Friday, May 7, 2010

Athens calling

Dear J.+B.,

Txnx for your email and for your concern. I am doing ok for now but like everybody else can’t help wondering how even the very near future will unfold. Fortunately the media once more has blown the whole thing out of proportion, which means that at least for now we don’t kill each other in the streets…

Still, there were 3 dead people last Wednesday and no matter whom we blame: be it agitators, extremists of the right, «anarchofascists» -term borrowed by a friend’s blog-, the respectable head of the bank who threatened layoffs if employees participated to the general strike, the listed building which didn’t provide for a fire-escape, or most worrisome, the indifferent crowd/spectator, the collective numbing that followed compares only with the aftermath of Dec 6th 2008. Of course no massive outpouring of sympathy occurred this time, possibly because bank employees are not exactly popular at the moment, and here is the problem: when we reach the point when the bank employees stand for «the banks», abstract and hateful idea as may be, then we are heading for big trouble (Insert your favorite group target in «the banks» field…).

Last night the nominally democratic Parliament approved the cuts demanded by IMF. As expected there was protest and this is bound to happen regularly from now on establishing the centre of Athens as a no-man’s land. Like you say the small people are called to pay and what’s to be afraid of, the current weak government can’t guarantee that Greece will avoid bankruptcy in the end. Among those people though they are distinct groups which will suffer in various degrees and the ones that burn with holy wrath are not necessarily suffering the most.

The shift affecting public servants is of great importance since it would be considered unthinkable some months ago. A comparatively comfortable middle class mostly benefiting from a disproportioned public sector all of sudden (?) confronts with pension cuts, longer working years and worse, will have to see its offspring leaving the country if they are going to have any future at all. Greece may used to be an immigrant nation only a few generations ago but peace and borrowed prosperity erased the memory.

Vastly hit by this change are old people/people with –real- disabilities of no means, so-called illegal and not only immigrants, temps, part-timers and free-lancers working in the private sector wild-west style, «lowly» public servants who –surprise!- work hard, and in sum, whatever vestige of social security net remains.

Somewhere in between lies stuck the enterprising factor: small scale -very often family- business with little hope to innovate/restructure or even survive.

There are people who have been living within or even beneath their modest means by choice that soon turned into necessity before the «golden» Olympics and even during the stock market bubble, and I see me and many among my not-so-young friends in that place. To paraphrase a slogan: we didn’t benefit from any kind of public favor neither vote for them –and by «them» I mean the so-called right and socialist parties/«families» that take turns in power for the last 36 years. We mostly lived alternative-style lives, often turned green, sometimes contributed to culture/society, even tried by example to open a little more our «greekness» to the world. Does it make any real difference?

As I wrote to another concerned friend: «Too bad on top of «our» own bad management, corruption and big spending, we are being used as the proverbial canary in the coal mine of E.U.» We’ll probably get to know first the shape of things to come…

Till then and in spite of all this I am glad that things look promising for you and your country and still hope I may have the chance to see in person how great your attic turned!

Genki de, (*)

(*) bless you (in Japanese)