On the Road to Destruction? Athens, Greece during time of financial crisis


Commentary from http://www.ekathimerini.com May 6, 2010

Can a society self-destruct? Yes, it most definitely can and the way Greece is headed right now it is a very real possibility that it will.

Here we have a state and a society that allow a handful of nihilistic hooligans to torch the city and cause the deaths of three citizens.

We have the leadership of the country’s second biggest political party opting for a populist line of rhetoric and failing to answer a simple question on whether or not it will support the government’s economic recovery plan.

We see a society that is mad, and justifiably so, and we see it going down an ill-advised path.

Then we see the government, caught in the grips of panic, contributing to the populist fever and pouring more oil over the fire.

Greece is at the most crucial point of its post-1974 history and whether we destroy ourselves or not, whether we go bankrupt or not, depends not just on our political leadership, but also on every single one of us individually and collectively.

Thoughts from Vicki

I wanted to share the above commentary from the English language portion of the Greek newspaper, ekathimerini.com (Kathimerini), because of the drama with which it is written as well as some of the cultural points it brings up which we can explore together.

15 hooligans who label themselves anarchists in order to give themselves feelings of justification for their acts of vandalism . . . and now murder.  . . were filmed by security cameras attacking a bank.

In the USA, citizens have shown up at talks given by President Obama with guns casually slung over their shoulders.  In the streets of Athens during times of protest the unions of public worker unions find themselves next to a few young men and women with kerchief-covered faces and backpacks stuffed with Molotov cocktail ingredients.

A CNN International reporter interviewed different segments of the protestors on the street but avoided the self-proclaimed anarchists.  I’m sure they seem quite threatening particularly to Americans.  Unfortunately, when questioned, the “anarchists” are not able to speak logically about their “movement” or what they are trying to accomplish by their actions.  There seems to be an attitude that protest is the means and the end.

The police are in the same position as others in dealing with the austerity measures yet they are they receive the primary attacks from the anarchists.

ATMs (Automatic Teller Machines) at banks are the second favorite target.  I have a personal experience in wanting to pay the mother of one of the vandals of bank ATMs.  She was quite anxious to have some money from me, and I would have helped her out . . . but the ATMs at the banks had been destroyed.

It was the weekend and I was unable to give her the cash she wanted.  Whether it registered to her 20-something son that he was hurting his own family by he and his friends’ actions was not clear.

Another of their contradictory acts is to protest that they want jobs yet these hooligans don their kerchiefs and backpacks to protest against private universities that could give them and college graduates of their generation very good jobs at home in Greece.

And the group that was caught by the cameras tossing firebombs into the bank have used this same method before targeting banks.

20,000 to 40,000 citizens on the streets during a demonstration is few for Athens where strikes by labor unions of both working class and professional groups are quite common.

A handful of the ragtag vandals following behind the legitimate protestors have been given credit by much of the foreign news media for causing a panic on Wall Street; exactly the wrong kind of social reinforcement needed by this immature group.

PASOK is the name of the party which won the recent elections and inherited all many shocking surprises of a country badly in debt.   They won against the second large political party in Greece, the New Democracy Party, and the party which Barnaby Phillips, the AJE Athens correspondent, rightly reported has almost thoroughly discredited itself with the populace.

Although the majority of the citizens understand that the austerity measures are the only choice and support Prime Minister Papandreou and the PASOK party; New Democracy is playing along with the foreign media and voting against the austerity plan. Or is it possibly the speculators who gave loans and have been betting for a Greek default who are being supported?

The commentary from ekathimerini was written after three innocent people died in a bankwhenr a fire bomb came crashing through the office window.  They died of asphyxiation.

I don’t agree that the government has been in a panic.  The Prime Minister and the Ministers of Economy and Finance have been articulate and soft spoken each time they’ve been questioned on the decisions they have been making.

Will the Greek society self-destruct? An unlikely scenario given the history of Greek survival against all odds.

Will the Greek government go bankrupt?  The European Union is young and a mechanism has not been established for members of the European Union to go bankrupt (The Brief, CNNI).

The modern democracy of Greece is young and far more inclusive than the ancient Greek democracy.  (Perhaps you recall the USA government/Kissinger-backed dictators who ruled Greece in the early 1970’s?)

I do agree with the last sentence of the commentary which is the reality we face in Greece.  “Greece is at the most crucial point of its post-1974 history and whether we destroy ourselves or not,  . . . depends not just on our political leadership, but also on every single one of us individually and collectively.”