Friday, July 01, 2011


Coming out of a taverna on Wednesday night, the owners rushed out to talk to us. "Today has been a terrible day for Greece. This is no longer a democracy. We are worried for our friends in Athens. The only difference between now and the junta is that today we can talk and we are telling all the foreign people about what has happened." They were agitated and distressed by the shocking level of indiscriminate police violence against peaceful demonstrators (and even diners in nearby restuarants) that also drew protests from Amnesty International. Greece is not Syria, it isn't a dictatorship, they may have been melodramatic, but there are long memories here of the poverty and repression of the years of dictatorship and their anguish was real enough. They were not alone in their distress. What was more shocking was the claim by the responsible minister that the gas had been thrown by the protesters. Such a brazen lie shows a government utterly negligent in its duties towards its citizens. It took the police union leadership to show that civic society and democratic values are well and truly alive. He apologised for the violence and called for reform of the police service.

And it is reform that should now be dominating the headlines. Reform of the Greek state has long been seen as necessary and few will demur. Though what strikes me is that though there is much talk about the dangers of a disorderly default, I seem to be hearing little from the mouths of the elite about the dangers of disorderly austerity. No, the Greek people have to accept whatever is thrown at them, suddenly and abruptly. 'Shock therapy' is fine for ordinary people but not for the Eurozone banking system. Even if austerity is necessary (something I would dispute - though that is another argument) surely it can be managed in order to best protect the lives and businesses of the people, phased in with alternate investment and employment schemes to help growth, all the while tackling the real problems of lack of competitiveness and the inefficiency of the Greek state.

Even then, something would still be missing. Where is the EU dimension? Where are the reforms needed to monetary union to deal with the problems that have manifested themselves throughout this prolonged financial crisis? Then there is the democratic deficit implicit in technocratic elitism. Where is the discussion of this? Has the EU seen only external threat or the faults of its constituent nations rather than questioning whether its own structures have contributed to the crisis?

These are indeed the questions being raised by the people of the EU. And whilst the 'indignant ones' of Syntagma re-establish their presence, they now know that they are facing their own mirror image, an elite seething with indignation that anyone could possibly question their wisdom, prepared to defend the status quo - with tear gas if necessary.

1 comment:

Dipper said...

As someone who works in a Bank, I get annoyed when people blame bankers uniformly for the recession. And we see it again with "Greedy Greeks".

Of course lots of Greeks got paid for doing nothing, and there were lots of EU schemes that got abused. But once an organisation or country starts to reward people at the top on a corrupt or fraudulent basis, it becomes almost pointless for people down the scale to attempt to earn their living through honest hard work. And the dishonesty started with EU leaders accepting blatantly dishonest measures of budget deficits for nakedly political purposes.