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Surviving Athens

Arguably Greece's most interesting blog about living and surviving in Athens, Greece.

Updated: 2015-11-23T16:55:16.809+02:00


Remembering Greece's multicultural heritage


My last post was a bit depressing I must admit. But as I have said before Greece is an addict and has to hit rock bottom so it can admit it has a problem. Once it has admitted its problem, then and only then can it begin to tackle the problems that brought it to this juncture.Which is why, with everything I see around me I will not let things get me down, and most Greeks (except Unionists and Civil servants) are getting on their feet and are willing to work things over again to make things better... I think these lyrics best sum it up."If we have come to the world then we have to liveIf our life is poison so we have to drink itAfter falling again and again in our troubles we will keep doing it till we get it right"These lyrics come from the movie Mother India. allowFullScreen='true' webkitallowfullscreen='true' mozallowfullscreen='true' width='320' height='266' src='' FRAMEBORDER='0' />My reason for selecting these lyrics of course lies in the fact that I am a sneaky bastard and I wanted to segue onto another subject - racism / nationalism in Greece. A lot has been said about the Nazi party Golden Dawn which entered parliament in the last election and looks set to enter again. Many are pointing to this as evidence of a rise in racism in Greece. The sad fact is that they don't have a monopoly on this.The communists (KKE party) in a recent argument said the only difference between Hitler's treatment of the Jews and Stalin's treatment of them is that Stalin was justified in his actions.People are spreading a fear campaign against SYRIZA - which does have a platform of giving rights/shelter/protection/treating foreigners like human beings for migrants - saying that if they win all the Indian and Pakistani migrants will get Greek citizenship and Greece will change its colour.At the same time people in SYRIZA blame the crisis on the Jews and its leader Tsipras openly discusses with former New Democracy MP and musician Mikis Theodorakis over the cause of the crisis. Theodorakis has not been shy to say that Jews "are at the root of evil." Or claim that American Jews are behind the crisis. PASOK included Pirros Dimas - Olympic Athlete born in Albania - at the head of its election ticket. The smear campaign is that if they are elected they will make Albanians Greeks!At the same time however former PM George Papandreau blames the crisis on those bankers who control the world (you know who they are). His speech writer, Yiannis Varoufakis has been cautioned in Australia for his anti-semitism and also blames the crisis and those people who control the world's economy.New Democracy, well it just associates itself with former dictators, torturers (Just like the communist party funny enough) and shelters former LAOS parter members - LAOS used to be the acceptable face of the NAZI party. But since racism is on the rise - lets go with the original.That said... that said I have to remember that it wasn't always like this. Greece, unlike other countries in Europe during WW2 openly opposed Nazi policy towards the Jews. I remember listening to Mark Mazower talk on the subject and reading from his book Inside Hitler's Greece and me finding out that Greeks helped so many Jews from the Nazis that the Allies actually put a quota on how many could leave. Archbishop Damaskinos of Athens along with the Police chief of Athens and the Mayor of Pireaus saved the lives of many Jews in Athens. The Bishop of Zakynthos apparently even sent a letter to his fellow art student, Adolf Hitler and asked him to spare the lives of the Jews on his island. Whatever the truth, no Germans were sent to round up anyone on the island.Greece, soon after it gained its independence was also one of the first states to give Jewish people equality under the law. And as for the current fear of Indians and the whole sub-continent in general (Papandreau said that if things continue we would become Indians - apparently he didn't mean it as a compliment. ie that Greece would become a major international player, a BRIC[...]

Watching Athens die


To be honest, its been hard living in Athens these past few years, and in the past few months a sense of hopelessness has set in.

Two years ago when i was unemployed i had more hope - because i thought that things would change - they had to if Greece was going to get back onto its feet. But no-one wanted that, no-one in power that is.

Going to the supermarket now is a depressing affair. Two years ago the shelves were still stocked with a wide variety of items, 50 cheeses, 17 cereals, and the different juices! Now, things have changed.

The shelves are still stocked. But if you look closer, they are just stocked with more of the same. 10 cheeses instead of 50, 8 cereals instead of 17. Looking inside the shopping trolleys you see more "homebrand" goods. You see a lot of trolleys, especially those of the elderly who still remember depression, and who remember that Feta was the only word for cheese, you see them stocking up on canned goods, rice and pasta, dry milk and even small gas canisters for use in camping stoves which were so popular when i first arrived here in Greece.

In the central square of Syntagma, where before a fountain would gush water all day and night, and lovers would playfully splash water on each other, it now lies green and stagnant, a petri dish for bacteria. The square has still not been repaired from the riots and is a dismal scene.

Where ever i look i see open sores and scabs on the surface of Athens.

But whats worse is that i know Greece still has not hit rock bottom. That there are those who still refuse to change and who are fighting tooth and nail to maintain the status quo and the privileged position of civil servants earning 30 000 euros a month who only got that position for because they voted the right way.

These people are still living in a dream world - while i watch my nightmare unfold before my waking eyes.

Man shoots himself in the head in public square: Athens, Greece


Greece is in a state of shock this morning when it heard the news that an elderly man walked into Athens' Syntagma square - the heart of Athens, sat down on a park bench and calmly drew a gun shooting himself in the head.

Syntagma square situated in front of Parliament House has also been the site of all the protests against the IMF and the Memorandum of Understanding that many see as the source of Greece's current problems. All this a mere hundered meters from the Ministry of Finance, and the Ministry of Development, Competitiveness & Shipping. I can't help but remember that the employees of the Finance Ministry recently rejected the latest PSI agreement which the government insisted would help Greece (only because they couldn't be bothered to do something earlier) so that they can save their extraordinary exhorbitant pension scheme (which is guaranteed by the government anyway) - while low income (read non public sector) pensioners were the first to have their pensions slashed.

Stepping back from the tragedy i cannot say that i am shocked. Living in Athens for as long as i have and having seen what i have seen - this was to be expected. In fact Greece is lucky that it hasn't happened sooner.
At a recent Health Conference organised by Boussias, health care providers from all around Europe gave solutions to Greece's problems in healthcare as well as sounding a warning for potential problems that arise from a crisis. Worldwide, whenever their is a recession suicides have increased. Except in Greece (based on stats up till 2011). Suicides have remained fairly stable and have not shot up as they have done in other countries. Where Greece is similar is less traffic related deaths as the price of petrol increases (close to 2 euros now) and increases to the price of alcohol.

This tragic incident may be the warning bell that the crisis is only really now starting to hit Greeks. Up until now the family safety nets have saved many Greeks hitting rock bottom, but now their savings are nearly empty. Revised tax laws are taxing unemployed families, with no source of income, merely because they are able to pay the rent. Many unemployed are divulging themselves of their cars to save themselves being taxed an assumed income based on the worth of the car. (Your car is a 1.6 litre and valued at 6000 euros therefore to maintain that car you have a valued worth of x amount - pay more tax in addition to road tax, licence fees and insurance. But lets face it for every job that requires a car there are 800 people applying for it, better to give up and save the money for food.) So many are also choosing to live on the streets to avoid more tax.
What was also revealed at the conference was a rise in HIV rates amongst drug users. Health care volunteers who go out on the streets told me that many have purposely shared needles with a known carrier so that they could receive disability pension and receive healthcare. However in 2010 there were reports that as a result of lack of beds for HIV carriers, hospitals would re-categorise them to deny them care.

With politicians refusing to act and intent on looking to the past to lay the blame on someone, the situation in Greece will get worse. This suicide, in so public and so meaningful a place can be interpreted as a message to these politicians to wake up.

While politicians bicker - people and the very country is dying.

This article also appears here

Can IT help clean Athens?


Here in Athens we are constantly faced with an uphill struggle to merely maintain what we have - to stop Athens from backsliding into a cesspit and maintain a standard of living other countries take for granted. 
Nikos Pitsianis has written an interesting idea on how to link grassroots demands with open-gov, making open government more than a window dressing but an effective reality that would have important positive impact on how we here in Athens live our day to day lives. 

In essence what he proposes is a linking of government tenders and responsibilities, say road maintenance tenders with IT applications that people can download and automatically know who is responsible, from the Minister down to the mayor and the body that is responsible be it public or private. 

Of course getting them to do something is another story altogether, but all to often we here in Athens whenever we complain we are told "I am not responsible" and we are led to on a merry chase - trying to find who is responsible. The lines of responsibility are kept blurry so that nothing gets done - and blame can be apportioned to whoever is the bad guy of the day.

His idea is one step in the right direction that can make our lives easier.

Unfortunately i lack the skills to do anything... Sigh

The interesting article can be read here

Stiglitz - Still not good enough to work in Greece


Right now, Greece is going through some tumultuous events and the decisions being made now will have important ramifications for generations to come.

For now however I would like to talk about Stiglitz and his presentation. Actually I want to write on the irony of his talk. Over 200 people attended his poorly publicised talk. Only a couple of politicians turned up, one of whom Stefanos Manos is a former politician. So the front rows of around 50 seats were empty as the invited politicians didn’t show up, obviously scared to show their face in public or be seen listening to - what the communists and far left call - “That Jewish Economist”, in a tone that makes one fear for public safety. In the audience there were those who challenged him on a couple of his economic points – and rightly so, but on the whole everyone enjoyed his talk and it was not raided by a Student Union demonstration happening down the road.

The irony lay in the fact that it occurred in a country where he is technically not allowed to work as an economist or university lecturer or is even recognised as an English speaker.

Stiglitz cannot work as an economist because he never completed his 'guild' like training at a Greek University. Only those who graduated economics from a Greek University are recognised. To have his degree recognised as good enough, he has to prove his university exists which may include translating a university handbook into Greek at a price of 1.5 euros a page. Once proven - he can then proceed to get his Degree recognised. If he is lucky he can have it recognised in 2-5 years, and involve ancillary costs of up to 18 000 euros. Then he has to wait from the Economists guild to invite him as a member, once a member he can set up his shingle and head off to work.

Read the rest of the article here

Up and running again...


Yes this blog is getting back on its feet.

Its been a hectic period - full of ups and downs... and more downs, both for the nation and personally.
So in order to sate your thirst for information, here is an insight from one of Greece's preeminant thinkers, Mr Papagiannidis.

Greek politicians, may they live long, are an especially short-sighted race. As remarkable as they are short-sighted. (Correction: maybe not 'Greeks' in general, but perhaps better defined as Greek residents.)And as a result of their shortsightedness - deeply self-destructive!

Look at how they cried out in response to the capital flight in personal deposits. Let's look at examples of the impact of wild enthusiasm on the one hand, and of pragmatism on the other.

The wild enthusiasm: In comes Theodoros Pangalos sounding alarm bells that the medium term financial plan would not pass into legislature, he describes a situation wherein Greece returns to the drachma, sending people running to the banks to withdraw their money, and the only thing that can stand in their way are the tanks and the armed forces.
Leaving aside the fact that Theo has most probably not seen a soldier, or any kind of military figure up close (hence his notion that they would be protecting beleaguered banks), lets also ignore the fact that the interview was given to Spanish newspaper (hence limited risk that it would be read by the natives), but given his statements, what is one to think, and what did he think would be the outcome of his statements.

The exuberant and quick tempered Theo invited the people to withdraw their deposits and send them abroad, hide them under the bed, buy gold sovereigns, throw them down a well, put them in a bag and head of to Albania or Turkey, do anything to save them.

The rest of the article can be read here.



will be coming back soon

Greece vs the Civil service - Let there be blood


For the first time in its modern history the Greek people have won its first fight against the Greek civil service.Civil servants will see their 13th and 14th monthly pay check cut by 30%. No new civil servants will be hired and their pay will be frozen. (no mention of those civil servants who get 16 monthly paychecks a year, have to investigate more)While a lot - a whole lot - a gajillion more, needs to be done, the significance of this event shouldn't be underestimated.The evil selfish forces of the civil service have been a raging behemoth, crushing any who dare oppose it. The dreams of the young in Greece along with the economy have been sacrificed to it to slate its greed and hunger.The last time anyone tried to limit its greed was during the previous Socialist government under Prime Minister Simitis. Back then the opposition parties - the Conservative party (think Republican Party) and their affiliated Unions (the unions that they directly control - or are controlled by) joined with their traditional allies the Communists (and their unions), used their connections in the media (or simply the media they owned or bribed) and brought over 100 000 people onto the streets to oppose those measures.If the government back then had the guts to carry on, Greece wouldn't be in such a bad state - still bad, but nowhere near as bad. Sure it would have been a civil war but we wouldn't be where we are now.Now, the Conservative party have once again joined with Communists - the only difference is that they are now in the midst of this crisis and are morally bankrupt (and more importantly are seen to be) and through force, lies and deception were only able to get a mere 15 000 people onto the streets. Many of those were immigrants - tricked into coming out by the Communist party by telling them that they were protesting in favour of making them Greek citizens. Others from the private sector were just told to come out and protest if they wanted to keep their jobs.The poor show is a sign that their political power has weakened. So in a way Greece had its El Alamein against the civil service.The battle of El Alamein did not change the course of the war, but it was the first battle the Allies won against the Germans.The pay cuts against the civil servants is the first time the civil servants have been asked to do anything for Greece - and Greece won. In the great scheme of things it's a drop of water in what needs to be done. For a start, Civil servants need to begin to work 8 hour days 5 days a week to the public, maybe even get fired for taking a bribe (oh to dream). But a utopia like that cannot happen overnight. I have to be realistic.The Communists have taken to the streets with their traditional allies the Conservatives and have promised that blood will be spilled by the end of the month. Together these two power bases have a strangle hold on the Education system in Greece as well as the Media. As a result many here in Greece do not truly understand what is going on and only repeat the catchy slogans they are taught in the classroom (university or high school) or the slogans the reporters for rent repeat.That's where foreign media and pressure is important. Europe has to look over our shoulder - because while the fear of blood being spilled on the streets the temptation is always there to try and avert it. Europe has to ensure that the changes are taking place, and foreign media has to report on it. Greek media is too corrupt to act as any sort of watchdog - It never has and it itself is part of the problem. That's why Foreign media has to do the job that the Greek media is not doing. Already there is a sense by a handful of journalists that things are not as the slogans say they are, that Greece is in the midst of a crisis - a serious one and not like any it has faced before.This is only because they can see how the foreign media is report[...]

Greece - the addict of Europe


For those of you who missed it, here is a post from my other blog

Greece - the addict of Europe

Greek statistics. Those two words are now synonymous with false bookkeeping, and in a way epitomises the state of affairs in the Balkans. The past year has seen the Greek economy and its reputation hit rock bottom.

But how did Greece in particular reach this state. In February of 2009 the then Karamanlis government and Economy and Finance Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou, announced that the budget deficit in 2010 would be 'reduced' to 3.2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) from a targeted 3.7 percent in 2009. One change of government later the deficit was revealed to be the largest in the euro-zone and projections predict that the deficit will reach 13.7% in 2010.

Read on.

Greek economy - WTF - Its not my fault


Wow. i haven't written in over a year and i still got over 200 hits a month.
How bizzare. I guess its because the Greek economy is making global headlines at the moment.

Economics aside, this crisis is really taking its toll on Greek nationals abroad. The crisis has given rise - once again - to racial stereotypes. Unfortunately not the good ones. The Greeks in Germany have responded to this by writing a letter to the German press.

To be a Greek abroad it seems as though we always have to apologise for the behaviour of Greeks in Greece. Be it the state of the Parthenon, how we burn down our remaining forests to build illegal villas, to the corruption that seeps out of every pore of this country.

Its not our fault!

And as i have written previously - nor is it the average citizens fault.

But it doesn't make it hurt less.

For more on the crisis, and the schizoid economy, click here.

Panic - who us?


Having just arrived back from a trip to Australia, i was surprised to see the difference the media is reporting Greece's financial crisis.

Everybody in Australia - Hello everyone back home - is looking at Greece as the next Argentina, or Mexico, with people running wild in the streets, revolution and eating rats. While here its, sure there is another crisis, but i'm ok, stuff the rest.


Hello to all those old bloggers and followers. Its been sometime since we spoke last and boy has a lot changed. Have i returned to blogging. I don't know, but one thing is for sure, my title is more apt now than ever.

A new blog has started over here.

Lets see how 2010 pans out.

Athens - contrasts upon contrasts


Oh the joys of living in Athens. I was late paying my electricity bill so the other day, of i went to one of their main offices to pay it off. Arriving there at 10 to 8 i was a bit annoyed to see that there was already a small line forming outside. As i got closer i heard a lot of grumblings.
"30% increase in prices and this is what we get" and "You are for the rubbish (baza)"
"What's going on" i timidly asked "They haven't got any power"

Yup, thats right. Greece's Power Utility DEH branch was out of order because of a power outage. Half an hour went by as they contacted their main offices to see what they could do and to have them send someone over to fix the problem. In the mean time they let us in two by two so we could pay our bills the old fashioned way, and all by candle-light.

Of course the irony was not lost on anyone. That this should happen, no-one is shocked. But it also shows how many in Greece work, they were not phased at all that they should work by candle light. I guess in another country it would never get to that stage, but if it did i seriously doubt they would work in those conditions.

Inaction leads to shooting of Police


This morning Athens woke to the news that a Greek Policeman on guard duty outside the Ministry of Culture had been shot multiple times. Over 20 bullets had been fired by either a Kalashnikov assault rifle or military issue G-3, a nine mm pistol was also fired and one hand grenade was also thrown.
So now we know that holidays are over and people are back from their holiday feasts.

Everyone is being hypocritical, ministers, politicians 'journalists' and they are all pretending to be outraged over this turn of affairs as the police officer lies in hospital fighting for his life.

I say hypocritical because 99% of those mentioned above acted in a way that directly contributed to today's shooting. This officers blood is on their hands.

The police were ordered to stand back and watch as rioters threw firemen out of their trucks and drove away in them to smash them to pieces. Police were ordered to run as rioters looted and set fire to stores. Police were ordered to stay indoors on 24 watch - not going home, not allowed to respond to calls by citizens, ambulance and firemen for protection.

The government had ceded power and authority to the rioters. Journalists and politicians jumped up and down to protect the rioters and blame the violence on migrants, the police themselves and 'foreign powers' - or to justify their actions.

Rioters grew accustomed to throwing molotov cocktails at police, running onto university grounds for sanctuary and taunting them from this hiding place. Something that wasn't reported was that mothers would come at dinner time, throw bottles at the police to allow their 'children' (you can be 30 and still be a child) to come home and eat. They would take their children by the hand through the police blockade and take their children home, for a home cooked meal and a good nights sleep. The next day, the 'children' would return to the fight, fully rested and fed to tear up the University for ammunition to throw against the police who were up and on duty all night with no rest.

Because all this was allowed to happen with the tacit approval of government, our elected representiatives and society, why not go the next step and act on the chant 'The only good cop is a dead cop'. The government has proved that you can commit acts of violence and get away with it. Some parts of society even applauded it. This is not the first policeman to die under these circumstances, and nor will he be the last.

In Greece where no one has any responsibility for anything, this violence will only continue.

Christmas wishes


What is Christmas?It is tenderness for the past,Courage for the present,Hope for the future.It is a fervent wish that every cupMay overflow with blessings rich and eternal,And that every path may lead to peace.Agnes M. Pharo[...]

Athens upheavel - part 2


This morning we heard that people are taking pot-shots at the police. Why is this happening, well the second part of the Why all this is happening lies with the government.

Many on the left disagree with the violence and have come out strongly against it. However many have also created a theory that the government is allowing this violence to occur, to let things get out of hand so that when they do call in the police, or even the army, they can start cracking heads and the people will cheer them on. Yes many people are saying what we need is another dictatorship, and the left is saying this is exactly what the government wants people to think.

However, the simplest reason is the best. And that reason is incompetence. We now know that when the violence started, the Minister of the Interior was at the Bouzoukia, throwing rose petals at the singers. Day Two when Athens was going to hell in a handbasket, he went to see a soccer match. Meanwhile the police where left rudderless and without instruction, except do nothing. Inaction is not an action.

We witnessed exactly the same happen when half of Greece was burning down with the fires. Action only happened when the Minister of Public Works stepped in and started giving orders to the firefighters, police and army. Despite what many think, these services need coordination and the authority to do things, the army cant just decide to come in and bring order, be it riots or fires, orders need to be given.

Just remember, the first act of this Prime Minister in 2004, was to sleep in and miss the Davos Conference. He just forgot to go. While many Greeks make fun of the fact that George Bush managed a failed baseball team etc, Kostas Karamanlis our PM has never worked a day in his life. His first job was being Prime Minister. (oh during his military service his role was to light a candle every day to protect the navy). Other countries usually train their politicians, they get junior ministerial roles, then slowly get more responsibility, a small ministery, then something bigger and then - depending on how good they are a big Ministery, Health, Treasury, Defense, Foreign Affairs, before being chosen for the top job.

Karamanlis went through nothing of the sort. He was chosen because of his name, did nothing to educate himself and then parachuted to the top job. His knowledge of governance and management is zero. And much the same can be said for most of his cabinet, with the exception of Souflias (minister of Public Works and environment - a man who does not want to protect the environment, yet the only one who showed leadership during the fires) Dora Bakoyianni, daughter of Mitsotakis and a couple of others.

Dont get me wrong, No prior experience is not a bad thing in and of itself. What is bad is that Karamanlis has shown no drive to better himself and is more concerned of keeping his work schedule from 10:00-16:00. So the reason why the government acted the way it did, pure and simple - because of incompetence.

Athens upheavel continues


So the civil unrest continues across Greece. Yesterday soccer hooligans attacked the police at the stadium, protesters in my suburb who gathered to show their support to other protesters chased off police and the situation doesnt give any indication that it will end before christmas.
People are just waiting for the holidays which will mean that all protests stop.

And of course your all asking WHY is this all happening. The answer can be summed up by a group of 11 year olds who set fire to their school bus while it was taking them to school.

Why not?

For all you ideologues out their who are trying to pin point a reason, a justification, its easy to attribute what we want to these riots. Since their is no standard bearer behind the riots, this is all the more easier. Sure manifestos were sent out, but in Greece, every high school student has written a manifesto. This is Greece, its part of the norm - 15 years olds talk about the injustices done to them during WW2 and the Dicatorship. They just repeat and speak in the same tones of their elders. And yes, we all want things to have meaning, some deep meaning, we all want to fight injustice and a little bit of us always cheers when we see the little guy fight back and win. But according to the principle of Ockhams Razor, the simplest solution is often the best.

This was brought home to me in a number of ways, one was the burning of the school bus, i mean, everyone else had gotten away with burning things down, why not burn the school bus. (PS. School bus also implies private school so these are not the underprivileged)
Walking past the broken bank stores, i did think, Yeah, serves the bastards right. After all they used to charge me 2 euros for every transaction i did be it depositing money or paying of a credit card, and they continued even after the High Court ruled it illegal. Did i get my money back.. NO!
But as i continued past the looted electronic shops, Why did they target them? Well, the revolution needs laptops to blog the revolution. Ok
The looted Mobile phone shops, well they need to spread the word about the revolution, and the I Phone is cool.
The looted optomitrists, well every revolution needs vision...
The looted 24 hour internet shop, which they came in - kicked out everyone and stole the pc's, they did that because...
The g-store gadget shop next door which sells gadgets, well obviously the rioters were geeks,
How about the newspaper shops which were burnt to the ground? Why were they targetted?
Why were sports stores across Athens looted? They were inspired the Nike logo perhaps?

You see its easy to focus on the fact that banks were smashed 'indicating a dissatisfaction / dissiliusionment with the capitalist system' but a whole lot more were smashed and looted. We saw old grannies picking through stores looking for things to take, youth walking with modded up pc cases underneath their arms, and of course the christmas tree burnt down etc etc etc.

And the easiest and most logical answer as to why this happened is simply, because they could.

Athens riots - A country in fear


As all of Greece is once again in flames and upheaval. It has become quite apparent that this is a a country living in fear. Not fear of the violence, of which that does exist, but that the violence is a result of the fear that exists in Greece.

In many ways, Greece is like a patient suffering from cancer, it knows it has to undergo chemotherapy to survive, but the date for chemotherapy keeps getting postponed. It knows that in the run up it has to avoid certain foods, but they are too good to miss out on, and besides the chemo keeps getting postponed, so one more meal wont hurt. And on and on it goes, and now things are building up to a huge climax.

Case in point, the students who are out on the streets with the support of their teachers are protesting against recognising degrees from other EU countries - something which it has to do, and against allowing foreign universities to come in and review Greece's curriculum and standards of teaching. (This is why you don't see a Greek University in the top 100 Universities to study at). The education system here is a joke, and relies in a large part on party membership to school unions, and not on merit. This is why we have Professors of Theology in University teaching Graphic Design. And because students find themselves being taught inadequate skills, they have to turn to the party system to ensure their future survival. Too much has been invested by so many for them to turn their backs on it.

So yes they do hate the situation, but so many have been abandoned by the education system and so many have found ways to overcome this situation - through corruption - that they cannot afford to leave it.
And so the riots continue, and so the government appeases them and the schizophrenia continues. This is why the Greek government is continuing to hire more people to work at Olympic airlines while simultaneously arranging for its sell-off and ultimate closure before its rebirth. Its stuck in this futile and vicious circle, and the riots allow them to vent off steam.
In the end what will change, have any demands been made? Have any discussions been had?

No, and this is what allows me, you and everyone else to attribute our own beliefs as to the 'why' this is all happening. And in the end, we can all say we were right and move on, i got an illegal house to build now.

Waiting for the Barbarians


Constantine P. Cavafy (1904)

What are we waiting for, assembled in the forum?

The barbarians are due here today.

Why isn't anything happening in the senate?
Why do the senators sit there without legislating?

Because the barbarians are coming today.
What laws can the senators make now?
Once the barbarians are here, they'll do the legislating.

Why did our emperor get up so early,
and why is he sitting at the city's main gate
on his throne, in state, wearing the crown?

Because the barbarians are coming today
and the emperor is waiting to receive their leader.
He has even prepared a scroll to give him,
replete with titles, with imposing names.

Why have our two consuls and praetors come out today
wearing their embroidered, their scarlet togas?
Why have they put on bracelets with so many amethysts,
and rings sparkling with magnificent emeralds?
Why are they carrying elegant canes
beautifully worked in silver and gold?

Because the barbarians are coming today
and things like that dazzle the barbarians.

Why don't our distinguished orators come forward as usual
to make their speeches, say what they have to say?

Because the barbarians are coming today
and they're bored by rhetoric and public speaking.

Why this sudden restlessness, this confusion?
(How serious people's faces have become.)
Why are the streets and squares emptying so rapidly,
everyone going home so lost in thought?

Because night has fallen and the barbarians have not come.
And some who have just returned from the border say
there are no barbarians any longer.

And now, what's going to happen to us without barbarians?
They were, those people, a kind of solution.

Constantine Petrou Cavafy
was born in Alexandria on 29 April 1863.

Why this poem, because i believe that there are few things new under the sun and i think this poem really sums up the current goings on here in Greece. But I will allow other more literate than me give their view on the underlying theme of the poem.

"In this cunning, amusing poem, with its punch line that never wears out, the Greek poet Constantine Cavafy penetrates deep into the nature of political life. The atmosphere of civic pride and civic hypocrisy, the mingled air of awe and contempt toward governmental institutions, rings not the bell of cliché but many eerie tintinnabulations: the gongs and chimes of public life, the distinct sounds of what we say, what we know we mean and what we don't know we mean."

--Robert Pinsky

New Christmas tree - Singed not burnt


Ok, apparently they did try to set fire to the Christmas tree once again. But it was put out before the whole thing burnt down.

Clearly this has now become a game lets see who can burn the tree.
What does burning it down serve? Can anyone please explain?

Athens protests - schools out


Yup, week two and the student unions have agreed to continue their strike and not go to school for the second week in a row. This absence from education will continue until the holidays. After which who knows. The only people getting an education are those enrolled in private schools, of course these include the children of politicians. Most famous case was the daughter of the head of the Communist party of Greece who went to American schools for her education.

At the end of which, exams will be changed to reflect the fact that they did not learn all they had to. And look at what they did learn. The protesters threw rocks and Molotov cocktails like girls. Actually that's a bit sexist, i know quite a few girls who can throw a whole lot better than those protesters on the streets. But seriously what do they learn in physical education, they couldnt throw a rock further than ten meters, and some of them threw their projectiles sideways!!! That's worse than atrocious, worse than a girly throw. Sorry, being sexist again.

The education system here isn't the best, and yes they are protesting against the condition, they trash the schools on a regular basis, steal the school pc's, burn tables and there is hardly a public school without graffiti. The teachers dont care, they dont teach, they prefer to clean potatos in class so that they can teach the same children in private tutorials after class. Thats where the money is.

Unfortunately while they both want something to change, they dont want it to change. Becuase as it stands, stupid kids can graduate without having to go to school and follow lessons, and teachers can get a safe wage and good pension for doing nothing free of stress.

Government blood money again the solution


There is much talk about the government pushing ahead with reforms etc. Proof of this lie is the governments response to businesses. Being a so-called 'conservative' party one would assume that their base is the small and medium business owner. But their response in light of the financial crisis and riots puts paid the lie that they support these businesses.

They are throwing money at businesses that have suffered damage from the rioters and are paying unemployment benefits to those left unemployed till February. This is what they did after the fires, which directly lead to the death of many people.
The structural problems however still remain. People are not going to the centre to shop, they are still too afraid. Experts say that consumption in the centre of Athens is down 60%. So now we have the case of those businesses that escaped the rioters are suffering.

And the 'conservative' government is also still holding tightly onto the reins of the market economy.
In the USA, shops have already started sales of up to 70% so that they can increase their cash flow and help them survive this current period where cash flow is restricted. Here in Greece small business owners wanted to do something similar and asked the government to allow them to start sales early. In Greece shops can only have Christmas sales when the government decrees they can, which is scheduled for late January.
The minister for development firmly stated that sales will not be brought forward. Now if i were prone to hyperbole, I would say "what sort of communist state are we living in, is Karamanlis emulating Stalin? But i wont say that. but I will ask "Since when do businesses have to ask the government when they can have sales?"
If my business is going to go bankrupt and i need cash now, why should some government employee, who gets paid through my taxes tell me when i can have a sale. It's my business, heck, it's my livelihood at stake. If I don't get the cash when I need it to pay, oooh lets say government utility bills, no one is going to feel sorry for me, nor will the bank when they come in to sell my business because I can't pay back the loan.

So why does the Economist and the Socialist worker both believe that this is a 'conservative' government that is pushing forward economic reforms?
I don't know. What i do know is that many small and medium businesses will be suffering this Christmas, and as a result, the rest of the Greek economy. But what do the Elites care? They are well insulated in their government jobs, won through party favouritism and affiliation and not on merit. Its easy to strike as a government employee, when the government will guarantee your wages for the duration of the strike. The problem is, as always, that the little guy suffers and structural problems persist.

Athens riots - Foreign Minister insults Police


I happened to be reading the on-line version of Spiegel and i came across an interview with the Greek foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis. Her husband was killed by the terrorist group 17 November, her brother is currently a member of parliament and facing questions regarding the SIEMENS scandal and her father is Kostas Mitsotakis, former prime minister of Greece, and nephew of Eleutherios Venizelos, another Prime Minister of Greece and a prime example of the Elites i keep ranting about. Her father also gets three seperate pensions from the state, so much for 'conservative' ideals of the right - they love state hand-outs as much as the next guy.Anyway Spiegel asked her why the police acted passively and her response is "The police have not reacted passively, rather they have sought to de-escalate the situation. The government decided that it would rather accept material damage than new casualties and victims."Ok, now i find that answer hugely insulting to the Greek police force. She is implying that the only way the police know how to respond is by killing and beating up more people? huh?Come on! No! I refuse to believe that. Yes i know the police are under-trained and under-paid, but i do know that they do get some training, i saw the riot police march on the protesters banging their shields with their clubs and yelling 'move move move'. Now here in Greece not everyone speaks english. Their actions were exactly similar to those of the English police when they move on soccer hooligans, suggesting that they had some external training. Speaking to people within the police force i KNOW that they have had some training, and they do come back hugely dissillusioned, because they realise that there is a whole lot more they can learn and that they have been doing things on their own for so long.I also know that there were police in the force who did have a plan how to react to the violence.It has also been reported that the previous chief of police was sacked and replaced with a policeman who voted 'correctly and appropriately'.But i absolutely refuse to believe Bakoyanni and condemn her for insulting to the whole police force. Just because the government was paralysed and could not make a decision as to how to act, do not blame your governments incompetence on the police force.And then the biggest lie of all, 'the government is going ahead with its economic reforms'.WHAT REFORMS! the government came in lowered the tax rate to lawyers and doctors and are now raising it to where it was before. They also increased the tax on the middle class - the only people who pay tax. Corruption has increased, they have loaded more of 'their people' in the public service, and have sat by and watched as the black economy grows, and they even tried to include the black economy in its GDP figures. These are not reforms!!!But many people only read labels, they see the label Unions and Anarchists and believe that they are connected with the unions of South America which fight for minimum wage and a toilet break, and its leaders frequently 'dissapear' and turn up dead four months later. Or they see 'Conservative' party and believe that they are connected with Neo-liberals, or the Tory party of England or the Republicans of the USA.No, this is Greece. our conservative party actually has a larger say in the unions than the Communist party. In fact getting into a union as an average worker with no political affiliation is harder to get into than Greece's golf club.This is our reality. Its ou[...]

Athens riots - I dont agree but...


Commentators all over the news (some call them news anchors or journalists - but they are neither, since instead of reporting facts they just opine) are talking about the riots (not reporting) saying "This is outrageous, but the students have are right when they...".

I am all for understanding the other point of view, through understanding we can stop these events from re-occurring and treat the root cause. But by idolising the vandals and demonising all police do nothing but incite further anger and violence. Worst offender of all was comedian Lazopoulos who hosts a comedy/satire show (in which he portrays a gypsy - so much for his socialist feelings of equality) who, on day 4 urged all students 'Protest - stand against the facsist, stand up for your rights, continue the struggle'.
In Australia he would find himself sanctioned and off the airwaves for inciting violence. I am sure there is law against it, but a law that never applies to the elite. So when my walk through the smashed shops in Kolonaki took me by Jackons Hall, a nightclub/bar owned by Lazopoulos that remained untouched, i had mixed feelings, where is the Karma when you most need it. As i continued on, i passed by another nightclub/bar named after a fruit which was the only bar to be burnt down, according to many, it was also relatively new and had not arranged for 'protection' yet. Small things like this, along with many others reveal the myth behind the protesters and the ensuing violence.

Did you know that Ghandi organised a boycott of English goods so that India could gain independence? Of course he realised that many innocent people would be hurt so he arranged a fund that would help subsidise business that lost income as a result of the boycott. He did this because he did not want innocents to starve to death or be punished as a result of the boycott.

All these instigators of violence, with their high and mighty ideals, with their teenage angst, with all their pent up frustration, all these politicians that jumped on the bandwagon to justify the violence, all these members of the Elite - did they give a thought to all the innocent people that now suffer?
Yes a boy was shot, yes Greece is corrupt, BUT, does that justify kicking people out of their homes because they cant pay the rent? Because that is the reality in which we live. People that are now out of work because their place of employment got burnt down, because their customers wont visit, all these people that now face a future which is unsure, why should they suffer? And don't tell me that the girl who delivers morning coffee to these shops, and is now out of work is part of the elite. And don't try to fool me and tell me that they kicked her out on the street, now jobless, so as to protect her or to 'wake her up' to the capitalist system.

Considering that many students only got into university through corruption i also find it quite hypocritical. But that's the elite in Greece for you.

Athens Riots - Day 10


Day 10 and Athens and the rest of Greece is still a state of flux. While it started in Athens, the rest of Greece is also rioting and shops have been broken and destroyed in Thessaloniki, Patra, Volos and on and on and on.

Walking the main shopping street Ermou on Saturday was a surreal experience. Kudos to the Mayor of Athens, who despite his general incompetence came out on day 4 or 5 and walked the streets of Athens and encouraged citizens to come to the centre. Some did and found themselves trapped in Syntagma Metro station in between Riot police and Rock throwing protesters. So i wasnt too suprised by the fact that there was only a handful of people on the streets shopping. Of course those buildings that had been gutted by fire were not open, but i was suprised by how many other shops were open. The theatre on Alexandras is also open. Bravo i thought to the shop keepers.

Then i passed the traffic lights, but in actual fact its just a pole, lights smashed, colours missing, hanging down useless connected by a wire. Police zooming by on bikes every 5 minutes. Later on i passed by Exarhia, the suburb at the centre of the violence. Its still a no go area. The burning smell of tear gas still hangs in the air, the blockade of rubbish bins on its main streets are still in place, and glass shards still crunch underfoot. About a block away tired firemen take a break at an empty bus station, the trolleys have stopped running through the centre. They make their final stop behind Zappeion park. And the police are on edge, eyeing everybody that goes passed.
Its not healthy, they dont like the impossible position that they have been thrust into. Officially sanctioned to maintain law and order, but ordered to sit by and watch as firemen get beat up as they go to put out fires.

Also missing on the streets are the Council police. On the council payroll these officers are hired to.... er ... write a parking ticket every now and again (but if you know someone, dont worry, they can write it off) and... basically keep unemployement down. Another example of the corruption that is in every pore of this countries government.

Gone is the christmas cheer - the rioters burned the christmas tree on day two of the riots. And now it turns out that at the same time as the the riots were flaring up, the Minister of the Interior and the Education Minister were out at the Bouzoukia and could not respond to the riots. I am not going to make an analogy to Nero, because he didnt play the pipe while Rome burnt, he actually helped and made sure the people were looked after both during and after the fire. All this shows is that, as will all "revolutions" (as many commentators want to call the rioters) its aways the little guy who foots the bill and suffers.

Transparency International HELLAS blames corruption as cause of riots


Transparency International Hellas has laid the blame for the riots at the feet of the level of corruption that exist in Greece. When it comes to corruption, Greece comes in at the Top 5 in Europe. (not on the good end). In 2008 Greece ranked 57, worse of than South Africa (54) or Botswana (36). I mention these two countries because many in Greece constantly put down African countries.

In its press release Transparency International claims that the youth especially have a belief that laws are not being enforced, that no one takes any responsibility, that the education system is sick. It also states that not only is corruption instilled as an everyday fact of life but that it has also become part of the tradition of life.

I am not trying to justify the rioters, but Governments and those with power have to take responsibility for their actions.
When the lawyer of the policeman who fired the shot, comes out before the coroners inquest and declares that the death was a result of a ricochet,
When the lawyer continues and says that in time we will see if the youth should or should not have been shot,
When the policeman were not placed in immediate custody,
When the lawyer for the policeman says that he had to take on the case pro-bono because the previous lawyer asked for a certain 'sum' to be placed in her bank account to get a favourable hearing,

Well you can see why the family of the deceased youth hired their own doctor to witness the autopsy,
You can also understand why people think that corruption is so widespread, and these inflamatory remarks came out recently, after the bulk of the rioting had been done.

Corruption has become so commonplace that no one is ashamed of asking for a bribe, doctors ask it outright, people ask each other, how much did you pay for your degree. And of course this state of affairs would eventually spill out one way or another.

But of course its the little guy who gets hurt, the villas and the shops of the elite are still fine, the poor shop owners took the brunt, the police took a beating as they were ordered by the government to stand by and watch. And in the end, me and a few other guys in greece - the only taxpayers are left to foot the bill for all this.