Greece needs to change
Fatalism is nothing new in the modern Greek psyche, as reflected by two of the most common expressions to be heard in the country - " Tha doume " and " Ti na kanoume ".
The first literally means "We will see" but could more usefully be translated as "This probably won't happen". The second, "What can we do?", means in effect "I agree with you, my friend, but this is Greece, so ..."
Add to this now a degree of desperation. A one-time resident travelling in Greece today is struck by a kind of resignation among the people, a punctured bravado that borders on embarrassment.
The debt crisis and litotita (austerity) are taking their toll.
The past decade has seen monumental change in Greece as it has moved from the heady optimism of being a euro-zone entrant and Olympic Games host to the reality of steep economic decline, chronic debt and reliance on foreign bailouts.
There are evident improvements, despite current traumas. But there remain deep-seated problems that might take more than austerity and the threat of default to cure.
Greeks are as proud a nation as any other, perhaps more so than many, given their ancient golden era and their invention of democracy. But today the sometimes aggressive bombast that went with that is muted.
With à350-billion or so in government debt, Greece has become a financial market pariah after a decade of relative boom. It has gone essentially cap in hand to its euro zone partners and the International Monetary Fund just to avoid bankruptcy.
This has triggered the almost surreal situation in which even mighty global institutions such as Wall Street have been gripped by news of the demonstrations, parliamentary votes and other parochial activities in Greece, a country about the size of Alabama.
It means that the pride Greeks felt at being part of the mainstream, no longer the European Union's economic basket case, has been dashed.
"I wish we weren't in the euro," said Yiannis Mendrinos, owner of an upmarket shop on the island of Santorini.
Such sentiment would have been heresy back at the turn of 2002 when fireworks burst over the Parthenon and Bank of Greece in Athens, and Greeks rushed to see euros, not drachmas, spit out of cash machines.
Being in the euro zone has not only stopped Greece from devaluing its currency, its traditional method of handling economic crisis, it has also caused huge price increases.
Greece, pre-euro, was cheap. Today, it is expensive enough to shock a visitor from abroad - and not just because of euro exchange rates that particularly hurt US and UK travellers.
Petrol is at 10c to 20c a litre higher than in the euro zone's Belgium and Germany. A cappuccino costs the same or more than it does in Paris. Payments for taxis and at the local taverna are no longer the afterthoughts they used to be.
This is not the kind of move to the mainstream that Greeks had envisaged. It has hurt both the crucial tourist industry - about 16% of Greece's à230-billion economy - and, recently, individual lives.
Rania Pelekanaki, a cleaner in Crete, implied that a trip to the market for just the basics eats up a quarter or more of her weekly take-home pay.
Over the past two years, consumer inflation has risen 7.9%, more than three times the 2.3% increase in labour costs, though over 10 years salaries rose faster than prices, helping to add to Greece's lack of competitiveness.
Not all of the money that has been spent, adding to the debt, has been wasted. Infrastructure in and around Athens is vastly improved from a decade or so ago, mainly because of the 2004 Olympics.
The roads to the impressive Eleftherios Venizelos Athens Airport would do any European country proud. The extended Athens Metro is clean enough and quiet enough to shame the equivalents in London, New York or Paris, even if those three are decades older and more extensive.
Around the Acropolis a new museum and walkway makes a trip to Athens, as opposed to the islands, pleasant.
Politicians such as Yiorgos Farmakis, a senior city official in Corinth, say that Greeks must embrace a new attitude towards work and efficiency.
"We must change," he said resolutely.
This was reminiscent of comments made by officials a decade ago when Greece qualified for admission to the euro zone.
"We should not forget about real convergence [with other European economies]," Yannis Stournaras, then the Greek finance ministry's chief economics adviser, said at the time.
But clearly somebody did forget.
It remains to be seen how much difference the current shock to the system will have. Some of the old problems of Greece have not gone away, particularly what George Drakopoulos, general manager of Greece's main tourism industry body, SETE, calls "the mentality gap" in the public sector.
A bus company official launches into an angry tirade against a tourist for trying to buy à5.20 worth of tickets with à10.
An archaeological museum is closed in mid-afternoon with no explanation or signs for tourists about when it might open again.
Roads to what should be popular, money-spinning destinations are badly marked, if they are marked at all.
Strikes and demonstrations show the depth of resistance to some of the free-market initiatives groups such as the IMF insist are necessary for Greece to get back on track.