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Columns


Sunday 19 February 2012

«PROTO THEMA»

“Don’t hope that the country will be saved, even if the PSI deal is finally closed and we get the next tranche.  Buddies will be buddies, even now”, says Tasos. “Have you ever seen a politician or big fish getting punished? Have you ever seen property originating from plundering the State being confiscated…? Of course you haven’t. What if Athens is burnt to the ground, they only care about their buddies, their business…” Tasos, a former police officer who is currently working for a security company, expresses his opinion about the “buddies”… “There must be secret agents in the anarchist groups. They get them all fired up when the order comes.” What order? Where from? “The order to destroy everything, the order to burn everything… From high above.” How high? “From the state.” The minister? He mysteriously nods his head. “From the people who know, from the people who are always there. From the statesmen who are governed by the secret shadow government. They are all buddies.”
Another acquaintance of mine, a member of the Special Forces, goes mad upon hearing such a theory – but he admits that the “buddies” are responsible for everything. “During every demonstration and every protest, we are forced to empty-handedly deal with a phenomenon that has taken monstrous proportions the last few years, due to the indifference and cowardice of the politicians to deal with it systematically and effectively”, he says. “The buddies are not interested in who they are or why they do what they do. As long as they stay untouched.”Buddies, too many buddies. All stemming from a group of buddies who carry on destroying Greece: the political establishment and the ten families who plundered and ravaged the country hand in hand. Most of them have actually fled the country, the rest of them are still here in order to finish their business before… Before what? Before the end. They too will eventually flee the country. And who’s going to stay behind? We are. All alone.
A banker from London specializing in “wealth management” confides in me under his breath, as if it were a dirty secret, how many of his clients live in Greece. “I know that they are the enemy”, he says. Who? “The rich.” That’s where we ended up: Fascism. Or Stalinism. Call it what you may. It is very easy to disguise envy as ideology, especially in the dark times we live.  And right when I’m ready to start elaborating on that, the banker finishes me off: “You would never believe how much money certain people have in your country, people you would never imagine. They are not few and they are all connected to each other in some way, they know each other. They are actually buddies. Buddies with a lot of money! And most of them earned it during the last decade… from stocks and banks, these sorts of things… Even I am impressed: how did they come up with so much money from one moment to the next?”A friend of mine, a bank teller, tells me that there haven’t been large withdrawals during the last couple of months. “Of course, I only deal with middle-class people”, she clarifies. “The people who earned more than just a salary have transferred their money abroad during the last year and a half. The rest always leave a small amount of money in their bank accounts, because taxes, loans and bills have to be paid. In the end, there’s nothing left – just peanuts. Yet, these peanuts are still necessary – you can’t afford to lose them. That’s what I see people do: they all think that it would be better if they withdrew it all, even if it meant that they would have to pay their bills one at a time, rather than risk losing it all in case of a default – and then owe to the State! But they think twice and change their minds. ‘Leave it there for the time being’, they tell you. ‘We’re not going to default, are we? Since we haven’t defaulted so far…’ That’s the way it is, but you don’t even know what might happen from one moment to the next. On Sunday night, we were counting the wounds of a burnt city, our only consolation being that we had escaped default… On Monday morning, back to default! It drives you crazy”.
A poor old man looking devastated gets on the suburban railway, selling pencils. “Ten pencils, 50 pence” he begs you while you text – on your mobile phone. Selling pencils at a time of touchscreen technology is so similar to what you country has to offer to the rest of the world nowadays… The pencils, thousands of them, are in a bag hanging from his shoulder and strapped to his chest. It’s a blue bag with a zipper, made of plasticized linen. The kind they give away at big conferences. A circle looms at its centre: the European Union universe, made of small golden stars. Right above, with small faded letters: Athens Intergovernmental Conference, 2002.Due to a demonstration downtown, the connection bus from Syntagma Square doesn’t run. You have to take the trolley bus. It drops you off a couple of streets further from where you usually get off. Walking towards the main street, you are shocked.  A different world.  A chaotic distance separates the two streets. Wherever you look, slums with makeshift fireplaces, very few with TV antennas, but almost all with shabby Greek flags on the balcony.  People in ragged clothes stand outside, mainly elderly. Waiting in the cold. It is noon, the time the local parish office offers a cup of thin chickpea soup.
Your heart breaks. But you have to get over it soon: 50 meters down the street, five foreigners suddenly jump out of nowhere in front of you, fighting fiercely among themselves. In a split second, knives are drawn. You freeze immediately. Another girl and you are a hair’s breadth away from what is about to turn into an “incident”. You exchange glances quickly, you turn around and take a different turn. You shake......




Sunday 12 February 2012

«PROTO THEMA»

I’m walking downtown. I still walk downtown despite it being a forbidden zone for anyone who wants to be sane or safe; I feel like I’m reclaiming my city. I refuse to hand it over to the “others”, whoever they may be: gangs of illegal immigrants, slavers or muggers, hooded extreme leftists-anarchists, angry members of PAME (All Workers Militant Front), bloodcurdling bullies of Golden Dawn, policemen of MAT (Units for the Reinstatement of Order) who regard any “anonymous” passer-by as an enemy in their anxiety to protect the politicians and high state officials, fortifying themselves inside the Parliament and the neighbouring buildings.Yet, the desire to keep the city alive turns out to be vain. Suppose that you came out of the mess safe and sound. How much can you take, walking in a city shrouded in tear gas, with its streets littered by pieces of marble the anarchists have broken and removed from neoclassical buildings and pavements, with almost every window (whether a shop, a chemist’s or a bank) either smashed or fortified as if there was a war going on, with black slogans written with hatred and black spray on the… fortifications, with the buildings of Panepistimiou Street under occupation, covered with slogans of hate and threat against “the rich”, and even the statue of Theodoros Kolokotronis on Stadiou Street vandalized and humiliated?
“Burn the banks and all the bankers!” a slogan suggests. Which bank? The one that gave you a mortgage loan? Or the one that issued your credit card? As for the bankers, you’ve already burnt them. Do you remember the dead people in Marfin Egnatia Bank? The pregnant woman? Does it ring a bell? Or were they just “collateral damage” from the moment they submitted to the system and became accomplices…?“Say no to unemployment. Say no to employment. Life a free life” other slogans suggest. Exactly how? Can you tell me the secret of living… slackly? Without even the pretext of working for the state! Unfortunately, the “secret” is not a secret: someone else pays. For more than three decades, this “someone else” has had a number of faces: parents, misuse of overuse of welfare benefits, occupation of state property or private buildings in deserted neighbourhoods from the moment the residents left due to the general “climate”, the EU (with the different subsidies and “programmes” it lavishly provided) and now, the Germans. The only problem is that the Germans have woken up and refuse to continue the charade. That’s why Athens is full of banners depicting Nazis and Swastikas…    
The truth is that no one gives their money for free – neither at a personal nor at a collective level. Unless they have certain reasons, which again is not for free. I found it hard to realize. I also found hard it to realize that real interest, appreciation, recognition and even love are neither bought nor estimated with money. Yet, they are expressed with money. What do the Germans feel for us in order to help us for free? Not just nothing, but the exact opposite. And to a great extent, unfortunately, justifiably so.Because, as the Germans had already warned, the Eurogroup did not endorse the agreement between Athens and the Troika (apart from agreeing that the memorandum should pass in the Greek Parliament and be accompanied by the written commitment of the party leaders that they will definitely implement it either now or after the elections) because it demands that there be an official document-commitment to find the 300 million euros we lack and to further cut auxiliary pensions.
Three hundred million euros. If they arrest one of the big sharks who owe to the state (to the wider or narrower public sector and companies which have been sponsored.....




Sunday 5 February 2012

«PROTO THEMA»

“What shall I do with you?” That’s the question posed to every Greek citizen living in this country these dreadful hours. Sometimes the question is paraphrased – “What good are you to me?”, “What will I miss if lose you?”, “What could you offer me that I don’t already have”?-  but the question remains the same in essence.

Who is posing the question?  Someone with different faces and expressions. The employer, the state, the foreigner you ask for work, the country you want to move to. The European Union itself. The question is being addressed to Greece. Rightnow.

And what do we say in reply? “How dare you ask me that? I have an intrinsic value. You owe me! Hah!” The impact of such a reply is already evident. We keep sinking deeper and deeper into the mire of nothingness. It’s sort of like personal relationships; the attitude of the person who doesn’t demand from others to be perfect towards him nor to act according to his own logic, is completely different to the one who takes the above for granted. And a person who realizes there is only one path to salvation acts in a completely different way to the one who trusts he has the time to choose amongst different alternatives. Or to the one who knows – or at least believes – he is doomed.

Just like that, and not through conspiracy theories and psychoanalysis of the German superego, it becomes clear that we keep going from bad to worse, while Ireland is already standing on her feet, Spain is managing and Italy…. Italy has already overcome the crisis: spreads are falling, measures are being implemented on-the-spot, the Italian head of the European Central bank, Mario Draghi, keeps providing his country with money, while another Mario, the current Italian prime minister, Monti, is already negotiating with the IMF the “slackening” of his country’s supervision.

However, Italy both produces and exports. It also has an entire system of state support, funding and promotion of products and services. What do we produce? Fly-by-nights, hustlers καιcivil servants/state-sponsored groups of vested interests. The few small or big companies that did produce something good – varying from dairy products and oil to cosmetics, medicine, books and computer software – were not only left unsupported, but also faced a merciless war from the state and the various parasitic interests, just because they were “bad for their business”. The result? Most of these businesses have either closed down or drastically decreased their business within Greece. At the same time, we are still being held hostage by the different syndicates like PAME (All Workers Militant Front), as well as the fiercest, dirtiest and most illegal businessmen, small and big “pimps” who became who they were by devouring state money, while having the perpetuation of their “game” guaranteed thanks to their political connections.

Of course, hustlers were not our main problem in Greece – it was their mentality that contaminated our society. Up until very few years ago, we were talking about “unemployed teachers”, implying that a teaching degree should automatically mean a place in a public school!!! Summer holidays on a little island were proclaimed a human right and so was the – at least weekly – outing, as well as owing a car, a flat screen TV and an iPhone.

Let’s not talk about services. Greece may be the most beautiful country on earth, but it also has the worst tourism industry on earth. Even in Cyclades, which (to my mind) are the most beautiful and blessed spot on earth, the quality and the services that were being offered for so many years by most of the hotel owners at unbelievable prices, were way below the basics – echoed in the phrase “we earn enough money in two months’ for a whole year - and we save heaps of it as well!”

Need we talk about Education – private and public? The “quick profit is everything – do favors to the rich” system has led to the decadence of most of the good greek private schools, while school occupations, teacher strikes and the broad influx of immigrants who barely speak their own language, let alone Greek, have destroyed the children who wanted to receive the  basic education. Let's not even touch universities- the students’ partisanship, the infamous asylum and the political and financial ambitions of “academic professors”, have destroyed them to an irreversible extent.

Need we talk about open entrepreneurship? Doctors? Lawyers? There is this view in Justice that everything is “arranged” according to the political and economic interests of the litigants or the given circumstances. In Medicine, on the other hand, the right connections matter more than…




Sunday 29 January 2012

«PROTO THEMA»

People are getting angrier and angrier. Money is getting scarcer and scarcer, but petty games are still going on. All of a sudden, the average Greek cannot afford to pay the electricity bill, the rent, his/her children’s school fees. He/she does not stand a chance to find a job, not even in the distant future. At the same time, the fathers of the nation insidethe Parliament are voting down the deregulation of the chemists’ working hours and fighting for the vested interests of the lawyers although lawyers are being threatened by lack of clientele only.

“Ten families and a handful of newspapermen, who have been preying on the country for decades, have wrecked us”, says a friend of mine, who has travelled the distance from Kokkinia to Philothei thanks to his hard work and is currently watching his hard work, risk, success and prudent management of his small business going up in smoke as a sacrifice on the altar of a public sector which does not intend to become smaller, let alone die. He is right, of course.

Be patient till the elections, you tell me. Thing will change after them. After them.

After what exactly? It only took two days to take down this “after”. Within the last two days, Andreas Loverdos rang the alarm with his talk of “bloodshed” and Michalis Chrisochoidis confessed that he never read what he signed – the Memorandum of Understanding. Although Michalis Chrisochoidis’ confession was definitely nicer than Andreas Loverdos’ suspect, superficial and politically opportunistic statement, it is nothing more than the answer of a man you would never want to lead the country.

 

As things are currently standing, the problem is that there is nobody you would want to lead the country, according to the latest polls: PASOK (Panhellenic Socialist Movement)barely exceeds 10% (which is totally justifiable), ND (New Democracy) is first without being able to form a government on its own (which is totally understandable), the Left reaches 35% or more, LAOS (Popular Orthodox Rally) is stable below 10%, Dora Bakoyiannis is nowhere. And what about George? He is doing what he always did: Exercising and travelling, using the greek tragedy as a means of self-promotion and personal ascent.

 

Amidst the idleness, superficiality, insensibility and madness, the only beacons of fleeting hope are Lucas Papademos’ attempts to convince the European Central Bank to participate in the PSI and Tassos Giannitsis’ delving into the extravagant state subsidies to the political parties. Nevertheless, what can two nonelected technocrats whose service ends in two months do when 300 elected representatives and thousands of state officials (permanent or not) believe that the greek people are beasts who will tolerate the cutting down on salaries, bonuses, pensions and their own lives, whereas their salaries and perks remain... untouched! You lose your footing.

 

In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, “star” historian Niall Ferguson claims that the euro will survive and that by 2021 the European Union, as we know it nowadays, will have been transformed into the “United States of Europe”, which will actually be a restoration of the Habsburg Empire – small wonder the British and the Scandinavians will prefer to call it “The Wholly German Empire.

“Welcome to Europe, 2021… The euro is still circulating, though banknotes are now seldom seen. (Indeed, the ease of electronic payments now makes some people wonder why creating a single European currency ever seemed worth the effort.) But Brussels has been abandoned as Europe's political headquarters. Vienna – and the Habsburg legacy – has been a great success…”

 

And what about us? “Life is still far from easy in the peripheral states of the United States of Europe. Unemployment in Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain has soared to 20%. But the creation of a new system of fiscal federalism in 2012 has ensured a steady stream of funds from the north European core… South Europeans have grown accustomed to this trade-off. With a fifth of their region's population over 65 and a fifth unemployed, people have time to enjoy the good things in life. And there are plenty of euros to be made in this gray economy, working as maids or gardeners for the Germans, all of whom now have their second homes in the sunny south”...




Sunday 22 January 2012

«PROTO THEMA»

At the pawnbroker’s, the opaque door is open. Inside, two little girls – that’s what they look like from afar and I don’t think they’re over their mid-twenties – sit across each other. The first counts some euros, the second has left a golden chain with a cross in front of her. Every once in a while, she touches it, as if saying goodbye. The scene drives me crazy. These kids shouldn’t be there – neither of them. Is it possible that we’ve reached the point where the face of the “enemy” is a little girl?Yet, that’s the point our real and great enemy has brought us to. He wrapped the whole country in his tentacles and corrupted everything. The gangs of loan sharks that were recently arrested prove it: a department head of SDOE (Financial and Economic Crime Unit), lawyers, doctors, journalists, political party officials, to name but a few of the participants in these criminal gangs!
Let’s not talk about the more “posh” criminals, the ones the Americans call “white collars”. Such as a number of politicians, state officials and the people who have transactions with them. Such as a number of judges and police officers.Corruption is rampant. Starting from politicians and state officials and moving on to the entire social ladder: judges, journalists, “intellectuals”, university professors, mayors, etc. The corruption pertaining to entrepreneurship and the private sector (businessmen and private sector employees) is much lesser, axiologically and proportionately, since you can’t have the same demands from a private citizen and the citizen who holds state power or utters public speech.

The blogger Pitsirikos recently wrote about the authors and intellectuals, apart from journalists, who received “black money” from Siemens, from the State, from everywhere… Author Petros Tatsopoulos justifiably reacted. Not because what the blogger wrote might be untrue, but because we can’t live amongst rumours, whispers and silences anymore. Amongst such morbidity, only morbid people and morbid relationships can survive. That’s why we must refer to names only when there is concrete evidence. E.g. it’s been said for some time now that “Akis Tsohatzopoulos stole vast amounts of money”. Yet, there are no consequences. Either it’s not true (there is no evidence to prove it, therefore the accusation is unjustified) or it’s true and he has to face the consequences!On the articulated bus, some ladies with high heels and some gentlemen with iPhones step on my foot, push me and elbow me. The same treatment awaits some kids with clear faces, probably pupils or students, who get on the bus carrying heavy schoolbags. At some point, two young men, probably North Africans, approach me. Their clothes are stained with lime and their hands are dirty and calloused. Unwittingly, I am unsettled. With gestures, they offer to me the “privileged” spot they previously stood on, right there at the centre of the articulated bus where the pivoting joint forms a comfortable “natural” seat with plenty of space. I thank them speechlessly. My surprise – and embarrassment – grows when I notice that they don’t get off at the next stop. They stay on the bus for half an hour and get off only when they notice some policemen at a nearby stop.

Things get rather complicated when you don’t know who the enemy is or when the enemy is neither the ‘proper” one nor the “convenient” one.At the Agia Eleousa stop, a homeless sticks a piece of paper on a sign. The manuscript, misspelled albeit written with great effort, contains an analysis of how much euros each MP costs per month. Underneath, the manuscript ends like that: “at the same time, you cut the pensions of the elderly and the disabled. The people are hungry. Mercy”. Indeed...




Sunday 15 January 2012

«PROTO THEMA»

It is creepy how extremely different things can be within an hour, the duration of the bus itinerary form Kifissia to Tzitzifies – and I don’t mean an itinerary through small suburban streets or big lonely roads, such as the National Road, the Attica Road or Galatsiou Avenue, but a straight one: Kifissias Avenue, Vasilissis Sofias Avenue, Vasileos Konstantinou Avenue, Andrea Syggrou Avenue, Thisseos Avenue.

You can see that Greece and Athens are divided into three: to the people who have a lot, to the people who still have enough to make ends meet and to the people who find it hard to survive. For the time being, the majority still belongs to the second category. But with each passing week, the number of people who still have enough to make ends meet is decreasing, whereas the number of people who don’t have anything to eat is increasing.

The country is ravaged by an avalanche of burglaries, robberies, murders, kidnappings and so on. People above any suspicion keep stashes of weapons in their houses, guns appear on the Athens Metro and gangs of blackmailers, smugglers and white slavers brazenly operate in full daylight and in full view. What else can we do? How can common people defend themselves? How can the state defend itself when every politician, past or present, is guarded by an entire division of policemen, whereas the rest are sent to guard the city without any petrol in their car deposits.

Meanwhile, around the small kebab house close to my place and among the elderly who roam the streets at night, searching the garbage for something to eat, several weird guys appear right after the football game for a “special one”, carelessly parking their shiny Maseratis, Lamborghinis or even Bugattis on the corner or in the middle of the street! All around the neighbourhood, the number of parked cars without licence plates is increasing. They belong to the residents of the neighbourhood who don’t have the money to pay their taxes and return their licence plates, all the while driving their cars.

Is it unjust? Which one first? And which one most? As soon as you remember your degree in Law and what your professors used to point out – that no injustice or crime is justified – there comes the incident with Kimon Koulouris and you lose any mood for justice and objectivity.

Because there is money. Indeed. Most of it, where it shouldn’t be: the public sector and the underground. You can’t distinguish between them – not to say, the first! Because some are “jackals” and some are not. You can’t have people divided into jackals and prey animals. It happened in Greece during the last twenty years thanks to our politicians and the guilty tolerance the majority of people showed towards a rotten situation that would mathematically lead us to death.

And now what? There are no magic…




Sunday 8 January 2012

«PROTO THEMA»

“Los cojones”: Sarkozy had used the Spanish word for “balls”, when speaking to “Le Monde” four years ago, about Dominique de Villepin, who had been his opponent in the candidacy of the UMP for the Presidential elections. Specifically, Sarkozy had accused de Villepin of lacking “cojones”. But he was not the only one who lacked them; no politician here in Greece seems to have balls, either. Because these are necessary now, both for Greece to have any impact abroad, in its negotiations with our EU partners and the IMF, as well as domestically, for the implementation of measures and structural reforms deemed crucial for the survival of the country. So, having los cojones, is a crucial element for our politicians to have. And when I say los cojones, I mean what the word symbolizes: guts. And certainly not the spineless theatrics of bluster which many of our politicians engaged in, during the past week.   

Of such variety were the new “tricks” pulled by George Papandreou, who, by the way, graces the cover of “Foreign Policy’s” current issue, depicted as the arsonist who cunningly set fire to the European Union and world stability!  

And let us play devil’s advocate, and suppose that Papandreou did well, the other day, turning against, and accusing of corruption, the man he believes to have systematically undermined him: Stavros Psicharis, the owner and President of DOL media (the most powerful media group in Greece, since nearly a century ago, which amongst other things, owns the daily newspaper “Ta Nea”, the Sunday paper “To Vima”, and the tv channel, “Mega”). Since Papandreou believes Psicharis to have been his major problem in governing the country, and his mortal enemy, he did well to name him and accuse him- if of course, the ex Prime Minister also has the necessary evidence to support his accusations; and as long as this evidence is able to be proven in a court of law, and thus, overrule the evidence Mr Psicharis said he has, that it is Mr Papandreou who is corrupt and who tried to bribe/extort him to help Papandreou politically in his media, during a recent secret meeting the two men had in the Prime Minister’s office, after which, Mr Psicharis left, conspiratorially using the secret back door of the building.

And George Papandreou did equally well, to defend his brother, Nick Papandreou, by essentially accusing members of the judiciary of corruption and illegal ties to certain mighty economic and political interests. Ok, fine. But what exactly did George Papandreou himself do, whilst he was in power, to target these corrupt relationships and dealings? What concrete measures did he take, to eradicate them? Nothing.

So, Papandreou waged war against the mighty interests ruling and plundering Greece for the past decades, and this was his demise. As, ex PM, and head of the former New Democracy government, Karamanlis, had said he lost the premiership, because he fell victim to the same mighty interests, he himself had once called “the big pimps”. So these mighty interests are to blame for the demise of at least two of our previous governments and prime ministers. But, I wonder why, they went to so much trouble to get rid of our two former PMs? What exactly did, either Karamanlis, or Papandreou, do, to harm these terrible mighty interests? (And we all know who these guys are: approximately ten major players). Both Karamanlis and Papandreou, used, as close colleagues and confidants, people who were obviously or more covertly, employed by these interests. And both our former PMs, socially mingled and holidayed with these “pimps of the Greek state”, as well as with their extended families and friends! But also, apart from inexplicable behavior, we also have concrete actions which were, inexplicably, not taken: which concrete actions, with legal and economic effect, were taken by either one of our former PMs, targeting those “mighty interests” who became super wealthy illegally, who owe billions to state and banks, who extort, don’t pay taxes, and have an overall destructive effect on the common interest?   

This question is naturally a rhetoric one, because zero, nothing, is always mute and simultaneously deafening. But also, one quick real question: why is it always considered a given here in Greece, that the interests of these powerful and rich moguls are always in conflict to the common and national interest? Not even the former communist party, KKE, holds such Stalinist views any longer!

So: Kostas Karamanlis, was too bored to govern. And now, our most recent ex PM, who remains head of PASOK, George Papandreou, proved unable to govern- and so he says, himself. But the truth is that, aside from the personal weaknesses and problems each of them faced, both our former PMs were too cowardly to face down corruption and fight it- seriously and effectively.

But a country cannot be saved only through conflict. However, it can also not be saved only through acquiescence and conciliatory settlements. And by this, I mean the Papademos government, which in its brief rule seems to have accomplished nothing but a queasy soup of conciliatory calmness- the calmness of doing nothing, of withdrawing any measure or effort to actually change any of the rotten elements and structures and corrupt relationships, which have corroded Greece and our entire society. The only thing this current unelected “unity” government has accomplished, has been to target with wildly unfair measures, the only two social groups which cannot react or demonstrate against it: the elderly pensioners, and the employees of the private sector. The first cannot – biologically...




Sunday 1 January 2012

«PROTO THEMA»



Monday 26 December 2011

«PROTO THEMA»



Sunday 18 December 2011

«PROTO THEMA»

In a small convenience store in London, in a quite multi ethnic neighborhood, I am thrilled, when I find my beloved brand of strained yogurt (obviously Greek!). Almost ecstatic with joy (all this for a yogurt!!), I take it out of the corner where it was almost hidden, and start extolling its virtues and the lightyears of difference in taste which set above all other yogurts. My friends, “foreigners” (“xenoi” as we Greeks call them), listen to me with great interest, and, after tasting the much vaunted yogurt, concede agreement but have a question for me: “Why don’t you guys actually say this yogurt has such a characteristic and luscious taste, compared to all the rest? Why don’t you promote it and ask for it at the stores you shop from, when abroad”. And indeed, I soon discover that quite most Greeks living in Britain are quite happy to settle for English, Albanian, even Turkish “greek style” yogurts, instead of make the effort of asking the store or the supermarket to provide them with the original Greek “greek style” product! By the way, in the same neighborhood where the story of my yogurt took place, in all the stores and local supermarkets, one couldn’t navigate the corridors devoted to pasta, pastries, balsamic vinegar, without knowing at least a smattering of Italian! “If, when it comes to characteristic Italian products”, I am told, “these stores didn’t stock up on produce straight from even the tiniest village in Italy, the Italians of the area would shop elsewhere”. That simple.  

In the same, equally simple manner, a few days later, in Athens, on the bus, I notice that of those passengers who don’t have a monthly pass, the only ones who buy and electronically register a ticket, are a handful of students, two Pakistanis who have evidently overcome their initially illegal immigrant status, and a group of North African workers (with traces of concrete and plaster on their hands). Those who choose to become stowaways are some whom one does not often encounter on means of mass transportation: middle aged middle class people, who obviously drive cars, but, when faced with the need to move about the city fast, covering small distances, now take the bus or trolley instead of taxis, due to the financial straits they now find themselves in. But as for paying to buy a ticket and thus becoming legitimate passengers of means of mass transportation , no way! The world as we know it, here in Greece, is coming to an end, unfairness, craziness and desperation has become our daily reality, and we are going to act like law abiding citizens? No way! This is how they think, evidently. That simple.

One of these… illegal passengers stands close to the driver of the bus and together, the two of them are railing against… the others: “How much more do they want to destroy us salaried workers? When will they arrest the tax evaders with the fat bank accounts in Switzerland we keep on hearing about? When will the politicians themselves impose pay cuts on their salaries for a change, instead of only ours? When will the corrupt amongst them be uncovered and punished? We are full speed on the way to becoming worse than Pakistan in quality of life -at least for the non rich- and Akis Tsohatzopoulos (a Greek former politician, close Andreas Papandreou friend, known for his sudden alarming and inexplicable propulsion to great wealth and his provocative lifestyle) is asking for the increase to the politicians’ salaries to be awarded retroactively! And the private sector is calling us simple workers of the public sector, “fat cats”! Amazing!”.

Late at night, as we are walking in the quiet streets of a middle class neighborhood, we come upon a Ferrari, carelessly parked on the street, in front of an apartment building which doesn’t seem posh enough to host an occupant with such an inordinately extravagant car. The car has Bulgarian license plates. “It’s the new scam”, you explain to me, “one buys a really expensive car at a laughable price, by creating a special kind of company, which is really a ghost- company, supposedly based in Bulgaria. This is the new fashion in scams”. That simple.

That simply, are we also divided into small warring factions, all of us: private sector versus public sector * self employed professionals against entrepreneurs (and vice versa) * exhausted impoverished honest tax payers who have gone to great lengths to honor all their debts- public and private- against others who did not live according to their means, who lived much...



 

My beloved terrorist
Published by: LIVANIS
First printing: 2001
Pages: 403
Hellenists: Greece does not wound them
Published by: LIVANIS
First printing: 1999
Pages: 314
 
 

 

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