Picture this scenario: You greet a charismatic-looking man for the first time. One who is revered in his field and (you’ve been told) knows what he’s talking about. You’re interested in hearing his proposal – maybe even open to a possible investment. Seated face-to-face, you nod in encouragement as your guest begins by counting the advantages of his plan on his right-hand; at the same time his left reaches down to his crotch. It’s a single swift motion – so quick it’s over before you’ve properly registered what happened.
Considerately, you brush it off and try get back to the conversation when it happens again. Now you can’t help doubt whether he’s aware of what he’s doing. In between sound bites and a conscious effort to keep your eyes above his waist, you engage in an internal interrogation: “Is this considered normal where he comes from?” “Did he see me notice?” Which then turns to the more elaborate: “God, could he have lice?” “An STD?” You might even irrationally contemplate swiping the seat with a Dettol wipe post-meeting, when the silence brings you back to the room. He looks at you inquisitively, “So, do you have any questions?”
Giving into an itch is natural. Reflexive even. That the person in the observer’s seat will shift their focus from what you’re saying to questioning your upbringing and sexual hygiene also boils down to basic human nature. Leaving aside the content of present Greco-European encounters, diplomatic relations between Greece and its lenders have deteriorated because Greece’s new ministers have succeeded in distracting and detracting from their message just as effectively as if they spent their meetings with their hands glued to their crotch.
Sure, one could argue that getting dressed as if you’re going to a bar in Athens on a Friday night when you’re meeting Germany’s Finance Minister in Berlin on a Thursday morning is in keeping with your values (a person whose only concern is the politics at hand and be damned with the gimmick of stiff dress codes!) Indeed, if the reform of etiquette in European politics is the key message the Greek Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, wanted to make then that would surely be the way to go. Unfortunately, believing it shouldn’t have hijacked his political agenda doesn’t seem like it was enough of a safeguard against it actually doing so. If Rafael Nadal were to walk onto Centre Court in July wearing neon red and yellow, the headline wouldn’t be the excellence of his play, but his transformation into an arrogant git for having rebuffed Wimbledon’s white-only rule.
Varoufakis is joined on his counterintuitive path by Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras who, in his resolve to demand Germany pay war reparations to Greece for damages inflicted in World War II, also seems to be suffering a disconnect with common sense. Let’s say the question of reparations is not a petty revenge tactic. Let’s even agree that Greece’s debt restructuring and its campaign for the fulfilment of reparations are 100% separate. Why ignore basic rules of diplomacy and foreground the reparations request at a moment where it will inevitably compromise the validity of both missions? Greece’s current top duo continue to behave as if they’re scratching their balls in their interactions with Europe’s political elite. What remains a mystery is why they think there’s an itch in the first place.