There is nothing ‘up’ here today as Greece is trying to pick up yesterday’s pieces. Strikes. Clashes. Austerity. One man lost his life. Protester Dimitris Kotzaridis, 53, suffered a heart attack most likely due to distress during the clashes between ‘hooded men’ and members of the GreekCommunist Party union. The autopsy will show the exact causes of his death, a prosecutor is investigating the issue. The man was a communist party unionist. A construction worker without a job for the last three years. His wife jobless as well.
What do you do if you have no income? You go and demonstrate, you raise your voice against the laws and parliament bills that delete you from the list of living human beings. Or you sit at home and count your cups in the board, deeply depressed. Or you fight with your wife and beat your children. Or if you live in a social state, you sit on your couch and enjoy social benefits. Until the time the doctors declare you’re officially dead. Physically. Then metaphorically, you’ve been dead for many years, because you never left your couch, raised your voice and fought for your rights.
I see quite some comments in this blog, and also receive some e-mails, where people (foreigners, diaspora Greeks) question why the Greeks organize strikes and protests. Sitting in a comfort chair it has never been considered as the therapy against social apathy.
One part of commentators claims Greeks should pay their taxes and shut up. I considered them as ignorants and victims of their politicians’ populists propaganda. They don’t know better and they refuse to take steps to widen their horizon, to know better.
Another part questions “why do Greeks protest, if austerity bills do pass after all?”. I assume this question has its base in a mentality of fatal …fatalism. And I dare say that these people seem to forget that they owe today’s “comforts, rights and securities” to the struggles of people fought yesterday and the day before. When ideologies, obscurantism and feudalism made everyday life a torture and labour conditions were miserable and hopeless. And yet people tried to change them And they did. Refresh some chapters in history books (Middles Ages, Renaissance, Humanism, French Revolution, Industrial Revolution). Just ‘google’ these terms. Or read some Charles Dickens books. Some centuries before are not far away in terms of eternity. Today’s ‘comforts’ were not given by God or just fell from the sky. We owe them to the people who fought for them.
There have been even some KTG-readers who wondered why the army does not intervene to “aid police restore law and order on the streets.” Due to their recent history of military dictatorship, Greeks are very allergic to any presence of soldiers on the streets. Because of the compulsory military duty, soldiers are our children. And you don’t want your children to beat their parents. Do you? By the way, a KTG-reader “Vasilis_21” gave very good answers to this question, that came yesterday but has reached KTG also in the past.
“if the army come sin chances are that the rioters will outnumber the army as well, as you will get everyone over the age of 40 who was alive during the late 60s early 70s on the street,we have respect for the armed forces in Greece but at the same time we try not to let them out the house officially to often. all male Greeks do national service so you are basically asking for conscripted soldiers to start chasing their family around the city for nothing more than peacefully protesting.”
“as i mentioned above since most of the armed forces is comprised of young men who are conscripted to do national service for 12-14 months and who also grew up listening to their parents and grandparents talking about the 1967-1974 junta, i am inclined to think that should the armed forced go for a coup or if the state invited them to suppress demonstrators most of the ordinary soldiers will simply refuse, as they will be in essence suppress what they will be in a few months time, or members of their family community friends, etc. We have a weird relationship with the armed forces, we trust them with our safety and borders and allow our young to be conscripted and trained and are proud that they are part of the defence of the nation at the same time we realise that they need to be controlled” (see Here in comments section)
Yesterday, 74 people sought medical aid in the hospitals of Athens. To get treatment for wounds from hurled stones, for burns dues to thrown fire bombs, to ease respiratory problems due to tear gas. An unknown number of injured was treated at the ambulance spots right at the Syntagma Sq. You think, people leave their homes in the morning just to get wounded?
PS This morning I woke up exhausted and angry. Exhausted due to lack of perspective and angry about what is happening with my country. But I still have a shimmer of hope. That I’m living in times when history writes a further chapter in its thick book. A positive chapter. That Corruption, Nepotism and Victimization of people will finally end in this country. And not that Greeks will turn back to Middle Ages and be deprived from their dignity…
KTG thanks for the publicity :), you posted this article while i was commenting on a comment to a previous post which mentions my view on the austerity and whether people should protest. Your article pretty much covers what i wrote there. Kalimera
yes, telepathy over the essence of the previous day lol – you’re welcome
Great post. I remember reading comments from UK tweeps during the riots there about calling in the army, not realising in their ignorance the presence of the army in Northern Ireland was a hardly a success story.
I protest because it’s cheaper and more effective than anti-depressents.
ha exactly! I wonder also in which democratic countries the army combats riots on the streets.
Hello guys! Nice article with usefull informatinos. What i am curios about these demonstrations and riots is “do you think you can get what you want with this reaction”
Let me be more clear. I take part and support you guys. Why dont you increase the tension of the reaction more and more until you reach your point?
Mehmet there is no actual point,we have reached a point of few choices left, none of them good all of them bad. 2 years ago there were plenty of choices, they goverment took a choice thinking that it was the best choice for them,politically, that doesnt equate with the best choice for a nation. That is a problem with greek politicians they equate their own benefit as that of the country’s as well. we now have 2 choices i think. keep with the austerity with a kill or cure attitude, either something breaks or things mend eventually in many manby years time, which will produce another social scar for greece and complete distrust of authority in a country which views any authority as an impediment to freedom, or we default, balance the budget violently with vasr cuts everywhere, bringing a probable banking collapse in Europe making some rich sociopaths richer, more people losing the jobs and pensions. rationing food and petrol and oil until the economy stabilizes which will have to be quick while at the same time due to geography and tensions with a couple of other countries try to protect ourselves as much as we can. that would mean a fairly autocratic goverment, we would hope for a good one while still being strict but this beeing greece we would get some idiot who will become a puppet. That is why people are despondent they feel this dead end in their souls, that there is no way out. austerity we could put up with if done correctly and evenly, we have dealt with worse in our history and survived, but this is different. and the fact that all Greeks know that they caused this themselves by voting for these people and not checking and control them has led us here. So the demostrations are a natural reaction to the guilt and hopelessness that is gripping the country. How can you tell your children that it was partly your fault they will have to emigrate to have a chance at a decent life or they will have to work with to worker rights if they stay in the countryif they find a job. What the media present abroad as well as in Greece is just stereotypes and quick puns with greek tragedy odyssey etc to get their own people to tow the line. But a country has people, children, pensioners, workers, families trying to survive. it doesnt only have stereotypes. My sister has accepted to work less hours for less pay as her boss cant support full staff full time and he doesnt want to fire anyone so they have all accepted massive cuts just to have a basic income which doesnt really cover anything. that is everyday people not unionists, party followers and other hangers on who strike because they lose their benefits. I have asked KTG how her neighbourhood is dealing with this because that is where the breaking point is. not the riots or demonstrations, but when your neighbourhood feels like blowing up then you know thingd will move.
Unfortunately I have noticed that most people (if not everyone) living outside Greece,have little idea about what really is happening on Greece.
It seems that most people just have heared about some austerity measures and that’s all.
But they don’t seem to know the rest of Greece’s problems,and how harsh this austerity is.
Especially Germans,seem to believe that they give their own money to save Greece,and they seem to have a stereotype that all Greeks are lazy people that doesn’t work.
Average German citizen should learn that it’s not the average German citizens that pay the loan to Greece,the loan isn’t by taxpayer’s money.
It’s private Banks that loan their own money,and have a profitable interest for doing so.
Now let’s talk and make the picture a little bit clearer about why all these Greeks that protest are so angry.
1)First of all,people outside Greece should be informed that since the I.M.F. and the European Troika started “helping” Greece,Greece’s economy just went worse. Yup that’s right. The policies and measures these two organizations push to Greece are destroying Greek economy instead of helping it.Numbers speak for themselves.
Greece’s GDP is minimized 13%,investments are fewer,unemploment rate hit a new record of 20%,and the amount of people below the povetry line got higher.
People should learn that the policies that are supposed to save Greek economy actually destroy it.
2)Today Greece’s public debt is 340 billion euros.
At 2007 the ex-prime minister Karamanlis took a loan of 70 billion euros in the name of the finanical crisis,and gave all this money to a few private banks.At 2009 the Papandreou government loaned another 110 billion euros,saying they do it to decrease Greece’s public debt.
The outcome is that in just 4 years Greece’s public debt was more than doubled,in the name of shrinking it.
As you understand,it’s hypocrisy,a travesty.
How can somebody shrink a debt when he is getting new loans and doubles the debt ?
3)George Papandreou lied.Before the elections during his campaign our current prime minister lied to us and told us that there is NO financial crisis.He said that the financial crisis was a myth and accused our ex-prime minister that he used that “myth” in order to apply heavier taxation and collect more money to steal.
4)The Greek government doesn’t just vote for austerity measures,but along the lines of the contract he (the p.m.) and his ministers voted and signed it is also said that Greece GIVES PARTS OF ITS SOVEREIGNTY TO THE E.U. council.The Greek government gives the authorship of ruling Greece to a foreign power which is the E.U.
Of course Greek people never wanted that.
This is a declaration of submission that makes Greece a protectorate,a puppet state. It is also called “High Treason”,and of course it’s illegal according to the Greek Constitution and the penalty for doing such a thing is life-long imprisonment.
5)Greek government’s Vice President Theodoros Pangalos officialy admitted that he and his government steal taxpayer’s money.In a question asked from an opposing party where the money from the loans goes,he answered “We ate them together” meaning that the politicians stole taxpayer’s money and shared them with a bunch of people that helped to become a government.
That means that hundreds of millions if not billions of money where moved to private accounts of politicians and a few selected “friends”.
Money that the average Greek citizen is called to pay back.
Greeks must suffer harsh austerity measures so a bunch of elit people can have another 10 villas and perhaps another 5 ferarris,and some more millions at their bank accounts.That’s not fair.
The money Greece is getting from loans goes to personal accounts of a few elit.Greek people know that,and shout that they don’t want their government to get any more loans,because they know that these money will make a few richer,a majority poorer,and Greece’s economic status worse.Our politicians steal the money.
6)The austerity measures are too harsh.
Taxation rates have sweetspots.When the rate is at its sweetspot,a government’s income increases.
The more far the rate is from the sweetspot (it doesn’t matter if it’s higher or lower) the lower is the government’s income.
Right now Greece have surpassed the sweetspot,and the outcome is that the Greek government’s income is getting reduced,which kills the economy.
The austerity measures make life more expensive.
Consider that the average Greek works about 10 hours a day,and gets paied 700 euros a month.
Appartment fees are about 50% to 60% of one’s salary.
The cheapest,shortest appartment at a bad fame district already costs 300 euros.
The austerity is so harsh that somebody who has a job can’t even survive with the money he makes.
In order to survive you have to live with other people (parents,friends..) in order to split the bills,so you can keep some money to feed.
Because of that situation Greeks doesn’t make families and babies anymore.The population of Greece saw a reduction of 9% of the population between the years 2001 to 2011.
It’s not just “harsh”,it’s genocidal.
These are the points I’d like to share with our international readers. I hope you have a clearer picture about what is happening on Greece,and that you now understand why this “angryness”.
thanks for taking the time and write an even more thourough explanation. I think I do that via several posts, but at the end I belive people have to read such summaries every day to start seeing things are they are really.
First of all, I want to thank KTG for such a good post. I want to take my hat off to Mehmet and Steve, very well written comments which I 100% agree with. I am not Greek, but I am a taxpayer here, I feel the pain and take the knocks. I just hope that at the end of all this the powers that be will be able to reflect and wonder whether it was all worth it….
I’m sorry, I meant to say that Vasillis response to Mehmet was very well written. Sorry for earlier error. Bravo Vasilli!!
not that well written, lots of spelling and grammatical errors :). thank for the kind words though. and thanks to KTG for keeping us informed through her blog
not too modest… I tried to do some corrections via spell checking lol
i meant my comment KTG not your article. victoria commented that it was well written and i noticed i made plenty of spelling and grammatical errors
I meant your comment too, not mine 🙂
I think this is a very thought provoking article, and there will always be differences of opinions. But, if push comes to shove, I’d have to agree with Mr. Pangalos who said, “Mazi ta Fagamei”
A question all us should ask ourselves, Greeks and foreigners who live in Greece (and yes I’ve lived here for 30 years as an American of Greek heritage) before we become too eager to blame the government and not ourselves as well:
Can anyone truly say NO to all of these questions which a friend recently brought to my attention.
– Have I received a job in the public sector which actually shouldn’t exist at all, just because I agreed to give my vote to a certain politician?
– Haven’t I ever questioned how a country like Greece could have supported so many Public workers? Where were the protests against the bloated public sector?
– Have I always requested a receipt, e.g. from Taxi drivers etc?
– Have I bought something every now and then and received a better price when buying it without a receipt?
– Have I as shop owner always declared my real earnings for the tax return?
– Have I as ‘freelancer’ (doctor, taxi driver, architect,…) always paid the necessary taxes?
– Have I requested a mechanic to fix my car without a receipt or have I maybe hired ‚cheap foreign labourers’ without caring for a receipt?
– Have I bought illegal and cheap copies of brand products from the street bazaars, such as a purse, a pair of sunglasses or a DVD?
– Have I received myself money which I haven’t declared properly for tax reasons?
– Have I ever paid a fakalaki to a Doctor and didn’t report that Doctor to the police?
– Have I ever insisted that a restaurant or Taxi driver enforce the “No Smoking” law
– Have I ever insisted a Taxi Driver not pick up a second customer when taking you to your destination?
Unless the whole country (not just politicians) changes it’s corrupt infrastructure, all the protests in the world just look silly…
Amerikanai, it looks as if you ‘ate them together’ with Pangalos – and if you ‘re here 30 years… well… more or less it coincides with Pangalos political carreer.. Otherwise I cannot understand, you blame the society but you clear politicians from any responsibility incl trading votes for work in the public sector. A pratice that contunues even today. But Pangalos said also something else: that citizens were pressing the poor politicians for jobs in the public sector.
Before you ask these questions here (off topic, what whatever) why don’t you answer them first with your 30-yrs experience. In fact I want to know one thing: how did you manage to beat the corrupt and tax evading system.
The rest is cheap populism, turning a blind eye to corrupt system, and lack of political culture.
I beg to answer your questions as a German living in Germany:
1. Have I received a job in the public sector which actually shouldn’t exist at all, just because I agreed to give my vote to a certain politician?
Not me. But I know many Germans which did. Especially members of the parties. For theirselfs or their families
2. Haven’t I ever questioned how a country like Greece could have supported so many Public workers? Where were the protests against the bloated public sector?
Germany has the same problem. Where are the protests here?
3. Have I always requested a receipt, e.g. from Taxi drivers etc?
Tztztz … of course not! It’s not my problem how the Ministry of Finance gets the taxes.
4. Have I bought something every now and then and received a better price when buying it without a receipt?
Of course! I’m a working poor. I have to see how I get through the month with my finances.
5. Have I as shop owner always declared my real earnings for the tax return?
Of course not! The German tax law provides enough loopholes!
6. Have I as ‘freelancer’ (doctor, taxi driver, architect,…) always paid the necessary taxes?
See answer to 5
7. Have I requested a mechanic to fix my car without a receipt or have I maybe hired ‚cheap foreign labourers’ without caring for a receipt?
Yes, I requested a mechanic to fix my car without receipt. And not only mechanics. Even carpenters, painters, electricians ….
And no, the Germans need no foreign cheap labourers … that are the Germans theirselfes
8. Have I bought illegal and cheap copies of brand products from the street bazaars, such as a purse, a pair of sunglasses or a DVD?
No. The quality is shit. But I watch movies and listen to music in the internet for free …
Or I buy used things … so i save the VAT
9. Have I received myself money which I haven’t declared properly for tax reasons?
10. Have I ever paid a fakalaki to a Doctor and didn’t report that Doctor to the police?
Okay … this is not a problem we have in Germany …
11. Have I ever insisted that a restaurant or Taxi driver enforce the “No Smoking” law
Hehe … no! I am a smoker. Btw.: What does this have to do with taxes or corruption
12. Have I ever insisted a Taxi Driver not pick up a second customer when taking you to your destination?
No. Why should I? It’s cheaper when we share the bill.
If the above questions are the reasons why Greece is where it is, then why Germany is not already there?
Because they are not the root causes! Part of it. Sure. But first and foremost, it is our financial system, with interest and compound interest. Sooner or later they all come to the point where they can no longer pay. Only a matter of time. Then a few banking families own everything and the mass has nothing left. Around the world. Living in poverty.
Just my 2 Cents 🙂
To answer some of your questions:
– Have you received a job in the public sector which actually shouldn’t exist at all, just because you agreed to give your vote to a certain politician?
No I haven’t. In fact, I’ve never even applied for a job in the public sector, just because I find the idea of ‘votes for jobs’ totally abhorrent.
– Haven’t you ever questioned how a country like Greece could have supported so many public workers? Where were the protests against the bloated public sector?
Well, actually the problem with the Greek public sector is not that it’s bloated but that it’s awfully mismanaged and terribly unproductive. Solution: sort out the public administration and cut down on unnecessary bureaucracy. Instead of having so many people just shuffling paper, get them to do something more productive, such as growing food, making things and building infrastructure. Would a politician like Pangalos have ever considered something so ‘radical’? I seriously doubt it,…a man who looks like he can’t be bothered to move his ass.
Have you always requested a receipt, e.g. from Taxi drivers etc?
Heck, no. Why should I have to request receipts from taxi drivers? I don’t know of any other country in the world where that is a legal requirement. Surely it is the state’s job to ensure taxi drivers pay their taxes, not mine.
– Have you bought illegal and cheap copies of brand products from the street bazaars, such as a purse, a pair of sunglasses or a DVD?
No I haven’t, mainly because they are not my style anyway.
– Have you received yourself money which you haven’t declared properly for tax reasons?
No, I haven’t.
– Have you ever paid a fakelaki to a Doctor and didn’t report that Doctor to the police?
No, I haven’t.
– Have you ever insisted that a restaurant or Taxi driver enforce the “No Smoking” law.
Yes, and they have looked at me as if I was alien just landed from outer space.
– Have you ever insisted a Taxi Driver not pick up a second customer when taking you to your destination?
Yes and I was shown the door.
Ok, enough of this. Now let me ask you some questions of my own:
1) Have you ever driven to a destination when you could have walked or used public transport?
2) Have you ever bought clothing, shoes, electronics and other consumer goods from companies that use sweatshops?
4) Have you ever shopped in a supermarket despite the fact that this adds to food miles and is detrimental to the local economy?
And if so, do you therefore deserve to lose your job, your social services, your property and your savings through cuts, biting austerity and a taxation regime so extreme that it has been compared to Stalinist expropriation?
My point is that as citizens we are enmeshed in a global economy which is in many ways unfair, unsustainable, damaging to the environment and harmful to others. We have a moral duty to try and change this, of course, but it’s silly to pretend that as individuals we can just step outside the network of relations we live in.
So, if I haven’t always confronted an establishment that isn’t enforcing the no-smoking law, preferring instead to leave, or if instead of asking the taxi driver not to smoke, I have avoided taking a taxi so as not to be exposed to the smoke, does that mean that I am to be held accountable for the country’s downfall? Is my share of responsibility the same as that of Pangalos, whose political career spans 30 years and whom by the way I never voted for?
As far as I’m concerned, all this talk of ‘oloi mazi ta fagame’ is just a way for politicians and bankers to shirk responsibility for what have happened. For if ‘society’ is responsible, then no one is responsible and thus you can always blame it on someone else.
The thing is though that someone signed on the dotted line for all those loans and it wasn’t me. And the money is lining someone’s pockets and it ain’t mine. So how come I’m being asked pay for their crisis? And you’re saying I shouldn’t complain because it “looks silly”?
Bravo! you gave the same answers I would also had…
I cannot answer NO everytime to all of these questions I posted, but that’s my point. No one living in Greece can do this all the time. But, we have to try, do we not??
However, this is the system that we have in Greece. Whether Greek or foreigner, we all live with or tolerate this system.
So, since WE citizens tolerate this system, my point then is why do WE have to ONLY blame the politicians. It’s the easy way out. Many of my Greek friends and acquaintances (even my Greek wife) have the same view as you (as most of your country does) but I am asking you to think outside of the box. Don’t forget, the majority of you voted for these politicians. Similar to the people of the USA who voted for Bush. Some in the USA say they got the government that they deserved.
I believe that until the average citizen realizes that HE/SHE is ALSO part of the problem, there will be no solution. It’s called Self-Reflection, which very few do in this country. It’s always the “the other person’s fault”.
Regarding protests; If there was a protest against people NOT giving receipts, or against Doctor’s asking for “fakalaki”, etc, maybe I would change my mentality and join these protests.
Now, you can insult me, make jokes about me, but in the end, you are attacking the messenger, not the message. Usually, I find this type of behavior common amongst people without manners or education, so I was surprised when coming from a serious, respected, blog journalist such as yourself.
You don’t need to respond as this is just an observation, and I guess we can agree to disagree on this. I hope you will allow me to still feel welcome to post comments on your blog even though I have such an alien view to most readers on this site.
No, I don’t tolerate this system, neither I voted for them. Neither me, nor my family. Should we start a ‘family revolution’ then or a civil war? And remember that those who don’t tolerate this system and refuse to be part of it have been kicked out violently and punished with unemployment and ending of professional carreers.
Why don’t you organize a protest against tax evaders? You stir around the hot broth, without putting a finger on the real problems.
You have no idea how my bad manners look like lol
Ok, you make some good points, but is it wrong for me to give another opinion on what the issues are? It is not only me from the diaspora who think this way. Just to be clear… But, it’s your blog and I’d love to continue to read your great stories, but I won’t post comments again as not to aggravate anyone.
no, please, do give your opinion but then you will have to accept the others’ opinions, as everybody else who goes … public. KTG tolerates different opinions and keeps the right to answer. However when people become insulting to other groups ( as it happens from time to time) they simply get banned 🙂
Sorry for the delay in responding to this thread. Amerikanaki, you’re inviting us to think outside the box and yet you’re displaying an inability to do so yourself. I wouldn’t be in a position to know if your views are those of the diaspora or not. What I do know, however, is that your views have been repeated ad nauseam in the state- and corporate-controlled Greek media. If you read Greek, allow me to recommend this interview with Naomi Klein:
She says that what impressed her at the beginning of the crisis was that the Greeks resisted what was being imposed upon them. However, later on the climate gradually changed. When things became difficult, the “training” begun: the IMF diagnosed a Greek sickness, and thus begun the pathologisation of the Greek character, with Greeks being invited to feel guilty for who they were. Of course the myth of the lazy and profligate southerner didn’t stop with Greece, it was extended to encompass all of Southern Europe.
Also check out this conversation with James Galbraith, in which he says Greece is being destroyed to discourage other countries in a similar position from writing down debt.
“So what you have here”, he says, “is the application of a principle which effectively should have been abandoned a long time ago, which is the principle of collective responsibility. 13 million people are being put through really severe privation, and it’s going to get worse, to the point where there is essentially no expression of hope or confidence in the country.”
You should read some books of Cornelius Castoriadis