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Social Unrest Nears as Greece’s Society Groups Get Angry at Each Other?

It came as expected. Employees affected by the upcoming wages cuts included in the 11.5-billion-euro package took to the streets. Policemen, firefighters, coastal guards, judges, academics, teachers, doctors, tax officers. Greece’s public sector is boiling. Civil servants protest and strike and threaten with escalation of their mobilization.

 Sept 6/2012 – Athens: Riot police against protesting policemen

Pensioners and chronic-ill protest because they have to pay prescription medicine by their own pockets and also pay for visits to doctors. The state is unable to pay out debts to pharmacists and private doctors assigned with the national health care organisation.

Hikes in taxes, unjust emergency taxes go hand in hand with income decreases and crack down the backbone of the Greek employees.

Pensioners and chronic-ill protest because they are forced to pay prescription medicine by their own pockets and also pay for visits to doctors.

Sept 6/2012 – Thessaloniki: Pensionsers protest outside EOPYY

The private sector does not feel any better either. Employees see their salaries plunge by 8% or even by 25%. The brother of a friend, 37 years old, father of two, wife jobless. He used to work for 1,000 euro per month. However in September, he was informed, his salary went down to just 750 euro.

Recently a friend put an ad looking for a cleaning lady incl laundry and ironing:  5 euro per hour, once a week, four hours. 80 euro per month. 120 women applied for the job within four days. Half of them were Greeks, the other half foreigners.

Wages plunge, prices for consumer goods, services and utilities remain high. Sometimes they even go up. Or remain the ‘virtually’ the same, while the product packages have decreased. 

Greek Caricature: Wages/Pensions

Wages plunge. From one month to the next. Without previous notice; not that this would make a big difference. And yet, employees are told, “they should feel lucky, to still have a job.”

Unemployment broke a new record reaching 24.4% in June 2012, while among youth the rate is especially dramatic: 55%.

Private vs Public Sector

No wonder, suspicion and envy and little understanding for the demands of several interest groups are making themselves bright among the Greek society: Private sector against public sector, civil servants against civil servants, jobless against people with work. Even if they’re not paid on time.

A friend, 54, gets incredible angry every time, she hears about wages in public administration. “What? They get 2,500 euro per month and they still complain?” Her salary is 1,000 euro per month, her husband has not been paid for several months. They have two teenager kids.

The pension of a friend’s father was cut down to 850 euro per month from 1,300. The father was state hospital doctor. The old man regrets not to have joined the club of those receiving ‘fakelaki’ [black money] and have made a “tax-free” fortunate all these years.

Another friend told me yesterday in an e-mail about his experience with his neighbor, working at a public school.

“She is taking care of her mother. Getting by on an income by cleaning the local schools and her mothers pension. Yes she is struggling too. And stuck. She doesn’t show it. At least until she talks about the holidays of the teachers and the prospect of them going on strike… Then you suddenly see the flickering or hate about, what see feels as utter luxury of those teachers compared to her life. That ‘hate’ is new. I guess it is getting more and more clear to an awful lot of people how others are managing to being relatively well off at the expense of them. And that this has nothing to do with any Troika.”

Not to mention the anger of civil servants when they hear that other civil servants earn more or still enjoy privileges.

Public Services Collapse

Services in public administration and state-run enterprises are collapsing: shortage of personnel, indiferrent public servants knowing they maybe sent to labor reserve.

State registers resemble Swiss Ementaler cheese: with lots of holes in revenues. Tax evasion became the national hobby of private enterprises and self-employed.

More or less the same is the situation in the registers of insurance and pension funds. More than 1,2 million jobless. No employee’s contributions. Employers in payments delays. 

Social welfare in collapse. Benefits only for 100% poor.

Health Care Sector

The health care is going from bad to worse: at least 6 weeks waiting time for a doctor appointment with Greece’s biggest insurance fund IKA. Sometimes you go there, but the doctor is on leave. Then you have to make a new appointment and wait another 6 weeks. Russian roulette with the bulet going through the Greek patient.

The situation in state hospitals is not much better. For insured and uninsured patients alike.

I hear from cases, where patients need to bring their own pillows, bedsheets, toilet papers, cotton, medicine.

I know from cases, where doctors give appointments in the afternoon, charging 75 euro per visit.

A mother without insurance had to pay 200 euro in order to get her new born baby out from the clinic. The money was borrowed from neighbors.

All this happens before the additional austerity measures are announced and come to effect.

Government Saves The Country…

A state mechanism unable to get the situation under control:  Combat tax evasion, exterminate corruption. Can they bring half of the population into prison?

A government unable to take care of the society. A government trying to save the country, Greece, by “killing” the country’s citizens, the Greeks.

People are cracked. And they are boiling inside. But not more as “deep inside” as in the past. Anger slowly perforates the filters that make a society functioning.

One does not need to be an expert so see, the depressive mood of the society during the last two years is mutated into anger.  I’m afraid the social unrest is nearer than thought to be. It needs just a spark. Which I don’t know what it could be…

See more detailed reporting in category KTG/Society

 

 

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27 comments

  1. Divide et impera

    This is and always has been the game of government, on any level. They set up man against woman, public sector against private sector, single parents against married parents, students against teachers, children against parents, race against race, poor against poorer, you name it.
    Whoever owns the government sets the rules. And people never will own their governments unless they finally realize what the game is and unite to take back their lives.
    In Greece this is now more than ever apparent.
    The only way this is going to stop is by making the government do what they need to do, execute the will of the people instead of imposing somebody else’s will on the people.
    Before a government can be held accountable for it’s deeds, there needs to be somebody to be accountable to. By creating all these divisions, accountability goes out the window and the master of government becomes that group that can pay for their services. The people of Greece know only too well where that leads to. Exactly where we are right now!
    The riot police missed a golden opportunity today to put an end to all of this. Instead of standing against their colleagues and the vast majority of the Greek people, they should have turned around and stood with them. End of Government. And let the people decide, irrespective of what Merkel, Schauble & Co think and say Greece should do.

  2. The riot police missed a golden opportunity today to put an end to all of this. Instead of standing against their colleagues and the vast majority of the Greek people, they should have turned around and stood with them. End of Government. And let the people decide

    In one paragraph pleading for a coup and then wanting the 3th election in 4 months time… You are funny…

  3. Riot police joining their colleagues does not mean a coup. I don’t mean taking over, I do mean paving the way for a government that will actually act in the interest of the Greek people instead of in the interest of Germany. That does however mean getting rid of the present shower… And at this stage, going by what is published here and in the press in general, any means are good means. I do also say

    and let the people decide…

  4. Glad to read this. I agree.15

  5. In which way is what’s happening good for Germany…? Last time I checked, Germany is losing billions and billions of euros to Greek loans that every German knows will never be repaid.

    And don’t come up with the argument that German banks are being saved – they have already lost 75% of their holdings in the debt forgiveness earlier this year.

    You guys voted for the present politicians, just like before. If you cannot hold them accountable you need to work on developing free and inquiring press that will uncover corruption, and independent and efficient judiciary that will prosecute bad guys. Etc, etc. And remember, everyone can make a difference. Just start getting involved in getting civil society to function. Found organisations: is there a Greek tax payers organisation as in other European countries, having a proactive role of making sure their money is well spent?

    Such institutions are much more important than casting a vote every X years. But sadly, they require much more work…

    By the way, before any complaints pop up, I’m not German (although I’d be proud if I were!)

  6. Show me a government anywhere, ESPECIALLY the EC, that is accountable for anything they do? The EC is not even elected, they are appointees! The Farce of Democracy is limited to the 1.6 seconds it takes to put your mark on the ballot paper, and that’s as far as it goes. Simply reality, you are not allowed to vote for individuals as ministers. You vote for “a party”, which tells you absolutely anything they like, and once the vote is in the bag, they go off, divide the goodies between the favourite boys and girls, and nobody gets a say any longer.
    Yes, I know the argument is that’s what parliament is for. Again, show me 1 constitution, any constitution, which obliges any parliamentarian to justify his/her actions to the electorate that voted for him? I don’t think there is a constitution anywhere that even mentions the word accountability.
    After 4 years, unless there is an “accident”, the people are “allowed” to execute their “democratic right” again, another 1.6 seconds, but, the disappearing trick happens again, and they vote for parties instead of individuals, parties who tell them anything they like, and once ….

    The direct result of this is that you end up with ministerial posts being handed out as rewards to loyal party members instead of getting people capable of doing the job.

    So you end up, like they did in Ireland, with an English teacher as minister responsible for developing the infrastructure of the country (who didn’t know which side of a map is “up”), with a real estate agent blowing millions on electronic voting machines he ordered which could not be audited, with right now a minister for health who is re-writing the legislation on care centres for the elderly while his very own centre has gone bust and he is declared bankrupt will million worth of debt, etc. etc. Same shit, different country.

    The EU has tried to “remedy” this by appointing “technocrats” to do the job. Wrong in every conceivable way. Firstly, the technocrats are not elected, they are not accountable to the people, and every single one of them (Please do check it out), Papademos, Draghi, Monti, Suntherland,Antonio Borges, Karel Van Miert (Now retired), have all “earned” their medals with one and the same company. Indeed, the one and only Goldman Sachs…Did we mention banks? Bank would be much more appropriate.

    As for voting in the current shower, no, the Greeks didn’t. That came about as a result of massive, and I mean massive, international interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state. This government is in place thanks to a very intensive, dishonest media campaign orchestrated by those who perceived that the alternative (SYRIZA) was a very real possibility and needed,as far as they are concerned, to be stopped at any cost, by any means. And they did.
    Would it have made a change? For Greece probably not. For the powers that be in Europe, it would have been a disaster because it would have caused at least a serious set-back in their Neo Liberal policies, if not an outright collapse thereof.

    Finally, why would what is happening have to be good for Germany? Are you actually agreeing that the whole scam is indeed for that purpose, and that purpose only, or is it just a Freudian slip?

  7. You have some very important points here, but you don’t approach my enquiries about independent organisations, run by the electorate – you and me and our neighbours – keeping track of society. I’m genuinely curious what a proactive tax-payers organisation (as but an example) would be able to do in Greece (run without government support – based on members paying fees because they’re concerned about the functioning of the society they and their children are living in).

    In fact, there _are_ successful countries in the world and they’re all democracies. “Success” here defined as a place where most people are happy, there is little or no abject poverty, one generally has chances to affect one’s situation in life.

    As a country Greece and other countries with dysfunctional government should look to Northern Europe, Canada, Australia, and see what’s done differently there. Why are most people well-off and satisfied (relatively – there are always things to improve) with society there? Surely the non-governmental institutions make a difference? I’m totally with you that just casting a vote every four years isn’t what democracy is about. One has to be vigilant constantly as a citizen, making sure things are done correctly around you, and making sure you behave correctly in return.

    Democracy, as charity, begins at home. And please don’t take this as a criticism of you personally – I don’t know you, and you don’t know me.

    Germany – your comment has no logic to it. Freudian slip? que?

    Interesting discussion.

  8. By the way, sorry about not checking out G-S background or not. I’m sure there are lots of them and I’m not a fan of the company.

  9. @Alien
    Unfortunately there is no culture of independant organisations here. I am very often shocked to see people do not know their rights. what they say is “it’s done like that”. OF course, somebody has to raise such a culture in the minds of people before such orgs can be established. there is hardly private initiative without government participation. I’d blame the system, while I remember that I was paying 100DM-annual-fee to a German organisation to protect me as tenant. When I needed them, they supported me with legal advise and even sent a lawyer to deal with the landonwer. And that was 20 years ago!

  10. The only place that I know off where the system you talk about worked was (indeed WAS) in Ireland. It’s a system the Irish would call “meitheal”, which is best described as a small group of people working together for the better of the community.It applied mainly to rural communities where people would harvest together etc. They would of course also keep an eye on each other. Those were the days that people trusted their neighbours.
    This evolved into a system called “lets” used in the larger communities, where people would still work together, but exchange work instead of money. I paint your house, you dig my garden, etc…. Work was done as needed.
    This was killed off by government policies because those engaged in the practice where mostly unemployed (and not chasing after that non-existing job as the system required), and they were accused of tax-evasion…

    There are other examples of other successful cooperations, again as an Irish example the “credit unions” which are financial organisations owned by those who invest their money in them. They were set up as saving banks, which would then give cheap loans to members. Worked well, until the sharks got their hands on them, mainly through government imposed “regulation”.

    The main problem is that such systems will never be allowed to succeed, because they are a threat to “the system”. Democracy (or rather parliamentarian dictatorship) as “practiced” today isn’t. The biggest achieved of the powers that be is to make people believe that democracy is the system, not the smoke screen it actually is.
    If voting would change anything, it would be banned. What you are actually suggesting is some form of direct democracy, where a citizen or group of citizen would have the power to challenge the system and its agents. Nice thought, all for it, but you’ll have a long, hard battle to get anything up and running. Especially in a country like Greece, where sadly enough that final step called “Trust” still is one step too far.

  11. I can imagine such cooperatives are easier in rural areas. But in the cities? and with a higher education rate in population? difficult. I mean nowadays, exchange cannot be based on digging garden -fixing bathroom sink or trade potatoes for tutorials. If I add all my internet/telephone/mobile/pc/laptop/tv/electricity needs alone I realize I have to earn real money because no OTE would provide me with a line in exchange of me offering to cook for them or clean for a whole month or even a year. Not to mention what I have to do in order to get a surgery free of charge or life-saving medicine.
    these nice solidarity-cooperation models died with the industrialization of our modern world.

  12. Very wise work KTG. Such local communism (“communism” as in “communal”, working for the local community) could work if one skips Internet connections, modern infrastructure in general, well anything modern. Forget it (unless you want to have a stone age living standard.

    In the meanwhile what can be achieved is something quite acceptable I think: modern social democratic societies with a high standard of living, where healthcare is for free and almost no one’s left totally to fend for themselves. As in the very agreeable countries I mentioned above.

  13. yes and no. If you consider a system as a fixed, non-evolving thing, then you are right. But systems do evolve. Just look at how the vultures have manipulated a simple, effective system like banking. It went for a security device to wholesale a theft device in the space of 400 years or so. Lots of fancy jargon and nonsensical rules, looks good, important and very fancy ful, but at the end of the day, you are broke, the bankers drives around in a BMW. 2 if he could 🙂

    You can look at systems and make them highly adaptable so that they evolve in a positive direction with society, as society evolves. A very simple example of that are road signs. As the complexity of transport in modern cities grows, so does the variety of road signs. The whole road sign system is now also being looked at from a human perspective, in that some colour blind people have great difficulties distinguishing between blue and red, so things will change. It can be done.
    The key, to my mind, is education. The system looks at people and sees an empty box, to be filled with what the system thinks the system will need. People aren’t empty. People need to be allowed to develop who THEY are, instead of being turned into some robot the system needs, until it doesn’t need them anymore. Then you end up with Greece anno 2012.
    Allow people to develop who they are, and the system will get what it needs, but a lot more to boot. Like intelligent, caring, social, thinking people instead of factory fodder, civil service fodder, army fodder, police fodder, and a bunch of fascists when it inevitably goes wrong

  14. and who finances the health care? people’s taxes. so, it’s not free either in the narrow meaning of the word.

  15. hm…our society is stuck and it needs some brilliant minds to change things with functioning models. I see no innovative idea around, so far.

  16. You wont get any innovative ideas coming out of the current system(s). Society is only stuck because the system is stuck. You need to uncouple system from society before you can get the radical changes we do indeed need. That means first and foremost, kicking the whole current political brotherhood out to sea and wave them goodbye. If you want to stick with the system and change from within, that is where the change needs to happen.
    And yes, it does involve questions like do we need 300 MPs, do they need so much pay, etc. But first and foremost, it needs a complete new framework for the replacement to work with.
    This is not tinkering with the odd valve or changing some part or the other. This is alt+ctrl+del and then re-format. It does take time.
    People can do 1 of two things. They can either wait for the system to completely devour itself, which it is doing but at very high cost to society (just look at Greece), or people can say enough.
    Either way, it will cause mayhem and it will hurt. The question is, how much more pain are you prepared to take, and how long for?
    In order to change, society needs that confusion, it needs that uncertainty, because it is precisely in that space of “not knowing” that the great ideas we need are born.

  17. The reason you don’t see those innovative ideas is because you are looking at the system instead of at society.
    The system is rotten to the core. It needs replacing, not fixing. That replacement can only come from within society. As I said before, you cannot build a new system on the rotten foundations of an old one. The rot simply spreads again.
    It will hurt, and it will take time. It will also cause a lot of uncertainty and insecurity.
    But it is precisely in that space of uncertainty, that space of “not knowing, where creativity lives. It is there that great ideas are born.
    Create the space, and the ideas will follow.

  18. I look to things iore practical way, on the internet. But all I see is “StartUps” 🙂

  19. You are making the same very understandable, but nevertheless fundamental mistake, over and over again.
    You are looking for changes inside the box instead of outside the box. It’s a bit like the gardener looking for rare plants in a garden he planted out himself.
    Stepping outside that box is the challenge. Individuals can do it, societies will follow if it’s done. But the change starts with oneself.
    We all know the system is not just broken, it’s irrepairable. So stop looking at the system for change. No point putting new tires on a car when the engine has ceased. Once you step outside the box, things get, if nothing else, really, really interesting. And so do the possibilities.
    Things like the Special Economic Zones etc. are nothing more than attempts to keep a dying system stumbling along for another while. And somebody, somewhere will probably find a way of making money on it. That somebody will not be you or me, that you can be sure of. At best, you’ll be allowed the few crumbs that fall of the table. This is not what we, both Greece and Europe that is, need.
    I’ll say it again. The system of predatory capitalism that has resulted in the mess we are in is what needs dismantling and replacing. Otherwise, we stay in an ever growing mess. And the dismantling starts by removing those preventing the necessary change. You local friendly politician with the big back pocket is a very good place to start.
    You wanted ideas? Here’s one to ponder on. Instead of swallowing all the BS we are being promised or threatened with during election campaigns, people should draw up a contract to be signed by those touting for the votes. A contract that spells out what the people want, and binds the politician to execute those wishes in return for their vote. Stick the individual politicians to a contractually binding program, instead of believing a BS party political program designed to con you for the next 4 years. Start by contractually removing all their privileges, and turning them back into the employee of the people they are supposed to be.
    How many politicians do you think will sign up?
    As things stand, voting is not the solution, it’s the problem. To constantly engage with the system is to collaborate in it and ensure ever growing problems for the foreseeable future.
    When enough people say “no” and actually mean it, there will be a farewell party for all parties who keep promoting the system. When there are enough people who say “no” and ask the government to piss off, and ensure they do piss off we can start thinking about progress.
    But until people stop acting like a herd and see themselves as sovereign entities they’re not fit or capable of choosing representatives.
    Right now, what political parties are really saying to you is to stick the fork into the socket again. How many more times are you willing to be burned for the make-belief that it will work this time?
    As long as people keep burning themselves, they are in fact not fit to have a vote on what’s for dinner, leave alone vote on who will get the country out of the mess it’s in…

  20. It must be dreadful to live in a country without functioning institutions and where trust is absent. It is hard to phantom how basic decency such as honesty and integrity can be introduced. Religion, enlightenment? Who knows.

  21. I’d settle for a toilet that you can flush the toilet paper down and not have to put it in a little basket. I always wondered how Greece can be so advanced in some areas, but in the Middle-Ages when it comes to plumbing (LOL!!!)..

  22. So, in your opinion large parts of the USA (25%) and Western Europe (most houses that are to far away from main pipes. That’s just 40 meters plus in densely populated countries like the Low Countries) are still living in the middle ages? As septic tanks don’t tolerate toilet paper wherever you are I find your joke a bit Neolithic. LOL!

  23. Antonis, what part of the USA are you referring to? I don’t believe with possibly the exception of farms and extremely rural areas it is possible what you are describing. Without a doubt, I have travelled in most major urban areas in the USA and have not noticed little trashcans for toilet paper. Have you ever been to the states or were you just playing devil’s advocate? By contrast, in most areas in Athens, the little trashcan seems to be the benchmark plumbing standard in all of Athens and beyond. So, I have to agree with HOG on this one.

  24. In North America, approximately 25% of the population relies on septic tanks; this can include suburbs and small towns as well as rural areas (Indianapolis is an example of a large city where many of the city’s neighborhoods are still on separate septic systems). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indianapolis

    Indianapolis is not really rural, isn’t it?
    But I have to admit that 1) I have never been to the US. 2) I have family living there but they never mentioned anything about little trashcans. 3) In several area’s in Athens you don’t need these trashcans as toilets there are connected to modern sewage systems. In other parts, especially where everything is build on bedrock and steep hills, normal sewage systems don’t exist and a lot of high-rises I know have some kind of septic tank.
    4) Yes, I was also playing devil’s advocate as I like to challenge general conceptions. One of those general conceptions that even exists among a lot of Greeks is this thing with the toilet paper. When I once listened to a former landlady of mine, standing in her new building and hearing how proud she was that they were connected to the sewage system and that even natural gas would be connected in one year, I made the stupidest remark in my life. I said: “Great, now we don’t need that basket anymore!” Wrong, totally wrong! “No”, she said in a stern tone, “Of course we need that! It’s the way we do things around here.” So, to her it was a sign of Greekness… 😉

  25. keeptalkinggreece

    it’s sign of stick to traditions 🙂

  26. Ok, thanks for clarifying Antonis but remember this. For me personallly, I will criticize things in Greece that I think should be better, and it shouldn’t really offend anyone since ultimately it will benefit all of us should change occur. Now, in the USA, we have our own problems of course, but in the “little trash can” department, I think we got Greece beat on that one. Sure, maybe pockets of areas but why don’t we just compare upscale Washington D.C. with Ekali, Vouliagmenis and then let’s see who has more “little trashcans”. I also want to announce that I find it annoying when anyone Greeks or Americans don’t like foreigners to criticize their country and this is more of nationalism than really sticking up for their deeds. Oh well, I digress.

  27. keeptalkinggreece

    it’s not only Greeks and Americans who don’t like foreigners to criticize their country. I think it’s a global phenomenon.