Friday, June 24, 2011

"But you have no choice?" - Why Greeks refuse to lay down and play dead

“But surely the Greeks have no choice but to accept the new austerity measures?” That was the question posed to me recently by a young BBC reporter and in its way sums up the chasm between the way the international (and much of the local) media sees the present financial crisis and how it's perceived by ordinary Greeks.

On the one hand the decision is simple, either implement the reforms demanded by your creditors or go bankrupt. The problem is many Greeks are already bankrupt, they're in the middle of the worse economic downturn in modern Greek history and after 18 months of austerity have run out hope, patience and most importantly, money.

In effect a large swathe of the population is already insolvent, especially those who were struggling to make ends meet even before the current crisis hit. For them whether the Eurozone folds or Greece defaults is a matter of complete indifference, facing as they do the prospect of losing their job, having their power cut off and seeing their children's future disappear. What the hell do they care about the state of international money markets?

For others the pressure of constant worrying about their financial situation has already proved too much. A tragic case that come to mind is an acquaintance of mine whom I bumped into a week ago, seeing her frantic and distraught I initially thought that she'd had too much sun, caught out by the sudden appearance of good weather. Later as she lay down in the shade, drinking water given by passers by I realised that she was in fact suffering from something else. Muttering constantly about how she was a suitable employee, she suddenly sat up and whipped a wad of papers which turned out to be her CVs which she then thrust into the hands of anyone near enough to take them, talking all the while about how she was a good employee and she deserved the job.

It became obvious that she was in the grip of a manic episode and that her psychological state was delicate but thankfully one of her neighbours turned up and escorted her home while she keep up an endless stream of talk about the skills she had, the qualifications she possessed.

I'm not sure what her psychological background is and whether this was a new occurence but deep in my heart I'm convinced that the current crisis has literally sent her mad. I hate to use such crude terminology but the reality of the situation is so awful coy euphemisms are just plain insulting to everyone concerned. The incident which unsettled me deeply brought home the fact that we could all be in such a position if Fortune, which seems all knees and sharp elbows at the moment pushed just a little too hard in the wrong direction.

Given the fact that nothing in the current austerity package offers anything like a way out of the current economic slump, except in some semi-mythical long term scenario, don't blame the Greeks for not putting another millstone around their neck willingly. The have lived the effects of austerity for 18 months and all it has brought it decline, depression and despair.

The vote in parliament over the new austerity legislation next week is almost an irrelevance as even if does pass the real battle won't be in the debating chamber but on the streets outside as outraged Greeks show their anger and disgust with a morally bankrupt political leadership that capitulated without a real fight.


kat said...

I'm never disappointed by what you write or your stunning photos.

daveinsv said...

I''m curious, what is your best guess (50/50 odds or something better or worse) on whether the austerity bill will pass next week or not? Thanks. Dave

The Cheshire Cat said...

"Alas, I am dying beyond my means" O.W

Shop Girl said...

Your blog has been a great discovery. The BBC reporter is echoed by so many people here in London and though I feel passionately that they are missing the point I've struggled to formulate why. Thanks for doing that for me!

Anonymous said...

I hope that Greece does NOT go along with the IMF proposals which are only going to make matters worse - more austerity, selling off state assets at rock-bottom prices and then getting screwed by the foreign companies that buy them. The IMF doesn't give a damn about the Greek people; they just want to protect the lenders and insurance companies. Your leaders should stand up against this tyrrany and demand a better deal. (An englisman in Spain)