Last night my dreams were full of smoke, flame and screams. I slept fitfully and when I woke I felt a sadness that I could not place till I remembered the tragic deaths of three people in a branch of Marfin bank in Athens yesterday after a group of people smashed the bank windows on the ground floor, poured petrol into it and set fire to the building. As a result three employees, including a pregnant woman died of asphyxiation. Everyone I know, everyone who has heard the news is in a state of shock, mourning those who were lost in such a senseless manner.
When the news first hit the internet, Twitter was full of wild rumours and speculation, some argued that the deaths were just black propaganda or the work of agent provocateurs intent on discrediting the anti-government demonstrations. Others still insisted that the real target of the arsonists were the archives of the government's anti-fraud agency which supposedly has offices in the same building. As time passed and the details of the tragedy came to light the rumours were quietly replaced by the realisation that the attack and deaths were most probably the result of that most deadly of human traits, stupidity. Those who set fire to the bank saw a target and give little or no heed to the possibility that people were inside.
This is not to say they are not responsible for their actions and I sincerely hope that they are caught and receive the punishment they so richly deserve.
On the other hand there is great sadness amongst those who took part in yesterday's demonstrations that this brutal act has allowed the local media to shift attention from the demands of the hundreds of thousands who took part in the marches onto those responsible for the deaths and so tar legitimate opposition to the austerity package with the actions of a handful of murderous morons.
Despite the attempts by the local media and especially the country's TV channels to present the massive cuts in income and jobs as inevitable the reality remains that the majority of Greeks are unwilling to sacrifice so much in order to pay debts racked up by the current economic and political systems which is already creaking under the weight of the anger that is building up. Today the Greek parliament will most probably vote in favour of the IMF-EU bailout plan but that is almost irrevelent as what really matters is the ability of the ruling PASOK government to implement the measures in the face of opposition from virtually every sector of society, to impose a cut in living standards unprecedented not just in post war Greek society but in the post - war history of western Europe.
Even within PASOK itself resistance to the measures is growing and how long prime minister Giorgos Papandreou will be able to maintain party discipline is a matter of doubt. More fundamentally the current political leadership does not have the moral clout to demand so much of the Greek people when it has been mired so deeply in corruption and scandal. The role of leading PASOK politicians in the Siemens, Daimler and Krupps corruption cases has yet to be satisfactorily resolved and there is a widespread belief that the hundreds of billions destined for Greece will just be used by the political elite to line their pockets and pay off political favours.
Yet it is not business as usual in Greece as people are starting to realise. The rage felt has momentarily subsided replaced by grief over yesterday's awful events but that will be just a brief respite for the government as the underlaying causes of popular anger still remain. When you see a woman pensioner, apoplectic with rage, using virtually every swear word available in the Greek canon to insult police menacing protest marchers then you know that Greece is undergoing a profound sea change.