them some land no one wants.) This would change the headlines, bring in glamour, tourism and philanthropy patrons. Make it easy for anyone with a Greek grandparent to claim citizenship, and make it significantly easier to renew your Greek passport abroad and deal with a married name change. Apply Israel's kibbutz model to rural, isolated communities. Legalize, tax and regulate the sin industries: gambling, marijuana and prostitution. If not nationally, could try some of this on specific islands. Annual reenactment of the "300" battle: People in costume march from Sparta and other parts of Greece to Thermopylae. Tiny islands: Good place for fancy European boarding schools and/or high-security prisons? Build a major theme park that showcases Greek mythology and the modern takes on popular characters, like Percy Jackson, Aquaman and Wonder Woman. Create a Hercules fitness regimen (think how Zumba, Bikram yoga and CrossFit have gone global) with a center headquartered near Sparta that can license trainers and holds competitions. Establish a Daedalus human flight engineering center. Get Boeing, Airbus, Richard Branson and Stelios Haji-Ioannou involved. Bring in Starbucks to open a European training center in a Greek city, similar its initiative to do this for 15 distressed American cities. Nescafé and Costa Coffee, too. (Greeks love coffee and certainly need more jobs: win-win.) Invite James Cameron to explore deep sea depths around Santorini for an "Atlantis" film. Invest in Greek cuisine. Greece deserves a Michelin-starred restaurant, a molecular gastronomy center (like what Ferran Adrià did for Spain) and a Cordon Bleu equivalent. Round up the Greek diaspora comedy stars -- Jennifer Aniston, Tina Fey, Zach Galifianakis, Demetri Martin, David Sedaris, Amy Sedaris, John Stamos, Rita Wilson, Nia Vardalos, etc. -- for an entertaining fundraising campaign. Telethon? Series of short films? Ouzo bucket challenge? Challenge them to come up with something. Arianna Huffington, Maria Menounos and George Stephanopoulos could emcee. Create EUcorps (not to be confused with the military Eurocorps). Like AmeriCorps and PeaceCorps, would organize programs to bring European Union students and retirees to less-developed regions, starting with Greek villages, for a year or two of service projects. Bring in Goodwill Industries to train people and create jobs, while providing centers for donations and cheap shopping. Turn Eurovision into a benefit concert. (And finally get one of America's 2,000 channels in to air it.)Make Greece the permanent host of the Summer Olympics.
Got one to add?
Based in Seattle, Nicole Neroulias Gupte is the communications manager at Philanthropy Northwest. Follow her on Twitter.