The Corner

Yanis and his Yanissaries: A Cult Begins

Blogging the other day about about Greece’s new finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, I wrote that there’s no beating the media appeal of a leftist with a bit of style (Guevara being a prime example), noting this piece of gush from the BBC:

Within a fortnight as Greece’s finance minister, he has rocked up to the UK’s Downing Street in a leather trench coat and electric blue shirt . . .

Now Reuters reports this

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has become an improbable heartthrob in Germany, where his demands to renegotiate the nation’s debt fell on deaf ears but his charm and masculine appearance have not gone unnoticed. Germany’s ZDF public television even lampooned its own news anchor for enthusiastic comparing the minister with Hollywood tough guy Bruce Willis, while Stern magazine published a gushing article on Varoufakis’s “classical masculinity”.

Varoufakis is without doubt a man full of charisma,” ZDF anchor Marietta Slomka said on air. “Visually, he’s someone you could imagine starring in a film like ‘Die Hard 6′ – he’s an interesting character.”

The host of the ZDF parody “Heute Show”, Oliver Welke, ridiculed his “lovestruck” colleague over the 53-year-old Varoufakis but admitted: “He is an incredibly attractive man.”

Varoufakis’s casual tie-less appearance – especially the fact that he does not tuck his dress shirts in and leaves their tops unbuttoned – was an unlikely focus of news reports in Germany, an unusual angle in a country whose leaders have been firmly insisting on Greece fulfilling austerity pledges.

“What makes Yanis Varoufakis a sex icon” was a headline in conservative newspaper Die Welt over a story that raved about “his balding head, cool style and muscular Yamaha motorcycle”.

Stern magazine wrote that Varoufakis’s appearance reminded Germans of Greek heroes immortalised in marble statues, even though media elsewhere in Europe have said he looked more like a night club bouncer.

“He rattles around Athens on a big, black motorcycle, never tucks his shirts in and radiates a sort of classical masculinity that you only usually see in Greek statues,” Stern wrote. “He’s not one of the world’s most respected economists, but a man whose good looks separate him from all the grey suits.”

“He’s someone you take notice of,” wrote Focus newsweekly.

Germany’s Stylebook fashion magazine also took notice. “His cool style is something you can’t miss,” Stylebook wrote under a story entitled “poor but sexy”.

Then there was this piece of artwork, a joke, but not (but it did make me laugh).

And from the Huffington Post (of course!), this by Nancy Kotting:

Political handlers will study Yanis Varoufakis as his popularity grows and they will begin to question the rules of the game they currently abide by. God help the freshman congressman who first shows up at a news conference with his shirttails untucked, emulating the aura of audacious non-conformity so easily carried by Varoufakis….

I believe Yanis Varoufakis represents the grounded, value-based intellectual of a leader who has what it takes to survive the relentless demands for transparency in today’s environment of global connectivity. In the few interviews thus far, we have seen these attributes in action and they work beautifully. How refreshing it is to witness a leader relying upon his own intellect rather than pithy sound bites fed through earpieces whose source is nothing short of corrupt in purpose. Varoufakis owns his intelligence, he communicates with a passion derived of experience and wisdom and the result is a man that is capable of earning the trust of millions as a leader.

An example of Varoufakis clarity of thought and some hints as to his value base is revealed in this video published three days ago. It reveals a leader who has processed some of the great thinkers of our era and is clearly calling upon a body of intellectual thought never before utilized in the global arena. In listening to him speak I found myself recalling the text by cultural historian and evolutionary theorist Riane Eisler entitled The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics

And who would not?

Back in the real world, The Economist takes a look at some of the calculations surrounding the dance that is now underway:

If the economics of this latest iteration of the euro crisis are no thornier than before, the politics have turned into a veritable gorse bush. For all the tough talk of firewalls, EU officials are far from relaxed about the risk of Greece leaving the euro. Yet the more they offer Syriza, the more they risk undermining moderates elsewhere. This irritates centre-right governments in such countries as Spain and Portugal that have told their voters there is no alternative to austerity and reform; and it scares centre-left parties who stand to lose the most if voters turn to more radical alternatives. (Like many parties rooted in student hard-left politics, Syriza reserves its fiercest scorn for social democrats.) Some officials freely acknowledge that the dilemma is insoluble.

Over at the FT’s Alphaville blog Peter Doyle  throws out this intriguing suggestion:

Syriza would like nothing better now than to see the yields on Spanish, Portuguese, or Italian sovereign debt relative to Germany jump, signalling broader market disquiet—that Grexit may be imminent and that the rump eurozone would be badly destabilized by it—so forcing ECB retreat. So Syriza, in league with Podemos in Spain and prevailing anti-euro Italian political forces, is openly threatening to blow up its own exchange rate regime, the euro, in order to make it work.

And, of course, there’s the (smart) theory from Hugo Dixon of Breaking Views that I discussed here yesterday. Is prime minister Tsipras gambling that he can whip up enough in the way of nationalist fervor, enough them against us, to swing Greeks behind withdrawal from the euro, a currency that they currently want to keep?

In any event, representatives of the Greek government will be talks with EU officials in Brussels tomorrow.

The foreign minister won’t be there, however. He’ll be in Moscow.

Of course he will. 

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