Δευτέρα, 13 Φεβρουαρίου 2012

WTF is going on in Greece?

It is high time I wrote another article to update my english speaking friends on the current situation. In fact
I am way behind, but it has been a busy and eventful fall and winter...

Yesterday 199 Greek MPs voted in the 2nd austerity measures package which was a prerequisite in order for Greece to take advantage of the second bailout worth 130 billion (or, as some say has already been deemed necessary 145 billion!)

I am currently reading thorugh the memorandum. There is a lovely Greek expression that goes like this:

Θα σου βάλω τα δυό πόδια σε ένα παπούτσι!! which translates as I will put both of your feet in one shoe!

But bearing in mind Greece's love of bureaucracy if we were to compare Greece to a millipede due to its many many "feet" it is more like trying to put 999 feet in one shoe...

What it really means is I will put you in your place, I will make you do what you have to do...

And this is truly what the memorandum is. Mr Venizelos, our finance minister, rather candidly, and much to my amazement said at the beginning of his speech yesterday, that our European "partners" are essentially "neo-liberals" (why hide it?) and that they believe that neoliberalism has been a success in their respective countries. For this reason they wish to "show us the way" to apply neoliberalism in our country, in order for us to be successful too!

I read through the memorandum and I see quite a few proposals that would have been great for Greece (to a certain extent), if they had been applied years ago. But these measures NOW, when Greece has already suffered the failure of the first memorandum and lies stricken, in the deadly spiral of reccession, are not what we need.

We were "terrorised"by our finance minister and the Prime minister with the "terrible" specter of the return to the drachma. We were told that we will suffer the because there will be no money to pay wages, no money to import goods, no fuel (it is imported) no nothing. These are blatant lies. Yes we are sure that things will be difficult for a while, but I strongly believe that  most Greeks would rather go through a difficult time chosen
by them and with a visible end in sight rather than have a series of pointless memorandums full of good but unapplicable ideas, imposed on them by the same bunch of lying hypocrites who got the country messed up in the first place. And what is worse there seems to be no end in sight. Not even the Prime Minister could bring himself to say with certainty that the deficit would be below a certain level by 2020! He had to make do with saying "probably"!

I'd like to share a funny thing that happened to me yesterday. I was getting ready to take part in the protest and was looking for my wet weather gear as it has been raining for days and the same was predicted for yesterday evening. I couldn't finf mu "new" grey waterproof pants and grabbed an "old" yellow salopette I found in the wardrobe. As I went to stick my phone in the pcket, this is what I found...

I 'm going to take it as a sign...

By now you understand that I am one of those who believe that Greece would be better off going back to the drachma. Or even better coming up with something new! and if it was coin made by the people for the people's benefit and banks were not inovolved that would be even better... But i'll try not to daydream too much.

for the kind of clever solutions I believe in I would ask you to read this amazing story.

But why are greeks protesting so much if the memorandum is so good for them? Why are they out in the streets shouting for the polticians to step down? I wish I could offer a simple answer. I could go for the easy answer and say they don't know, they are ignorant or naive and they think they can just shoo away the politicians and their european counterparts just like they would some bloodsucking mosquitoes. But this would not be true.

Greeks are a proud nation. Greeks believe in things fiercely. To watch a couple of Greek friends have even a mild argument, is an excercise in keeping your cool. The funny thing is when they shrug at the end pat each other strongly on the back and wander off, for an ouzo or wine to continue the "argument".

One of my favourite Greek values is that of "filotimo" It means to be a friend of honesty. essentially to be honest, to do the right thing. "Filotimo" has become slightly "lost". And those who have lost it completely are the politicians. With very few exceptions, all politicians are corrupt. The few exceptions are really those who find themselves permanently in the minority, and mind you we are only talking about the really small ones!! All the rest have at least a few skeletons in their closets... As they say in Greece, "the fish stinks from the head [down]" and certainly greek bureaucracy is corrupt too. But the big money has been taken by the politicians ad=nd theoligarchy of media moguls and construction giants behind them.

So these corrupt politicians who for years skimmed the "till" or rather just stuck their hands in as far as they can go are justified in draughting up, voting and applying laws and memorandums that will cut Greece's already low wages and pensions even more, while at the same time their wages and benefits remain unchanged?
No way! They must either lead by example or leave.

I'm going to wrap it up somewhere her, but intend to come back with a little "analysis" on the political factions and groups currently on the streets and a little info about how things work in the riots...

But I would like to finish with a phrase I borrowed from an article of Mr Baxevanis, an excellent greek reporter.

He refers to the fact that greeks allowed corruption to run rife and also stopped using their better judgement when it came to making the necessary decisions. The phrase plays on the fact the word "crisis" (a greek word of course) means both crisis but also judgment (and that is where the english get "critic" from)

He says:
Για να φτάσουμε στην κρίση, έπρεπε να χάσουμε την κρίση μας. Μήπως για να βγούμε πρέπει να την ξαναποκτήσουμε;

"To get to the crisis we had to lose our judgment. Maybe to get out of it we have to find it again?"

and a video of the riots in Thessaloniki where you can get taste of how the riot police work against a peaceful crowd...

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