Greeks Bearing Rifts



Wolfgang Schäuble (top left) and Yanis Varoufakis; Dan Boyle

Chaos theory.

Casually-dressed politics.

Academics in power.

Please beware.

Warns Dan Boyle

I’m not a man who’s disposed to violence. Whenever I find myself possessed of such thoughts I have to hit myself to make the thought go away. I vicariously live my violence, sometime through daydreams, more often in nightmares.

One of the more unwelcome visitors to my subconscious is the sullen image of Wolfgang Schäuble, the German federal finance minister. The greyness of his features highlighted by thin lips through which the coldest of language comes, creates an urge in me to slap the face of the man.

A Freudian psychiatrist might attribute this to a guilt complex on my part, that on however a peripheral level I was operating from, I didn’t take the opportunity to physically challenge our German economic overlords.

I have long since wondered what those who criticised this softly softly approach actually had in mind. My inner Walter Mitty has me grabbing the lapels of the errant Teuton, confronting him with my finest Elvis sneer while parroting the best James Cagney dialogue from any of his gangster films. Those most trenchant in their belief of the effectiveness of physical force, as a means of persuasion, swear by the success of the baseball bat. That’s never been my sport though.

My vicarious self got a lift with the election of Syriza in Greece. Government in that country badly needed a shake up. Their evil twins of PASOK and New Democracy, like ours of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, had mired the country in nod and winkery, placating most of those whose souls were bought with the promise of an eternal tax free haven where living was easy and many things were free.

The new bosses spoke openly, dressed casually, and much as it disgusted the latent homophobe in me, seemed composed of very good looking men. New and different had to be good. Hadn’t it?

Soon the zeal of the convert began to desert me. My first fears were realised when I discovered the extent to which the new government was made up of academics. Now I have nothing against academics. Some of my best friends are academics. I’ve spent the last number of years, thankfully successfully, trying to acquire a Masters through mine and their efforts. The best learning I achieved through this process is confirmation that political theory and political practice have absolutely nothing in common.

Sorcerer in chief of this new approach to politics, Mr. Varoufakis, was meant to be able to change the entire paradigm by his being an expert in ‘games theory’.

In my own thesis I had struggled with the theory of this theory. The concepts of ‘leverage’ and ‘minimum winning coalitions’ befuddled me. Even more so when I couldn’t recognise where they existed in the Greek situation.

It seems the chosen tool of confrontation was to piss people off. Delay, defer, prevaricate, whatever you do don’t do anything. The strategy seems to have been to traduce Mr. Schäuble to a non-animated version of Wile E. Coyote with steam coming out of his ears.

And then there was the master stroke of the referendum. A brilliant piece of political theatre, it involved asking a complicated though unnecessary question that could be reduced to an essence of ‘Would you vote for more misery?’ The most surprising thing was 40% of those who voted voted yes.

Because I’ve long believed that politics isn’t a game but something that affects people’s lives, Alexis Tsipras has now become my Elmer Gantry (the film character/religious charlatan not to be confused with Bugs Bunny nemesis Elmer Fudd – although that might work as an analogy as well). It’s a pity. We all could have been contenders.

Dan Boyle is former Green Party Senator

(Getty/Cork Independent)



Today’s Irish Times.

Romain Petton writes:

It probably would make a decent movie…

89 thoughts on “Greeks Bearing Rifts

    1. rory

      Hi Broadsheet/Admin,

      I’ve a question, regarding an article about your website, in the current issue of Village magazine.

      The author of the article claims that ‘some of the (Broadsheet) commenters seem suspiciously on message’?

      Any comment?

    1. rory

      Fupping bollox crapapple bullpoo ladygarden face robbersnatcher.

      Hi moderator, apologies for all that awful swearing. I hate using the C word.
      Anyway, now that I have your attention; I was wondering if you, or one of the representatives of Broadsheet, could answer the question posted above.

      The question goes along the lines of
      Dear Broadsheet,

      Could you please comment on an article published recently in Village magazine. The article is about your website.
      Specifically, could you please comment on the line of the article that claims that
      ‘some of the (Broadsheet) commenters seem suspiciously on message.’

      Thanking you
      christ fuppmuppet beerswaggle

  1. Gavin

    More a vehicle for flowery language than an actual piece on politics, Greece and the bailout.

  2. Drogg

    Dan loves these lingering rants like all the people in the green party while trying to be cool by using obscure references and long winded sentences to explain simple things. Dan Boyle and the green party in general are a cancerous growth on this country. We could do with more academics in politics and less Dan Boyle’s.

    1. Operatick

      Your comment really just reflects remarkably badly on you, Drogg. Your choice of words is unnecessarily spiteful. Give me a fantasist over a fanatic like yourself any day.

      1. Drogg

        Least fanatics are committed to an ideal and committed to getting a job done, Dan is another overpaid pension that lives in a different world to the rest of us.

      2. topsy

        Drogg speaks the truth. Boyle a member of the Green party which willfully supported FF while both parties wrecked this country.

        1. classter

          He supported FF yet speaks of the evil twins of ‘Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael’. Fg weren’t in power.

      3. Rob_G


        I think Dan Boyle is a Grade A gobsh*te, but describing someone as being a ‘cancerous growth on this country’ is a bit much.

        – he was in the Seanad as part of the minor partner in Govt; he contributed very little to Ireland’s mismanagement under the last FF coalition.

        1. Drogg

          I am sick of having to be all sensitive about what i say about certain people, I understand you might think that comment was over the top, but to be honest i hate the green party.
          Dan is a political crank constantly forcing his opinions into media all round the country, so if you want to stand in the limelight while collecting fat checks for your ineptitude, he should expect a few scathing comments.

          1. Odis

            Hey Drogg, Go for this **** and his populist, patronising ****!!!

            And not in a Buggs Bunny, Wily E Coyote way either. Meh

          2. scottser

            drogg is bang on the money about dan boyle, and he has kinder words about him than i do.

    2. rotide

      I love how on the other thread people are shocked about youtube comments yet here , people are throwing around phrases like ‘person i have never met is a cancerous growth on the country’

      1. Drogg

        On the other thread i was actually surprised people where surprised that YouTube comments are so vile.

      2. Joe the Lion

        Because intelligent people can recognise that one expression is a figure of speech using a metaphor and the other is misogyny and race hate

  3. phil

    So Dan spent some time doing a Masters, studying a theory that was discredited by its creator …

    1. offMooof

      whut? no game theory wasn’t discredited by it’s creator but using the logic of ration agents who don’t co-operate and act entirely in their own self interest being the only point of stability where free market ideology doesn’t lead us to a cycle of boom and bust.
      Nash who they based the film ‘A beautiful mind’ found that point of stability an he did win the Nobel prize for it but he wasn’t allowed to give a speech coz of the whole ‘Paranoid schizophrenic. More ‘A mind riddled with lunacy’. also the model breaks down as soon as agents start to co-operate. which is fine if you have a welfare state an you don’t apply free market principles to essentials like health care and education.
      It’s not such a big deal we just change economic models …we can do that.
      I think the gov were backing on ‘I don’t know wat a tracker mortgage is…i won’t cop dat political decisions lie behind our economic model which has plunged my family, friends and me into unrelenting, grinding poverty.’
      But we did cop it.

      1. offMooof

        *rational agents…human beings are fragile creatures and dats ok we’re not rational creatures, it makes us human.

        Apply free market ideals to social relations? it was never gonna work once we stopped inheriting traits like malignent shame an inferiority complexes.

  4. Owen

    I enjoyed reading it, but could not figure out its point…. other than to summarise what we already know.

    1. Dubloony

      I think it was, dour grey politicians got us into this mess. The cool kids cam along to shake things up but made it worse.
      Never let theorists be in charge of actual people. Or something.

  5. miko

    I find it odd that people seem judge Wolfgang for being dour. You probably would too if an assassin shot you multiple times severing your spinal cord and leaving you in pain and a wheelchair for the rest of your life. Just sayin!

  6. nellyb

    Varoufakis’ dress code drew as much attention as his country’s crisis. It is WEIRD!

    1. rotide

      His dress code as a finance minister was far more unique than his country’s crisis.

      Hence the attention.

  7. TG

    If a book ever comes out entitled, ‘How to Avoid Being Pretentious’, Boyle’s embarrassing comments should be used as an example.

  8. oui

    BS , why did you take down my post? Dan insulted Wolfgang’s physical appearance, and BS posted….where is the balance? Or did I just go too far with my gentle prod at the unattractive Irish male?

      1. rory

        *Rereads comment 20 hours later*
        My Brain: …

        As in, developing photos?


        Whothewhatnow ?

          1. rory

            I don’t want to be that person who drags conversations out needlessly but besides the wordplay, what does it mean? That people need to take synthetic drugs to develop into proper people?

            Also, apology for dragging it out:

          2. Drogg

            Its wordplay on developing negative photographs which you need chemicals to do, nothing more.

          3. rory

            Whoops sorry. After reading that Village article I don’t know what to expect when it comes to Broadsheet commenters.

            Speaking of which, I am a bit disconcerted by Jane Tuohy’s claim that ‘some of the commenters seem suspiciously on message.’

            You get a mention in the article Spaghetti Hoop btw! Not in relation to above claim I should point out.

          4. rory

            Hi Broadsheet/Admin,

            With regards to Village magazines claim that ‘some of the (Broadsheet) commenters seem suspiciously on message,’

            Any comment?

          5. Drogg

            I don’t think they read comments this far down the thread, but you can email them with a link at the top.

          6. rory

            I’d rather not send them an email. I’d prefer to get an answer in the comment section. Yunno, on public forum; for transparency’s sake.

            I’ll ask them the question higher up in the comment section.

  9. Kieran NYC

    Is he turning into Kurz from Apocalypse Now?

    I mean I just skimmed most of it. After wanting to hit a man in a wheelchair and something about latent homophobia, I just couldn’t continue.

  10. Nice Anne (Dammit)

    So my take away is that he is bitter he hasn’t got a Masters. Fair enough so.

  11. Dan Boyle

    Realising that if you’re explaining you’re losing, the piece is about not hitting anyone. Those I’m having a dig at are those who have argued for taking an aggressive approach with the Germans and the Trioka. These are exaggerated suggestions as to what an aggressive stance might look like. It’s asking what being different for difference sake actually achieved.

  12. Mark Dennehy

    “Games theory”?

    So… not game theory, the well-known and relatively understandable branch of mathematics then?

    Seriously, isn’t it about time we had minimum standards of competence for Ministers? I mean, no other profession in the world exists where you can take Joe Random off the street and stick them in a position where unqualified decisions can affect people’s lives to the point of destroying or ending them, but in politics we’ve had finance ministers who never studied economics, environment ministers whose party didn’t believe in fluoridation or vaccines or evidence based medicine, and a metric buttload of senators and TDs writing laws they don’t understand for existing legal systems they don’t know to govern things they know nothing about.

    If you wouldn’t go to a doctor who was a teacher on a sabbatical, or hire a civil engineer who was a barrister taking a few years out, or an accountant who never did accountancy but whose daddy also never did accountancy, then why is it okay to put the country in the hands of equally unqualified people?

  13. Dan Boyle

    A rogue S. Game theory in political science as developed by Riker. Regarding the rest of your post there are just as many examples of doctors as Ministers for Health and economists as Ministers for Finance who have been less than inspiring.

    1. Mark Dennehy

      6 out of 25 “Dan”, and one of those is in the job a wet week after his decidedly-not-well-regarded predecessor, but the other four are noted for having had good records.

      Six. Out of twenty-five, and several of the nineteen served more than one term. That is not an example of qualified professionals running things.

      As to the Minister for Finance, it’s far, far worse. We’ve had precisely one who was an economist, out of 26 (Alan Dukes). Two studied Commerce (and they were Haughey and McCreevy) and one claimed to have studied Economics but neither UCD nor the LSE had a record of him ever being a student (guess who).

      One. One out of twenty-six Ministers for Finance had qualifications in the field of, not to put too fine a point on it, Finance. Two had qualifications in the related field of commerce, but a chartered accountant is not an economist any more than a dentist is a nose, throat and ear specialist even though both work on stuff above the neckline.

      Dunno about you “Dan”, but I think you’re making the argument for me here.

  14. Dan Boyle

    I’m not disagreeing but neither am I convinced that technocratic is any better than managerial government. Our real problem is the continued lack of specialism in the civil service.

    1. Mark Dennehy

      You don’t think that someone put in charge of a nation’s economy should know economics? That the person running the healthcare system shouldn’t have worked in it? What, you think you can take a secondary school teacher or a barrister and put them in charge of a government department in a field they’ve never worked in and about which they are ignorant, and you’ll get good results?

      You know we dropped that stupid “I don’t need to know what I’m managing to manage it” idea in the real world about twenty years ago, right?

      1. Dan Boyle

        Still not the problem. Prime decision makers need to be surrounded by expertise not experts themselves. Capable of understanding yes, skilled in communicating certainly, but I still believe that everymen make better ministers.

        1. Mark Dennehy

          …he says in a nation which sold its natural resources for effectively nothing, carried out history’s largest ever bailout of failed banks, failed to protect its children from abuses too numerous to mention, pays more for less in every sector from education the healthcare to infrastructure than anyone else in the EU, and which has a litany of other failures.

          Meanwhile its councillors vote against public healthcare programs, its senators propose ridiculous legislation to govern things they don’t understand, its TDs do the same thing, and the entire electorate has actually *gotten used to this*.

          And this nonsense that a Minister shouldn’t be an expert but should be surrounded by experts? Utter tosh. Why bother paying for a Minister at all then? Pick some random person out the way we do jury duty. Why not? There’s your everyman.

          1. Dan Boyle

            Because Mark experience shows being expert in any one thing often means being so badly deficient in many others. You produce your litany as much as you like. I don’t share that vision but feel free to malign as much as you like.

          2. Dan Boyle

            My experience Mark. I would favour the French or US system where Minister are not members of a parliament but are ratified on the basis of experience. However on your logic a head of government would have to be an expert on everything.

          3. Mark Dennehy

            That logic only works “Dan” if the Ministers have no authority over their departments, but instead call on the taoiseach to make every decision all the time.

            However I do agree that he or she needs to be better qualified than most people because I don’t buy this horse hockey of how you want a folksy everyman you’d have a pint with to be in charge instead of someone who took the job seriously and had what it took to do it.

            What exactly is wrong with wanting those drafting law to be smarter than the average bear anyway? Haven’t we had enough of wiffy codes and illegal paintball and bank accountless finance Ministers?

          4. Dan Boyle

            Whatever the background of a minister they should only be involved in bringing the heads of a bill together. Drafting is a specific skill. A background skill.

          5. Drogg

            Mark as always you are the voice of reason, but let me pass on a nugget of advice my wife gave me the other night ” you can’t argue with stupid”. Dan fails to see what the dogs in the street know, which is that he and his party are a major part of the problem in this country. The green parties time in government was spent backing FF 100% on all their misdeeds while also trying to push through ether moronic legislation, anti vaccination propaganda or taxes on the lowest payed in our economy and Dan wonders why we want educated people in government.

          6. Mark Dennehy

            So first off, when you cite “my experience” as a reference, it would help if we could verify who you are. This is the internet, after all, and nobody knows if you’re a dog and all that.

            Secondly, if you believe the only role of a Minister is to bring the heads of a bill together and that this requires no expertise in the thing that the bill is intended to govern then you have a very, very low bar for success by a Minister. Having seen this particular sausage being made up close, let me tell you that a Minister who takes that attitude causes more problems than they solve, and we have seen that repeatedly over the years in every area of law where the thing the law is governing is in any way technical and the Minister has no expertise in it.

            The fact is, the person making the decisions needs to have expertise in the problem domain or the outcome you get will not be a solution to a problem, but a set of new, thornier problems which may well just be added to the originally existing problems instead of replacing them.

          7. Dan Boyle

            Woah Mark I’ve never said that anyone should do any job regardless of experience or ability. It’s the benchmarks we’re teasing out. Political jobs require a skill set that go beyond a specific expertise and before you jump in I am aware that is rarely the case in practice.

          8. Mark Dennehy

            Political jobs require a skill set that go beyond a specific expertise

            Maybe; but you can’t go beyond a specific expertise if you never had that expertise in the first place; all you wind up with is an unqualified person making decisions they have no ability to make; which means the very best that they can do is pick which of their advisors they listen to based on something other than the expertise of those advisors, because the politician hasn’t got the ability to gauge them on that expertise.

            And humans – and we know this because we’ve studied it experimentally – are absolutely awful at doing things like that and not knowing why they’re making the decisions they make. They have a hundred different unconscious biases that get in the way. So they fully believe that the economic advice from advisor #4 was the best, but they just aren’t conciously aware of the fact that advisor #4 was white (Dovidio and Gaertner 2000), male (Deaux and Emswiller 1974), or that they’re subject to any one of literally hundreds of unconcious cognitive biases ( ).

            In other words, the only hope you have of an objective decision lies down the road of having qualified people in Ministerial offices, not just those who their party feels are due their “turn”.

            Which makes the job sound almost like any other professional job in the world ever when you think about it…

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