Monthly Archives: March 2012

Wake up call

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A message below the statue of a runner in Athens’ Syntagma square.

How a job interview in Greece looks like

Here’s a sketch from a comedy show series here in Greece. It satirizes the abolition of the most basic working rights due to the Memoranda No1 and No2. The minimum wage (now at around 400 euros for young people under 25 years old), the 8-hour day at work, the right to holiday (Article 24 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights), the social insurance, etc. It is a comic glimpse of how the Greek labour market might look like under the latest measures even though, after a second thought, it’s not going to be that funny.

Go to hell!

An illustration by Manos Symeonakis on the Greek haircut (made for the Cartoon Movement)

I just read this post by a well-known Greek blogger, Kartesios. I decided to translate it (the link to the original post is here). The illustration is by Manos Symeonakis and I decided to add it here with the text below. It’s dedicated to those who believe that the recent haircut saved Greece from bankruptcy. I don’t know about the economy and the banks, but the society and the welfare state (what?) is already bankrupt. Here you go with Kartesios’ post:

I haven’t been writing for the past couple of days because I thought I’d get over it, I’ll calm down and won’t swear. I hoped that if I start writing I won’t be moved, I won’t cry like an idiot. But apparently this is not possible.

It’s not possible because it’s not something that I was told of but something that I lived. He was looking me straight in the eyes and telling me “I’m gonna sell my kidney, mate, but I’ll save her”. He was angry and decided about it. I knew he meant it.

He is unemployed. Fired. She, his wife, is a 700 euro nurse. They found cancer on her breast.

None of them has reached their 40s. When they asked at public hospitals they were telling them something about a waiting list for the operation and about lacking personnel. In the private ones, the 3.000 euro pay for the doctor was non-negotiable.

The public social insurance doesn’t even cover the breast ultrasound. Even those 15 euros is coming out of their pockets. Their 3 kids at home. They shouldn’t learn anything. And he is decided. “I’m gonna sell my kidney, mate. I’m going someone to sell it to”.

And me, not being able to find those 3.000 euros to give them to him and he could return them whenever he can. Not even knowing someone who has this amount. These are my friends, what can I do now? None of them has that much.

This is why I don’t feel like writing. Because I don’t give a damn about anything. And anybody. Punks. Scoundrels. Both leftists and rightists. Those who call me to vote for them. They can kiss my ass.

As for the sacred right of the vote, let those who believe that vote is more sacred than human life and dignity practice it. I don’t think it’s more sacred than human life and dignity. And because none of them hasn’t defended them as they should, they can go fuck themselves altogether.

The leftist parties in the parliament have given a void battle. Everything was passed. The Memoranda, the measures, the treaties and the Mid-Term programs. And the two parties of the Left haven’t managed to say good-morning to each other.

They have 30 MPs today. So what will happen if they become 50 or 60? The rest 240 will continue to vote for measures. What measures? Those that are secretly passed when the night falls, which raise the heart patients’ participation to their medication from 10% to 25%.

Many Doctors’ Associations are already screaming that low pensioners, unemployed and fired heart patients are undertreated putting their life at risk, because they decide by themselves to reduce the medication in order to save it.

They cut the pill in half so that the box lasts for double the amount of days. These are the posh battles at the Parliament. Words, words, words and then everything is passed. Like a road roller. Dead people who go unregistered.

And then they tell you “please complain quietly”. No, you imbecile. It can’t be quiet because you pocket 3 or 13 or 30 thousands by simply being a fucking MP and some other guy sells his kidney to save his wife.

Why should I vote for you, you bimbo? So that you give their democracy an alibi? Everyone is innocent. Their crimes are cancelled because of limitation periods, just like that. And the other guy is losing his wife. Go to hell, I’m not going to transact with you. You can stick the ballot box and its results up your arse. Mother-fuckers.

And, yes, I swear to the Left because I was waiting from the Left to come forward and get out in the streets. Not for the right wing fascists, not from the green crooks did I wait for something. I was not disappointed by them. They were opposite me in the first place. Now I’m also opposite to the courtesan of the so called political culture. Radical Left and bollocks. Get out of here you clowns. Wankers.

How the Greek economy shares a pie

A boy doesn’t have to go to war to be a hero; he can say he doesn’t like pie when he sees there isn’t enough to go around.

Edgar Watson Howe (1853-1937)

Stencil made by Mapet.

On yogurts as a form of political protest in Greece

The co-ruling PASOK party had its national conference today. Its goal is to elect the new party leader who will succeed George Papandreou and will lead the Socialists in the coming elections. The candidates are Christos Papoutsis and Evangelos Venizelos. At some point, an old man, member of PASOK himself, approached Venizelos, complained about the cuts in his pension and then threw him a yogurt before being carried out by bodyguards outside the hall.

This is the latest in a series of food throwing that has reemerged during the past two years of the crisis as a means of political protest.

Greek yogurt

Originally, “yogurt throwing” was a means of protest against authority by Greek youngsters in the late 1950s. They were called “Teddy Boys”, a name borrowed from the homonymous British subculture. You see, food throwing was traditionally a form of protest (preferable rotten eggs or tomatoes) but it was only in 1950s when the plastic cup substituted yogurt’s classic ceramic pot, a marketing move that made yogurt a non-lethal weapon. The trend of yogurt-throwing was fiercely fought by the authorities with the legendary “Law 4000/1958” according to which offenders were arrested, had their heads shaved and paraded through the streets of Athens.

A teddy boy is paraded in the streets of Athens with his head shaved.

The law also inspired a movie (Law 4000). Here’s a great excerpt that needs no subtitles.

The law was withdrawn in 1983, by Andreas Papandreou. In 1997, a builder who was member of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) threw a yogurt on the then Minister of Employment, Miltiadis Papaioannou (now Minister of Justice) and his then Deputy Minister Christos Protopappas (now PASOK’s Parliamentary Group Representative) . The court decided that yogurt throwing was not an offense that had to be tried automatically but only if a lawsuit is filed by the victim.

During the past two years of the Greek crisis, attacks by angry citizens against politicians have become a frequent phenomenon. At the beginning there were verbal attacks, in restaurants and in the streets. Politicians began to walk less freely in the street without bodyguards, especially after Kostis Hatzidakis, a New Democracy MP, was brutally attacked by protesters in December of 2010.

The verbal attacks are still the norm wherever politicians appear in public (e.g. see what happened in the 28th October military parades – btw these days the government had a meeting to assess the security situation in view of the 25th of March Independence Day parades) Soon food throwing reappeared. The most popular “weapons” have been yogurt, eggs and, at times, tomatoes.

According to an article of Eleftherotypia newspaper, written by Georgia Linardou, in 2011 two members of the government and one MP have been attacked with yogurts. Last March, the vice president of the government Theodoros Pangalos was attacked while having dinner at a town just outside Athens. Some months later, Minister of Interior Haris Kastanidis was attacked in a similar fashion while watching “Midnight in Paris” at a cinema in Thessaloniki. Liana Kanelli, an MP with the Communist Party of Greece, has also been attacked with yogurt in June 2011, while she was trying to get through a block of protesters in order to reach the Parliament for the vote on the Mid-Term Program.

As for attacks with eggs, the list is longer, probably thanks to the different characteristics of this sort of food when used as a missile (their position on the day of the attack):

  • Manolis Othonas, Deputy Minister for Citizen Protection
  • Ilias Mosialos, Minister of State
  • Kostas Skandalidis, Deputy Minister of Agriculture
  • Andreas Loverdos, Minister of Health
  • Anna Diamantopoulou, Minister of Education
  • Giorgos Petalotis, Government Spokesman

Also:

  • Asterios Rontoulis, MP with LAOS
  • Dora Bakoyanis, Democratic Alliance party leader
  • Spiros Taliadouros, MP with New Democracy

In 2010 Alekos Alavanos was also attacked, with yogurts, during SYRIZA’s campaign for that year’s local elections.

Many politicians have criticized this form of protest. KKE’s leader, Aleka Papariga, has said that yogurt-throwers are people who have voted for PASOK or New Democracy and that the act itself is not some particular act of resistance but rather a bourgeois reaction that defuses the social discontent. Deputy Minister of Regional Development, Sokratis Xinidis, preferred some self-criticism when he said “The time has come for all of us to pay the price. I am ready to be thrown a yogurt…”

There’s a great article about the presence of food in Greek politics. It’s called “Bread, Milk, and the Greek Parliamentary Record” and is written by Leo Vournelis, here. Another interesting aspect can be read in “Eating in Times of Financial Crisis” also hosted on the website of the Society for the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition.

Finally, let me remind the readers of a historical recurrence. This is the second time that Evangelos Venizelos is trying to win the leadership of PASOK. The first time was back in 2007, in a mutiny-styled manoeuvre when he appeared as a candidate practically on the same night his party, then led by George Papandreou, lost the elections. In the following days few cared about the newly elected government – the top story was what was happening inside PASOK. In those polarized (for PASOK supporters) times, another party member threw a coffee on Venizelos while he was entering the party offices.

What I still remember from that video is Venizelos’ reaction. See at 1:33 for a better a view of it. Scary isn’t it?

UPDATE: Another interesting read is “The Dangers of Yoghurtification as a Political Movement in Greece“.

First Marathon cup goes on sale

Greece might not have ended on e-bay but the silver cup that was awarded to Spiros Louis, the winner of Marathon at the first modern Olympics (Athens 1896) is one the box, at Christie’s.

The silver cup of Spiros Louis, the first Olympic Marathon winner (Athens, 1896)

The grandson of the legendary runner, also called Spiros Louis, decided to sell the precious artifact inherited by his grandfather. According to an interview he gave to Ta Nea newspaper, he originally tried to sell the cup to the Greek state. At the beginning it was the former Mayor of modern day city of Marathon who was interested to buy the cup in order to exhibit it in the municipality’s museum. Then, there was interest by the Hellenic Association of Amateur Athletics (SEGAS) and by Kostas Panagopoulos of the Athens 2004 Organizing Committee for the Olympics. Spiros Louis also tried to contact the Minister of Culture but there was no result. Greece managed to host one of the most expensive Olympiads in the history of the modern Games but there was no money to keep this artifact in Greece.

According to Christie’s, the silver cup is estimated to realise between £120,000 and £160,000. Funnily, Spiros Louis said that he originally tried to sell the family’s artifact to the Greek state at a much lower price.

The news about the cup going on the box caused many reactions. Like that one of George Patoulis, Mayor of Athens’ Marousi district where the main Olympic Sports Complex is. The legendary runner, you see, was born in Marousi and the current Olympic Sports Complex is named after him. “We are emotionally attached to Spiros Louis. As soon as we learned about the auction we were mobilized. I personally send letters to friends who are businessmen in London in order to open an account so that we buy the Cup” said Patoulis.

Spiros Louis photographed by Albert Meyer, the official photographer of the Athens 1896 Olympiad

As for who is going to pay for it so that Patoulis celebrates the return of the cup to its home, no one knows. And even if this idea is realized another question will remain. Why did we have to pay a higher price, including the commission of Christie’s, in order to keep this artifact in Greece?

Spinellis sued

Remember professor Diomidis Spinellis?

Well today he tweeted that he was sued by Charalambos Nikolakopoulos, chairman of Tax Office employees’ trade union (POE DOY) after Spinellis gave a speech at a conference on “Tax Evasion and Social Justice”. In his speech Spinellis referred to “widespread corruption in the tax collecting mechanism” – a reference for which POE DOY now accuses him of libel.

Diomidis Spinellis' tweet

The Tax Office Employees’ trade union, in its statement, said:

The period of silence and attacks against our Federation, has gone for good. From now on we will react with all available means to defend the honor and reputation of hard working tax service employees. Let those, who (for many years) have thrown their political and administrative responsibilities on the tax service employees, understand the message.

It’s a strange statement, sounding more like a bullying or a blackmail. For some people the mere reference to political responsibilities might look as an indirect admittance of being guilty of corruption. It’s like saying “if you keep putting the blame to the corrupt tax office employees, we’ll disclose the names of politicians and their administrative puppets who were involved in this corruption“.

Mr. Spinellis created a page where he invites people to tell their own personal story of corruption in their transactions with the Greek Tax Office. He intends to use these stories in his defense at court. The page can be found here, it’s only Greek.

Tell your personal story on corruption at the Greek Tax Office.