February 5th, 2012
03:53 PM GMT
New York (CNN) – I love a New York breakfast. Eggs over easy, hash browns, whole wheat toast – and diner coffee, which seemingly may never have actually seen a coffee bean. Now I add to that mix a robust discussion about the Greece crises.
When I came to New York I had thought I might escape from the woes of Greece and the eurozone, if only for a weekend. I had not reckoned with the owner and manager of the local hotel diner, where I was staying – part of the large and ever-present Greek population in New York.
Some of them, like the manager, were born in Greece, and even though they haven't lived there for decades still have family there and visit once or twice a year. Others, like their sons and daughters, have an interest in the place, as if they had just got off the boat.
Forget the U.S. election – every one of them was obsessed with talking to me about what was going to happen to Greece and the battle of austerity over growth.
Enjoying eggs over easy while arguing the merits of the PSI debt relief package ain’t easy, especially when they believe that Greece is being pushed mercilessly towards bankruptcy and default by its heartless eurozone partners.
The Greeks I spoke to recounted tales of relatives and friends back home who were out of work and could no longer afford the basics of life. They were worried that all Germany and the European leaders were concerned about was cutting Greece down to size.
Ominously, they warned me that Greek people would rather be bankrupt and free than bankrupt and under the lash of the eurozone cuts.
So what did they think should happen? They told me Greece should be given more time to restructure and sort out the economy – that the Greek people should be helped through this over a period of years.
Pointing out that the IMF and troika have criticized the reform program for being "off-track," or that there needed to be a boost to the reforms, does not go down well. It will take time, they say. Germany is the beneficiary of the low interest rates, and it is in Germany's interest to make sure Greece survives. Germany needs to do more, they argue.
As for the role of the ECB: The bank should stimulate growth and do what is necessary, they say. Arguments about “moral hazard” are not high on the agenda at this diner.
What did I learn over breakfast? That the Greeks here believe there is a serious risk of instability – and ultimately civil unrest – if the downtrodden people of Greece are pushed too far. That they view the euro as a dog with fleas, and most of all, that whatever Greece does to solve its own problems, its eurozone partners must do more.
I may have hoped to forget Greece for a few days – but instead, in an unlikely place, I ended up with a lesson in perspective and how things are seen from afar.