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Bulgarian protesters

In Greece the only thing that stirs these days is the occasional ceremonial 24-hour strike or a continuous strike action in a particular sector, which is condemned by everyone (including even a large part of the media-addled population) and put down by the police and the abusive use of law by the state. Meanwhile, in neighboring Bulgaria there are political developments which should be of particular interest to the Greek people.

Assuming that us Greeks still have the ability to see beyond our nose and our TV screen, which bombards us daily with a lengthy “analysis” on the absolute necessity of the Memorandum and the endless austerity measures which support it.

Although Bulgaria has experienced unprecedented economic growth in recent years, the minimum wage remains at 159 Euros, the second lowest in Europe. In the second half of the last decade, it went through a period of intensive privatisation, in accordance with the mandates of the IMF and the principles of modern economy.

Unemployment is low (below 10%) in comparison to that of Greece, but wages are not sufficient, despite the fact that prices are also quite low.

The energy market is in private hands and is completely self-sufficient. Bulgaria produces all of its energy and does not import even a single TW of electricity from another country.

Apparently, these ideal conditions are not sufficient to make market competition work. So, following the recent increases in the price of electricity, people took to the streets en masse to protest, defying even the bitter cold.

The main demand is the re-nationalisation of the energy market. Does that sound backward? Absurd even? Let me tell you what absurdity really is: expecting a pensioner who receives 79 Euros per month  to pay a monthly electricity bill of 89 Euros.

“We are witnessing how the refrigerator overcame TV,” said political scientist and analyst, Arman Bamikian, referring to the fact that television bombards people with the macroeconomic achievements of the government on a daily basis, while at the same time the standard of living is low and fridges are empty.”

Hunger cannot be fooled. Obviously, then, the point where civil unrest is almost assured is the point where basic needs are threatened: electricity, water, food.

The example of Bulgaria shows us that it is not just the austerity policy that is ineffective. Apparently, so is the uncontrolled privatisation of everything. And especially that of basic utilities, such as water and electricity.

Neoliberalism threatens to smother every last bit of common sense left, and make us forget a basic fact. Water and electricity are NOT luxury goods, the distribution of which can be determined by profit.

Unless, of course, we have decided that in the name of “economic growth” the majority of the population must resort to using oil lamps (assuming oil is affordable) and wells (assuming that people are still allowed to dig).

And why not indeed? According to the Greek Minister of Finance, Mr. Stournaras, the recent equation of prices of heating oil with that of diesel was deemed successful. For just a moderate increase in tax revenues, many oil distributors went out of business (since heating oil consumption went down by 70%), smog covers the air of Athens at night from stoves and fireplaces and millions of Greeks went cold.

Fatalities due to use of coal heaters and wood stoves by people without any prior experience are not uncommon.

The macroeconomic picture of our neighboring country is excellent. The IMF is happy with the compliance of the Bulgarian government. Daily reality, however, is completely different. In Greece, although a similar course has been plotted, no one will admit what lies behind the promises of ‘growth’, simply because misery does not appear in the statistics which interest the Troika.

The government of Bulgaria resigned in the face of widespread public protests. Not only that, but their Prime Minister made the following statement regarding police beating of protesters: “Every drop of blood for us is a stain. I can’t look at a Parliament surrounded by barricades, that’s not our goal, neither our approach, if we have to protect ourselves from the people.”

Of course, this statement was made for the sake of keeping up a pretense of decency. But it was made, nonetheless. That is much more than what could be said about the Greek Prime Ministers of the past three years of crisis and escalating police violence. And the Greek Parliament has repeatedly been surrounded by barricades and even, on occasion, by the military.

The Bulgarian minister of finance was forced to resign after the first public demonstrations. And when this proved ineffective, the entire government resigned. In Greece, unreasonable and unpopular fiscal measures are a daily reality. Anger is simmering, but nothing yet stirs. And thus, Greek politicians have nothing to worry about.

It seems that in Bulgaria, where people call their own politicians “mafia”, there is still a little dignity among the “mobsters”.

 

Intermission #18

Nick Cave sings/recites about the modern Greek tragedy.

In Athens all the youths are crying from the gas […] and in the cradle of democracy the pigeons are wearing gas masks […] we are, I say, mostly lost.

The face of tragedy: Connecticut shooting survivors

Personal life has a way of sneaking up on you. Often in unpleasant ways. Still, upon reading the news on the latest shooting that took place in the US, I felt that I had to write a few lines.

A few lines should be enough. There is little to say when a 20-year old man walks into his mother’s class and kills her and (at least) 25 other people, including 20 children. There is little to think. The very idea is mind-numbing.

So I won’t dwell so much on the tragic event itself, but rather on what it means. What it should tell us.

Tragedies of this kind are not just freak occurrences. Naturally, they will try yet again to blame videogames for this. After all, a young man of 20 years is a prime candidate for the homicidal gamer archetype which the yellowish side of the Press loves to sell whenever it can.

They will also try to blame lack of religious instruction in American schools. You see, God raises a mighty hand and stops bullets in places where His word is taught. Right?

Easy “solutions” are easy to sell and easy to swallow. No videogame ever, no matter how violent, can push a boy to murder little children, let alone his own mother. No religion has managed after thousands of years to end violence. Most of them actually encouraged it with great zeal.

Not even gun laws can be truly blamed. Of course, more restrictions in the sale of firearms would have made such incidents less common, but the gun itself is not responsible for the will that pulls the trigger. And if we truly wish to put an end to senseless violence, we should look for the root cause, and not just trim the branches.

No, there is no easy way out of this one. A mass shooting is always a sign of an ailing mind. And ailing minds is exactly what our wonderfully “advanced” society is mass producing.

Think of what we are being subjected to from our moment of birth, till the moment that we are pushed into the world as “fully functioning” members of society. If the world we witness every day is enough to seriously trouble a mostly sane mind, think of what it does to those that are troubled by nature.

So do not look for your answers and scapegoats in games, gods or guns. Look around you instead and consider what could help ease a troubled mind and what would help push it overboard. You will find that the scale tips decisively on the negative.

And that is what we have to fix.

Intermission #17

My interview on RFI (Radio France International) by Mr. William Niba, concerning the recent acquittal of Mr. Vaxevanis, freedom of the Press in Greece and the Lagarde list affair. The press abroad is starting to realize exactly how serious the issue of freedom of the Press has become in Greece.

Modern Greece has a long-standing love-hate relationship with the Press. I recall a very interesting excerpt about the character of the Greeks taken from the 1911 edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica:

In no other country is the passion for politics so intense; “keen political discussions are constantly going on at the cafés; the newspapers, which are extraordinarily numerous and generally of little value, are literally devoured, and every measure of the government is violently criticized and ascribed to interested motives.”

The influence of the journals is enormous; even the waiters in the cafés and domestic servants have their favourite newspaper, and discourse fluently on the political problems of the day.

Needless to say, very little has changed from 100 years ago. There are no “domestic servants” anymore, but otherwise the newspapers remain extraordinarily numerous. It is worth noting that several newspapers appeared even during these last 5 years of recession.

There is a downside to this. As the same, extraordinarily insightful, article points out:

Much of the national energy is wasted by this continued political fever; it is diverted from practical aims, and may be said to evaporate in words.

Questioning authority is a sign of a healthy mindset, but it can become a vice if it only remains on a theoretical level. The majority of the Greek people today is questioning the corrupt political system, but at the same time it is fearful of change. Thus it kept on voting for the same two parties over the last 40 years.

By “change” I do not mean simply voting for a left-wing party such as SYRIZA, members of which doubt its own ability to govern. I am referring to a radical change of the political scenery, in the example set by Iceland. A much smaller country, certainly, and with more practically-minded citizens, as far as politics go, than us Greeks.

Still, it has become abundantly clear in the last few weeks, with the Lagarde list fiasco and the arrests of prominent journalists, that the current political system is unwilling and unable to affect any kind of meaningful change, even to the detriment of the people it is sworn to serve.

The state crackdown on public protests, as has been demonstrated in the past couple of years, with riot police making wanton and indiscriminate use of tear gas and violence, against journalists, elderly citizens, even children, has now been escalated to a crackdown on the minority of the Press in Greece which is still exercising its right (and obligation) of free speech.

Mr. Vaxevanis was arrested last week, ironically on the day of our national holiday celebrating our resistance against the Axis during WWII, on charges of breach of privacy. That was less than 24 hours after his magazine, Hot Doc., published the names of 2000 Greeks holding accounts in the Swiss branch of the HSBC bank. Those names are contained in the now infamous Lagarde list, which was handed on 2010 by Mme Lagarde to  the Greek Minister of Finance at the time, Mr. Papakonstantinou.

Two years later, Mr. Papakonstantinou and Mr. Venizelos who succeeded him, trade allegations concerning the disposition of said list and plead ignorance on its current whereabouts. Despite the international fiasco, they were not charged in any way by the appointed Committee of the Parliament who was called to examine them.

On the contrary, the journalist who chose to publicize the contents of the list was arrested within 24 hours.

Another journalist, Mr. Karatzaferis, was arrested using a years old warrant from a closed case, within a few hours after he stated on his TV show that he intended to publicize documents stolen by the hacktivist group Anonymous from the Greek Ministry of Finance. He implied that these documents prove how Mr. Papandreou as Prime Minister and Mr. Papakonstantinou as Minister of Finance engineered the debt crisis and drove the country into the hands of the IMF.

Mr. Karatzaferis, who was arrested just hours after his show, was released the very next day and was hospitalized. He stated that he would go forward with his promise and start publicizing the documents immediately.

Two other journalists, working for the national television network NET, had their morning show cut because of the comments they made regarding the Minister of Public Order, Mr. Dendias. Mr. Dendias had firmly denied allegations of anti-fascist protesters about being tortured by the Police, and predicted that the medical examiner’s report would show no signs of mistreatment. He also proceeded to threaten The Guardian with legal action because it publicized these allegations.

The reports of 8 separate medical examiners verified the allegations, sparking the comment of the two journalists who wondered what would happen now with Mr. Dendias’ threat against The Guardian. They softened the blow by adding how they always thought that he was a serious man.

Regardless, even this mild comment was enough to send the two journalists home.

They were being too kind. Mr. Dendias has not only let the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party thugs roam the streets assaulting people with impunity, but also grossly overstepped his authority. A Minister publicly anticipating the results of an examination carried out by independent public servants, thus practically dictating the result to them, is something which would be considered appropriate only under a totalitarian regime.

No, Mr. Dendias is not a serious man and neither are any members of the government, people who have been toying with the fortunes of an entire people for so long and with such arrogance, that they have now become exposed internationally.

A mere two weeks before the US national election, the New York Times devoted their editorial to the shameful state of the Greek democracy. It is a sad day when citizens are forced to turn to foreign media or small, independent blogs for a shred of truth regarding what is truly going on in their own country.

Sadly, the majority of the newspaper and television networks owners have close ties to the ruling and financial elite and often depend on them. There is no privately owned TV network in Greece with a permanent licence. This means that their operation could be suspended at any time by the government.

The crisis has put an ever tighter noose around the collective neck of the Press, as journalists now fear for their jobs more than ever before.

The question is whether this crackdown is a last-ditch attempt of a failing system to remain in control or if it is just a fireworks display aiming to divert attention from the latest batch of brutal austerity measures which are about to be approved by the Greek Parliament.

It looks like that the Greek government, in cooperation with the troika, is trying to buy time until after the U.S. elections. The message I am reading is that any developments, not only here but also in the Middle East, have been put on hold until after November 6th.

It might be one and the same; with attacks against foreigners, arrests of citizens due to exercising their right of free speech over the Internet, attempts to silence the Press and brutal police suppression of public protests, it is becoming increasingly hard these days to distinguish a totalitarian Middle Eastern country from a democratic European one.

Intermission #16

Freedom… yeah right.

“”It is well enough that the people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system for, if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.”
-Henry Ford

This quote, attributed to Ford by Charles Binderup, reveals the most fundamental fact of life in the modern world. That it is governed by an economic system that is in no way fair to all parties involved. In fact, it is actually exploiting the majority of the population for the benefit of the few.

That, of course, has been the state of human affairs for most of our known history. However, it was thought that the abolition of monarchy and oligarchy in most modern states of the world, and the gradual adoption of democracy during the previous two centuries, would result in the diminishing of social and financial inequalities.

The struggle for human rights during the 20th century, particularly in its second half, made great progress on every level. Working conditions improved, gender and race discrimination was considerably reduced, freedom of expression and speech was solidified and the future seemed brighter. With the fall of the Iron Curtain, everyone in the developed world believed that we were heading towards a new, more enlightened age of peace and growth.

As we now know, that was very far from the truth. The truth is that while the economy has been globalized to an unprecedented extent, a number of political, legal, national, cultural and religious boundaries and differences have made a comparable progress impossible on an administrative level.

Take the EU for example. The monetary union was achieved before any kind of meaningful consensus could be reached on how the European Union could ever become a single entity politically, socially and, to an extent, culturally.

And since, as we all know, money makes the world go round, there are people and corporations now with the means of small countries who can move freely on a financial level with very little control.

Think of it this way: if the people play the role of a King, then banks, corporations and the rich are the barons. And these barons can now act as they please without really being accountable to the Crown. Because the King depends on them to keep his treasury running and because he has no effective way to control them.

If a King has no real power, then we are no longer talking about a monarchy. And if the “King” is actually the people and the people have no real power, then we are no longer talking about a democracy.

The dawn of the 21st century brought with it the promise of growth, equal opportunities for all, and a wealth of goods and services, all courtesy of the “free market”. Unfortunately, these hopes were quickly dashed by the spectre of a financial crisis with no apparent end.

In fact there is no crisis. Or rather, there would be no crisis if the global financial system was equipped with the proper safeguards against fraud, misuse and exploitation. Or, quite simply, if it was fair and sustainable. But that would entail more governmental control and that term alone is enough to send any economic liberalist screaming.

Because the “free market can regulate itself”. Only that it can’t. It is like thinking that you can put two death row prisoners in a cage to fight for their lives and expect them to play fair. They won’t. They will use any trick in their disposal to beat their opposition, no matter the cost.

Likewise, a corporation will do anything it can get away with in order to increase its advantage over the competition. If its customers or employees are hurt in the process, it’s fine as long as it is never proven or detected. Substandard equipment, processes and materials, abominable working conditions and practices, legal loopholes and tricks, literally anything will be employed in the fight.

Not all of them do it, but when most “players” do, then their competitive advantage either drives the rest out of business or into the same game.

Banks are no exception to this rule. Once considered one of the main structural pillars of any economy, they now operate solely and openly for their own profit, with any thought of promoting sustainable growth taking a back seat or getting kicked out of the car altogether.

If a prosperous country like Iceland can be effectively ruined financially by its own banks, then one easily understands how this could happen to any country in the world. All this happened with the government and the central bank of Iceland turning a blind eye to the incredibly irresponsible dealings of a handful of people.

Nevertheless, the first order of the day was not to arrest the persons responsible, but to hand the bill to the people of Iceland, as if they were somehow accountable for this mess.

The exact same thing is happening in most countries of the developed world right now. The people are asked to take the brunt of the cost for gross mismanagement on the part of bankers and corrupt politicians, even from other countries, all in the name of avoiding the deepening of a crisis which, by all accounts, is a bottomless pit.

The crisis will never end because we are trying to treat the symptoms, while the root causes remain unaddressed. The majority of people will see their incomes steadily decreasing, there will be steadily fewer and fewer jobs; work rights, which have been paid for in blood, will vanish.

This has been happening for two and a half years in Greece and in the poorer countries of Europe. Greece is on the verge of total collapse, socially and financially, the neo-Nazi party is on a meteoric rise and the troika is still demanding for more cuts and “reforms” which will be nothing short of disastrous.

But it will not end with Greece.

This system which kicks people out of their homes, jobs and deprives them of a future, which sends young people abroad as immigrants and which has replaced constitutional rights with violently enforced austerity measures will spread. Once the people of Greece and the other “PIGS” countries have been forced to work for wages comparable to those of China or starve, where do you think that most major corporations in Europe will move their manufacturing to?

And what will happen to their own workforce at home?

Fascism now wears a respectable face, a suit and carries a tablet. You may call it “austerity”, “reform”, “free market”, “economic rationalization” or however else you wish. I call it Finanscism.

 The contempt of the powers-that-be towards the average citizen and their perceived intelligence becomes increasingly obvious today from the quality of the excuses which they use to justify war.

Once upon a time, on the eve of World War II, Nazi Germany elaborately staged an attack by Polish forces on a German radio station close to the border with Poland. SS troops dressed up in Polish uniforms attacked the station and transmitted a short anti-German message in Polish.

They even dragged along a prisoner, also dressed in a Polish army uniform, to shoot so that they would have some hard evidence to present to the Press. This was the culmination of a campaign of similar events, 21 in total, which led to the supposedly defensive invasion of Poland by the Nazis.

65 years later, only the vague accusation from the US and Britain about the possession of weapons of mass destruction by Iraq was enough to start an invasion whose death toll is still counting, and will continue to do so for years to come.

Now, the shelling of a Turkish village close to the border with Syria by a position within Syria is apparently enough to trigger an armed response from Turkey, which could very quickly escalate to a large scale conflict in the Middle East and beyond.

The innocent victims “were struck by a mortar round fired from inside Syria and thought to be aimed from the military base at the Tal al-Abyad border post, which fell into Syrian rebel hands last month.” The response from the Pentagon was the following: “This is yet another example of the depraved behaviour of the Syrian regime, and why it must go. We regret the loss of life in Turkey, a strong ally.”

It is remarkable how quickly the US and Turkey became strong allies again, since in this particular case the Turkish government’s expansionist policy serves US interests in the region.

Reports at this point are inconsistent. Even within the same article it is unclear whether the mortar shell was fired against or from a rebel occupied border post. This whole incident brings to mind the shellings of Muslim graveyards during the Bosnian War, which often originated from friendly positions.

Even supposing that this attack actually came from the Syrian Army, to claim that it was not accidental defies all reason. What could the Syrian government possibly stand to gain from shelling a small village and killing innocent people? When faced with an 18-month insurrection in your country the last thing you wish to do is to anger your neighbours and drag them into it on the side of the rebels.

Need I remind my readers of the countless reports and incidents, some of them even recorded on video, of US army attacks (accidental or targeted) against unarmed civilians and journalists, embassies, hospitals, even school buses?

I am not in any way a supporter of totalitarian regimes, such as that of Bashar al-Assad. However, most countries in the Middle East are not democracies. It becomes interesting, then, to note which countries are picked by the West as targets for subversion and, most importantly, why.

In the case of Syria, the most likely reason would be that it is merely the doorstep to Iran, the next target in line for “liberation”. It should be clear by now that this kind of intervention does not and will not result in a transition to a stable, democratic state. It failed in Afghanistan, it failed in Iraq and, so far, it doesn’t seem to be succeeding in Libya either.

It is almost certain that Syria will not be any different, but that is irrelevant to the decision makers. They do not care about democracy, because if they did they would try to reinforce it in their respective countries, instead of attempting to enforce it in the ruins of “liberated” regions.

It is a sure sign of arrogance and hypocrisy when the West is professing to teach the East democratic values which it no longer respects, and preaches peace while it constantly breeds war.

People in most of these countries are not ready for democracy of the “instant” type. People in the developed world have grown complacent in the “fast food” democracy of their own. We all have to fight for true democracy, but (hopefully) not with weapons and not as invaders in foreign lands. It seems, though, that any attempt at reason is going to be drowned once again by the sound of bombs dropping and the televised green flares of missile launches as the “fight for freedom” show will go on.

Intermission #15

WAR

What is it good for?

Absolutely nothing.

So I was on Youtube just a few minutes ago, listening to some good old Greek rock from the late ’70s – early ’80s, when I noticed a comment by a Turkish guy under a video of Pavlos Sidiropoulos, saying that he thought the music was really good, but he couldn’t understand the lyrics.

I really liked that.

You know, music is supposed to bring people together, and it does. And translators are supposed to promote understanding by breaking language barriers. And being a translator, I thought I should do this. So here goes a “loose” translation for a Greek blues song, as requested by a friend from Turkey.

The song is called “Babis o flou” from the LP “FLOU” (1978). I do not own the song, or lyrics, just the translation freely offered in the name of love (and/for) music.

Babis the loose

I’m gonna tell you a story
about Babis, Babis the loose,
you told him, hey Babis what’s up
he said loose, man, everything is loose

Always drunk and jobless
he was cool, he was, Babis the loose
humming alone and all the time
he said loose, man, everything is loose

He teased whomever he wanted
without another thought
and if he was a bit bored
he lay down wherever to catch some sun

He teased the brunettes,
he was cool, he was, Babis the loose
he pinched the blondes,
he was cool, Babis the loose

And when he got caught
he played dead, Babis the loose,
and if questioned too much
he said loose, man, everything is loose

He teased whomever he wanted
without another thought
and if he was a bit bored
he lay down wherever to catch some sun

Ο Μπάμπης ο Φλου

Μια ιστορία θα σας πω
για το Μπάμπη το Μπάμπη τον φλου
που του ‘λεγες βρε Μπάμπη τι τρέχει εδώ
σού ‘λεγε φλου, φίλε μου όλα είναι φλου

Πάντα πιωμένος κι άνεργος
ήταν ωραίος ο Μπάμπης ο φλου
μουρμούραει μόνος και διαρκώς
σού ‘λεγε φλου, φίλε μου όλα είναι φλου

Πείραζε όποιον του ‘ρχότανε
χωρίς να το σκεφτεί
κι άμα ψιλοβαριότανε
άραζε όπου ‘βρισκε να λιαστεί

Πείραζε όποιον του ‘ρχότανε
χωρίς να το σκεφτεί
κι άμα ψιλοβαριότανε
άραζε όπου ‘βρισκε να λιαστεί

Πείραζε τις μελαχρινές
ήταν ωραίος, ο Μπάμπης ο φλου
τσιμπολογούσε τις ξανθές
ήταν ωραίος, ο Μπάμπης ο φλου

Κι όταν τον μπουζουριάζανε
ψόφιος κοριός ο Μπάμπης ο φλου
κι αν τον πολυρωτάγανε
σού ‘λεγε φλου, φίλε μου όλα είναι φλου

Πείραζε όποιον του ‘ρχότανε
χωρίς να το σκεφτεί
κι άμα ψιλοβαριότανε
άραζε όπου ‘βρισκε να λιαστεί

Summer’s End – with apologies to W. Shakespeare

Now was the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of Greece;
And all the clouds that loomed over our land
Under a shallow layer of sand buried.

On golden-white beaches and blue-green isles
We hid from the coming storm, taking shelter
In yellow-golden fields left to wither
and windswept forests left to burn.

We turned a deaf ear to the rolling thunder,
Ignoring the acrid smell of smoke
We bathed in the blue waters and basked
In the sun’s heat, building hopeful sand castles.

Bound to ruin with the wind’s first blow,
Come autumn, come rain and lightning;
The fiery heat of summer into flame
shall turn, and burn everything to ashes.

I was meaning to write about something else, yet again I ended up elsewhere. But that is no wonder. No matter what our plans may be, whatever we might set our minds on for the future, everything depends on things that we cannot control. On forces that seem above us.

The key is to understand when these forces are real and when we just think that they are, and by this belief we actually make them so.

We need to know when we are really being pulled by the current, which no human-made dam can stop, and when others want us to think that the wake of their luxury boats is an unstoppable tsunami.

Luxuries which some acquired unlawfully with “borrowed” money, stolen from us. Taken from ‘lazy’ pensioners who work illegally past their 70s because their pensions are simply not enough to sustain them. From university graduates, with honours and distinction, now unemployed. From workers who go unpaid for months and could find themselves jobless at any moment.

From small children in a country with no future, from which we somehow still expect to be well-behaved and obedient like half-dead goldfish in a fishbowl.

Kids these days have no values, some say. Who would teach them values? Proud Greek citizens who curse the same politicians which they keep voting for? Underpaid teachers in understaffed and underequipped schools? Politicians who, in order to gain their precious office, have sold their souls three times already?

There are no values in our time, beyond the instinct of survival. We turn the other way so that we do not see the homeless. We nod our heads in sympathy before the unemployed (while we secretly feel fortunate to have a job, those of us who still do). We shut our eyes to avoid reading about suicides.

And when even this instinct fails in the face of despair, there is nothing left. Who would teach values to children? Those who take their own lives?

Not that I blame them. The shame and despair of having nothing to offer to those who depend on us are enemies beyond understanding.

Amidst all the general confusion of these days I read the most absurd thing. According to an online article, news of suicides should not be published on the Internet since in encourages people  to commit suicide for the sake of… publicity. It’s remarkable how obsessed Greeks have become with their post mortem reputation in the span of just two years, isn’t it?

This outrageous view is apparently shared by Mrs. Aphrodite Al Saleh, a spokeswoman of the “socialist” PASOK party, who also dismissed suicide as a “stupid thing”. It seems that apart from vain, Greeks are now also becoming increasingly stupid. The ruling parties in Greece still deny that there is any relation between the shocking increase of suicides and the fact that millions of people have nothing to support themselves with anymore.

We now live in a state of absolute absurdity. Life has ceased to seem real. It looks more like a Fellini movie clip, cut during editing.

These thoughts were spurred by the following short piece that I came across on the Internet. Concerning tax authorities in Greece, which have now become graveyards for bankrupt businesses.

Green eyes on a red background and the “Code” …

I passed by an office on the floor of the IRS. Dozens of people were furiously tearing up papers. I went to have a look and asked a strange girl with green eyes on a red background if I could help. She nodded “yes”. I started tearing. “What are we tearing?” I asked. “Invoices” she said. “Why tear them?” I asked, tearing all the while. “Because we are closing,” she said. When we had torn everything up she went to an employee who was watching people tearing up papers. She took the torn papers, checked them, put a seal on them and gave the girl a piece of paper.

“Are you done?” I asked the green eyes, now on an even redder background. “No. Now I need more papers, then I have to unregister from the Technical Chamber and after that from TEVE (Self-Employed Workers’ Insurance Organisation). ”

I did not know what to do. After we had torn her papers away I felt like I was her friend. We sat on a bench. She had started her business twelve years ago. Two years ago she began going under.  Yet she loved it, and would not give it up. She worked all day long, but there was no end in sight. Then she had to admit that it was over. “It is sort of like losing a child. I made it, I nurtured it, I watched it grow and set it on its way, but it was going nowhere”. She cried. “I owe money to TEVE too, but now they are not going to get a dime,” she said. Then she stood up, wiped her eyes and went on to finish off the rest of the paperwork.

I climbed the stairs back to the tax office. I went to the office where everyone was tearing up papers. I found out that it was called the “Code”. Now even more people were tearing up papers. I approached a gentleman, about fifty years old, with brown eyes on a red background. “Want me to tear up toof?” I asked him. He said “yes” with a nod. And then I went to another and to another. I was tearing up papers until they sent us away at 3 o’ clock. With every paper torn I threw a curse. Some of them will work. They have to… ~ by HARA

And you, oh so serious and credible politicians, you seek taxes from the dead, from torn papers and closed up shops and people who can no longer make a living. Not from those who have something to give.

And you put those uncollected taxes in your calculations. And you plan your policies based on non-existing numbers. And when your calculations inevitably fail, you will increase the death toll. You will destroy  even more shops, families, people. Even more plans for the future. A future that no longer exists anywhere. Only on torn papers.

Do not tear up just papers. Tear them up. Write them off. Delete them.

We’ve been trying in vain for years to write our future on lies, on misery, on indifference, and the crumbs and beads of their empty promises. Like a palimpsest that will one day be discovered by an incredulous archaeologist. How did this happen? Why didn’t anyone speak up?

If we do not tear them up once and for all we will never be able to turn the page. We will end up writing on the margins and nothing will make any sense. And we will be lost in time and archaeologists in the future will wonder who these slaves were who never stood for their rights?

Intermission #14

They say silence is gold. Sometimes, though, it is just compliance.

I’m waiting. The clock ticks the seconds away. Ruthlessly. Ceaselessly. Relentlessly. I’m still waiting. What should I write about? About our hospitalized government? About the troika, lurking around the corner like a predator? Days passed in the green. We kept ourselves busy with the Euro Championship and not the euro currency. A bad thing? Not necessarily so. An essential thing? Definitely not. However the Euro Championship will continue to be after the year is through. I wouldn’t bet my life on the euro achieving the same feat, though.

Weeks pass like a river flowing into the sea. The sea that carries monstrous carrier ships. Towards faraway Syria. Perhaps not far enough from us here in Greece. The West is knocking on the gates of Persia and those gates lie in the land which Assad has been painting red. For months. But he is not the only one. Nor the first to do so. The difference between a dictatorship and a “legitimate government” in “these” countries lies in the colour of the ruling dictator’s underwear. If it bears the stars and stripes, then it’s fine.

Unless, of course, politicians and their puppeteers decide otherwise.

I read about horrifying things in the news. Robberies, murders, suicides. Infanticides. Cannibalism. Like a daily, macabre litany. In the sidebars I can see the windy upskirts, the failed plastic surgeries and the wet bathing suits of the famous. The contrast  is surreal, hideous. Inexplicable.

I read everything. Financial analyses. Political analyses. Social analyses. Football analyses. I even read about prophecies from holy men. Unserious, one would say. Droll, even. However, I just can’t shake the impression that some of them are beginning to look dangerously plausible. Even more than all these analyses.

The days have turned from football green to sandy gold and sea blue. For some. For a little while. Most of us, however, will just go back to gray. Others, many more than normally acceptable (?) never left the black. Nor will they, unless they shut the door behind them. But I hope they won’t. Perhaps things will change. Perhaps we will hit rock bottom before starting to climb again. But those who “leave” will never find out.

Please don’t shut the door.

Chaos? War? Some mock the Mayas and their prophecies. Forget about meteors, sun flares, earthquakes and volcanoes. We are safe from those, as a race. But do not forget man. He is the worst threat of all. The Mayas did not foresee disaster. They implied that the end of an era will come, a great change of some kind. Such things rarely come peacefully, however.

And everything seems so peaceful right now. Like the quiet before the  storm. In Greece and abroad. Unpredictable. Torrential. Unending scenarios. No certainty at all.

Months pass slowly. Falling, like rain drops. Blood or oil. Or, perhaps, both. I don’t know what to write about. I’m waiting. I am no prophet.

 Intermission #14

Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Into this house we’re born
Into this world we’re thrown
Like a dog without a bone
An actor out alone
Riders on the storm