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Monthly Archives: April 2012

Let us imagine for a moment that there is another Greece, where everything works as it should. Or that chaos, corruption and lack of planning are limited to reasonable levels instead of where they are now. These days, with mounting police violence, starving people and the economy collapsing everyday, I can’t help thinking that the average African dictator would feel right at home in Greece.

But let us suppose that it is not so.

Suddenly, while everyday life is progressing more or less normally and the elections are coming up, police vans appear in the streets to pick up illegal immigrants, corrupt politicians are arrested, the German war reparations issue is put forward officially, potholes in the streets are covered up, legislation for families in serious debt is being drafted in the Parliament…

Former ministers are making candid speeches on TV about the hard decisions they were forced to take and about the price they paid for them…

Even if everything was well and fine, even if Greece was not a country (like many others today, I have to admit) where our intelligence and our dignity are being tried each and every day, even then there would be a certain feeling of annoyance.

We would realize this charade for what it is. Or this show, that is being put on for luring in the votes, one more time. But this is NOT Greece in the happy haze of 2004. People are not annoyed. They are a pot simmering with anger, which has been building up for the past two years.

And the police vans release suspects not two blocks away from where they were picked up. Politicians and those who owe millions to the Greek state are being arrested solely for the benefit of big headlines. The files containing the very valid and just case of Greece against Nazi war crimes, including a forced “loan” which was never repaid, were lost and left to gather dust for at least 20 years. Favourable legislation for households in great debt is being planned only because our prisons are filled to the brim and there is little room for poor sods who owe a few thousand to the banks. Either because they could not deal with their expenses or because they were simply too careless with their credit card.

And one of the so-called saviours of our country, our former Minister of Finance, even though he is being mauled (for a change) by a reporter about his actions leading to the troika memorandum, still has the gall to protest about not being able to have a cup of coffee with his wife in public.

Instead of being ashamed to show his face among people who can no longer afford to have a coffee, or even to eat, because of his destructive austerity measures. Instead of sitting before a court in order to explain what was the reasoning behind accepting loans at exorbitant interest rates which will be impossible to pay off.

The proof to that can be plainly seen in the breakdown of our latest loan instalment.  The entire total of 3.3 billion Euros which the Greek state received was deposited into accounts to the benefit of our creditors. Not only did we not keep one cent from this “aid”, but we actually had to pay 46 million Euros as… commission to the banks.

Total: -46.000.000 Euros. The state bleeds money, our creditors profit and the show goes on.

The repayment of our new loan commences next year. Supposing that our economy has not collapsed by then, we will simply be unable to cover our loan payments, even if we somehow manage to reach a primary surplus within a year.

At that point, total bankruptcy, which our governments are supposedly doing everything they can to avoid, will be inevitable. Greece will be forced to hand over its assets to its creditors for a fraction of their real value and it will be doomed to perpetual national and financial servitude. The first colony on European soil in modern history.

We have had just about enough of this act. We can no longer tolerate a state where nothing ever moves towards the right direction, except during pre-election times. And even then, just for show.

We have watched this play before. Many times. The ending is always bad and progressively getting worse. But now we are prepared. Behind their hastily assembled stage scenery their plans for the immediate future are obvious.

We know why taxation bills were delayed this year. Because when Greek taxpayers (those that cannot evade taxes by depositing money abroad or in off-shore companies) will be asked to pay taxes which they cannot possibly afford, the government will claim that it has a “fresh mandate”, that “there is no alternative” and that “they are sorry, but…”

We know about the taxes that will be imposed right after the elections. We know about the new measures that are being prepared for June. We know that you are raising steel walls around the Parliament, which no longer represents the Greek people. We know that the troika aims to lower our wages to levels on par with Bulgaria. While we pay EU level prices for all basic goods.

What we also also aware of is that this “solution” which you are trying to sell for the past two years will lead nowhere. That is not just our opinion, it’s not just common sense, it has also been verified by distinguished economists from all around the world, including Nobel prize winner, Joseph Stiglitz.

For two years, our government has been engaged in a misinformation campaign, armed with fake dilemmas, such as: “Euro or drachma” and “Memorandum or bankruptcy”. In truth, they are attempting to hide the real problem, which is simply that the two-party system continues to rule even after bringing Greece to the very edge of ruin. Euro, drachma, dollar or ruble be damned. With this kind of leadership Greece is going nowhere.

The true dilemma is “mindset change or ruin”. For all of us, Greek or not.

Intermission #10

It’s the disease of the age
It’s the disease that we crave
Alone at the end of the rave
We catch the last bus home

Corporate America wakes
Coffee republic and cakes
We open the latch on the gate
Of the hole that we call our home

Protect me from what I want…
Protect me protect me

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The following is a suicide note written by a 77-year old retired pharmacist. He left this then went to stand beneath a tree in Syntagma Square, Athens and shot himself in the head with a gun.

Suicide note

It reads: “The collaborationist Tsolakoglou government has literally annihilated my ability to survive, which was dependent on a decent pension for which I alone (without aid from the state) have been paying, for 35 years.

Since I am at an age which does not allow me to resist forcefully (without, of course, ruling out the possibility that I might follow the first Greek who took up arms), I can find no solution other than a dignified end before I start looking in the trash for my food.

I believe that young people with no future will some day take up arms and will hang the traitors of the Nation upside down in Syntagma square, like the Italians did to Mussolini in 1945 (Piazzale Loreto in Milan).

A well-known Greek journalist commented in a tweet that journalists and citizens should calm down, since committing a suicide in Syntagma Square does not make it more tragic than others.

Agreed. It does, however, make it symbolic. And there is no one, I think, who can doubt the importance of symbolism in politics. Because there is no question that the suicide of the 77-year old pensioner was a political act.

Perhaps you may have forgotten or may be unaware of the fact that the “Arab Spring” events were triggered by the self-immolation of a protester in Tunisia. It is, however, certain that those who fear a similar uprising in Greece are well aware of this.

And that is the reason why a former Minister and a deputy Minister, both belonging to one of the ruling parties (PASOK), reacted in the only way they know how: by slandering their adversaries and shirking any shred of responsibility, no matter how indirect.

 Mr. Beglitis in an outrageously disrespectful comment, attempted to disassociate the suicide with the economic crisis, and implied that perhaps it was the pensioner himself who wasted all his money, or perhaps his children did!

The possibility that this man might have been unfortunate or that the pension he received (which has been severely cut back, like almost all other pensions in Greece) was simply not enough to support him any longer was never mentioned, not even for appearances’ sake. It is as if we suddenly live in another country, where we don’t hear about suicides on a daily basis.

But what can one expect from Greek politicians, particularly those of the two parties who have been trading power between them for the past three decades? In their minds the words “money” and “waste” are inextricably connected. Always “waste”, never “earn”, “struggle”, “strive” or “sacrifice”. Just “waste”. Which member of our Parliament has ever paid dues for 35 years in order to earn their pension?

Beglitis and his kind choose to ignore the fact that working people have paid for their pensions with THEIR OWN money. And our politicians cut those pensions back without even blinking. In effect they are guilty of mismanagement and theft. At the same time the wages and pensions of the members of Parliament are paid for with OUR money. And those have barely been reduced, still remaining amongst the highest in Europe.

But let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that those accusations were right and that this man indeed wasted all his money. Was he so obsessed with his posthumous fame, that he decided to take his own life in order to become a hero? Let us suppose that it was his children who wasted his money. How callous can one be to level such accusations against them even before their father’s corpse grows cold?

Even if they were right, the only thing that they achieved was to demonstrate the magnitude of their pettiness and obsession.  In order to serve their political agendas those politicians respected neither the deceased nor his family.

When someone reaches the point where they decide to take their own lives, either because of psychological problems or because of  strong feelings of guilt or despair, they usually do it alone, at home, at work or at a secluded spot. Away from loved ones or people that might stop them or pity them.

Suicide as a form of political protest is completely different. A protest takes place in public, in plain view, where no one can ignore you. You do it in front of everyone because you are not ashamed of your act, because your aim is to give it meaning, to shock people into realizing the truth.

To become a symbol for your cause, even after death.

It’s no wonder then, that people were moved. When someone commits suicide in the privacy of their home it is easier for us to pretend we didn’t hear or read about it, to bury it in the back yards of our minds, where we hide everything that saddens or troubles us. It is a clearly personal choice.

When one commits suicide in public, particularly in a square with political meaning, right across the Parliament, you cannot ignore it. You know that the act aimed to deliver a message. Besides, the note that the pensioner left behind him leaves no room for misunderstanding.

It is no wonder, then, that people left flowers, notes and candles at the tree. It is not because they cared less about the other 1700-3000 people who committed suicide because of the financial crisis. It is because they felt the need to do something, as human beings. A need which politicians are incapable of comprehending. It is because by paying homage to that pensioner they also paid homage to all the others, something that would be impossible to do otherwise.

Where would people leave flowers? At homes, offices or cliffs?

This suicide which Mr. Beglitis had the audacity to mention in the mechanical way which most politicians deliver their hollow speeches, without ever realizing the meaning of their words, is the ultimate form of protest. No one can lie in the face of death.

Mr. Beglitis said that he stands “respectfully” in view of this tragic event. He said that we have to “keep silent” in order to demonstrate our grief. He was neither respectful nor silent about it. Therefore, he has lost both our respect and our silence.

Intermission #9

April 5 marked the 18th anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s suicide. It seems fitting that I should dedicate “Heart Shaped Box” to the wonderful, warm-hearted people which govern us and “stand respectfully” over our corpses, just like a killer admiring his handiwork.