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Amalia Negreponti

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No Money, No Honey

Posted: 06/04/2012 3:06 pm

We Greeks are leaving. The euro? Europe? Greece? All these eventualities are still open, but for the time being we are leaving for a three-day holiday. Depressed, scared, bewildered and angered, we are packing our stuff, taking advantage of the cheap bargains hotels and rooms to let are offering, and we are leaving. Of course the price of the runaway ticket remains handsome, no matter what means of transport you choose -- airplane, boat, railway, car. However even those of us who are remaining in Athens will still spend a lot of money only by staying at home -- every night at the witching hour of midnight, I open my refrigerator and look at the pots of yogurt, the tomatoes and the soda cans it is filled with, wondering whether they have turned into caviar and champagne to match their exorbitantly high price, but they persist on keeping their initial form...

Nevertheless, behind the sunlit curtain of an irrational happiness and optimism, all of us living in Greece nowadays are daunted and scared. At 6:30 in the morning the streets are empty. At 11:30 at night they are deserted, despite it being summer, the season for being outdoors -- especially in Greece.

A lot of people don't have any money at all. The people who still have some are playing it safe. A lot of people have no job. The fact that the ownership of real estate is integral to our culture is part of what caused the financial bubble here. Yet, considering our current circumstances, if most people didn't own homes here in Athens we would already be seeing people dying on the streets, on a massive scale.

We are doing everything halfheartedly, taking part in a frenzied campaign to keep ourselves heartened, to convince ourselves not to give up. Yet even music radio stations, supposedly carefree and youth-oriented, are broadcasting the most depressing statements -- albeit in a personal tone ("I've been paying taxes and bills all morning and I haven't been paid yet") or profound political analyses ("we need a strong government at last"). The "positive thinking" messages are so desperately thrown at us that a few days ago I even heard the following uttered on a political chat show: "We can't all commit suicide. We have to realize that we must fight the tragedy we are experiencing here in Greece from overwhelming us through sharing quality moments and falling in love." Such nonsense! Can't they see what is going on all around? Everyone is looking lustfully at ATM machines. (Apart from the wife of a well-known football player who was caught living "intense moments" with two of his teammates in the locker rooms!)

Nevertheless, amusing anecdotes aside, things are not normal, no matter how much we are trying to convince ourselves otherwise. How could they be normal when it comes to politics? The other day I was feeling somewhat anxious (it is impossible not to have an anxiety attack at least once a day -- all of Europe and America are feeling anxious about what will happen here with us, and why shouldn't we?!) and I caught myself being reassured like a child by my mom when she bluntly told me, "according to the most recent opinion polls, the two most probable scenarios for the outcome of the June 17 elections are either a SYRIZA (extreme leftwing) government or a ND (center-right) and Dimar (center-left) coalition government. Life's that ironic. But get on with it! This is Greece after all."

Why was I reassured? Because my own personal "red line" -- and several Greeks' as well, I guess -- concerns the formation of a ND-PASOK government. I say "never again" when it comes to PASOK. I belong to the vast majority of the Greek people: I was a loyal supporter of the party, I believed in them (such folly), I believed in them again and again and again (words are not necessary -- don't forget I'm a blonde) and I expected a lot to come out of their participation in Lucas Papademos administration. However, I now belong to the 95 percent of the Greeks who -- according to a recent European survey -- consider illegal immigration (a product of PASOK policies or, rather, non-policies) the No. 1 problem of our nation and I'm furious at its hypocrisy.

After the two Memorandums of Understanding and a near-default in November 2011 (when George A. Papandrou pulled the referendum out of his magician's hat) and after declaring their intention to "socialize" the banking system three years ago, they are currently pointing the finger at Alexis Tsipras, the leader of anti-authoritarian Syriza, who called for their "nationalization." What's wrong anyway? The fact that he used the word "nation" instead of "social"? They both want the same thing: yet more -- bankrupt and corrupt -- government.

Nevertheless, the real problem regarding the imminent elections here in Greece is that we are all defining ourselves politically based on our personal political likes and dislikes. A girl I know who works at a hair salon is not absolutely certain whether she is going to vote for Alexis Tsipras again because his views on dealing with the problem of illegal immigration frighten her. Therefore she had been considering voting for the fascist "Golden Dawn" (as a reaction targeted against the "system") until Alexis Tsipras expressed his views on national security issues (that were nearly identical to what the patriotic right wing is saying!) and won over the young voter again. On the other hand, her boyfriend, a military officer, therefore quite conservative, voted for ND in the previous elections, but he won't be doing it again because of Dora Bakoyannis' return to the party. He is now wavering between two options: staying at home and going swimming on Sunday, June 17...

Immersed in all our smaller issues that seem of great importance to us, I am afraid we are missing the larger issue, what is really at stake: money. Do we want to the pensions and salaries of the public sector to be paid or not? Do we want to remain in the euro? Do we want to see the chaotic situation in the private-sector cool down? (During the last few months, especially after the May elections, there are many companies in the private sector that have either temporarily ceased payments or have gone bankrupt).

And a friendly piece of advice to comrade Aleka Papariga, leader of the dinosaurish Communist Party: if you want to deliver a political blow to Alexis Tsipras, DO NOT compare him again to Costas Simitis (Pasok Prime Minister of Greece from 1996 to 2004; the one who got us into the eurozone in 2001). Please! The entire Right will vote for him -- that is to say both ND and PASOK...

 

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