Monthly Archives: October 2012

Athens – Social Meltdown

Here’s a short documentary on the social repercussions of the Greek crisis and an attempt to understand the rise of violence, but also of solidarity in Greece. It’s made by Ross Domoney, a colleague and friend from the UK who did not parachute himself to Greece for a couple of days but spent several months in Athens.

Athens: Social Meltdown – Greek subtitles from Ross Domoney on Vimeo.

Why we need the foreign media

Back in the days of the 1967-1974 colonels’ dictatorship, the free-thinking Greeks were depended on news coming from abroad. The BBC Greek service, the Deutsche Welle radio as well as media from France, were manned with Greek journalists who had escaped from Greece and were transmitting what could not be told by the censored Greek media. It’s sad to admit that we have started to return into a similar dependence when it comes to human rights violations in Greece.

Photo by Kostas Kallergis.

Especially in the past couple of years, there has not been a lack of proofs for a series of stories, yet the mainstream media in Greece have repeatedly and stubbornly denied to report on important stories. With Greece being in the international spotlight, the usual pattern was that a foreign medium would publish a story which would then be translated by some Greek portals back into Greek in a sort of what-the-foreigners-say-about-us kind of story. Nevertheless the Greek public, even through this pattern, has the chance to get informed about what is happening in our country.

I’ll give you two recent examples. Two weeks ago an anti-fascist motorcade protesting against the rise of neo-nazism met a group of far-rightists in a downtown Athens neighbourhood. The police was there too. Several leftists were arrested after the scuffle and spend a horrible night at the Greek Police HQ in Athens. When they were taken to court, some more leftists were arrested among the crowd who went  outside the courts in order to show support. Only a handful of leftist blogs reported the ordeal, despite the witness accounts and the visual proofs of their allegations for torture. Last week, the Guardian published this embarrassing report and suddenly all the mainstream portals and some tv stations have reported it. They were obliged to report it because it couldn’t be hidden any more.

In a similar fashion, some months earlier, the Reuters have published a report on questionable practices within Piraeus bank. There were two reports, one in April and one in July, the latter can be found here. These are stories for which journalists in other countries would kill to break but not a single media over here pursued the story (which would criticise the practices of a bank that has one of the biggest budgets for advertising). Ironically, the April report was based in already published documents by the anonymous blog WikiGreeks.org (which has in the meantime taken off the net for an unknown reason). So the information was there, lying freely on the net and no-one broke the story.

This is why I have been strongly convinced lately that the free-thinking democratic part of our society depends more and more on media like the BBC, Reuters and the Guardian.

Greece 2012

The things that are happening are starting to be too many. They can overwhelm you. We are living in a kind of post-apocalyptic situation where everything is collapsing. Incomes, values, morality… A society that is suffocating. Here’s how I saw Greece today, 12 October 2012, through some headlines.

Graffiti by Sidron – NDA Crew, photo by Kostas Kallergis

Unemployment has reached 25,1% (official stats for July 2012). Among young people the number is 54,2%. Yes, 1 out of 2 young Greeks is looking for a job. Needless to say that among those who are working, there is a percentage who doesn’t get paid. Employers owe more and more salaries to their employees because of cash shortages. But these are just percentages, misery turned to statistics. You only need to sit down and think that, practically, around 1.000 Greeks are losing their job every day. One thousand people. Every day.

The government is about to announce another round of harsh austerity measures. Lots of cuts and more taxes. How much more can you tax a country? How are they going to pay? Where on earth did economic growth come thanks to more and more taxes? The country gave what it had to give, now it’s time for the officials to see that their predictions for more state revenues through taxes are superficial. Some days ago, one of the biggest dairy firms in Greece (FAGE) announced that it is moving part of its operations, for accounting purposes of course, to Luxembourg. Some days later another one among the biggest Greek companies (Coca-Cola) made a similar announcement sending shockwaves to the markets.

On another weird story, the Minister of Maritime Affairs spoke to an audience at the Maritime Club of Piraeus. He told people there that the troika had this idea. To evacuate all the islands which are inhabited by less than 150 people in order to cut down on public expenses (coz they still need schools, doctors, local administration and subsidised transport connection to the mainland). Of course, it was not an official request from the troika but probably a lower level official making a joke. But the Minister, like any random amateur, said this in public. And the Minister of Finance, who in theory carries out the day-to-day negotiations with the troika, suddenly became something like a troika spokesman, denying here and there that such a request was made. And these people are serious. Our Ministers. Seriously!

This is the situation in which we live for the past two and a half months. Since August the government is spending all its energy carrying out some hidden negotiations with the troika, deciding how they are going to cut 11,5 billion euros from the state budget. One day the Greek government says “this is how we’ll do it” and the other day the troika says “you can’t raise so much money out of it-just fire 10.000 public sector employees’. Government officials, and the Finance Minister Mr Stournaras himself, have informed a number of EU, ECB and IMF officials about what the measures are going to be. But the Greek public… noooo… of course we are not mature enough yet to know. We will be the last ones to find out how much we will be called to pay, how much more tax we should give. Which other nation has been so patient to await for 2,5 months to see how its government, its supposed guardian of its interests, is going to kick  our ass?

And on the top of that, a bunch of Golden Dawn far-rightists, accompanied by two of their MPs and a mob of Christian fanatics, have attempted to block the premiere of a theatrical play. A journalist reported that he got beaten by them-here’s his story made by uniting some of his tweets after his ordeal:

“At the entrance of the theatre, there were Golden Dawn and priests tearing down the show posters and stepping on them.  I took out my mobile to take pictures for the blog. 5 Golden Dawners and a cop surrounded me. They ask ‘Are you a journalist?’ I say “I write for lifo”, hoping to escape a beating. Quite the opposite. They pull me aside, call me ‘faggot’ and ‘queer’, pull my beard, spit in my face, hit me in the stomach.  Cops nearby. I shout “They’re beating me, do something?” Reply : I’ve nothing, move along please. The cop’s wearing 3 stars. They put a lit cigarette in my pocket. A woman standing near warns me, in front of the cop. He pretends he hasn’t heard.  I start to get scared, move away from the entrance. They shout after me ‘Go away, you dirty faggot, go suck someone’s cock!’ I turn back to observe. A known Golden Dawn MP follows me, punches me twice in the face, knocks me down. Downed, I lose my glasses. The Golden Dawn MP kicks me. The police are exactly 2 steps away. Their backs are turned. Repeatedly, I shout to the cop “THEY”RE PUNCHING ME, DO SOMETHING!” Back still turned, he walks away. The rest of them shouting at me next to the police officer “Cry, you pussy, queen, little girl” We pass dozens of cops hanging out. I tell them I was beaten at theatre entrance. They ignore me. One blows me a sarcastic kiss.”

The police detained some Christian fanatics during the events. A bit later, one of their MPs, Christos Pappas, approaches a riot police bus and easily drags one of the detainees there. He set him free seconds later, with the policemen staring at him in awe, as if it was the Police Chief. Look for yourself how easy it was (most of the anti-fascist protesters who were arrested last week and were allegedly tortured inside the Police HQ in Athens are probably jealous of how easy it was for Mr Pappas to do this). Christos Pappas is with the blue suit and the tie.

Yes, my friend, this CAN happen in Greece today, as we become a less democratic state, every second day.

Greek cartoonists on Merkel’s visit

I always loved to calm fears and tensions with some sense of humour. It’s a humanising effect that is becoming more and more rare during the troubled times this country is going through. Plus, I’ve nothing against Merkel – I keep all my frustration and anger against the austerity, this type of austerity, and the lack of a way-out plan. But, that’s another, huge discussion. Here are some cartoons by Greek cartoonists on the Angela Merkel visit to Greece (I think she landed at the time of writing of this line).

By Dimitris Hatzopoulos

By Dimitris Georgopalis

Translation: Angela Merkel is holding a sign that says AUSTERITY

By Dimitris Hatzopoulos

Translation: REPENT… MERKEL IS COMING…

By Kostas Mitropoulos

Translation:

Soldier: Presnt arms!

Merkel: Are the arms German, Antonis?

By Petros Tsiolakis

Translation:

Samaras: Are the austerity measures enough, Madam?

Merkel: You are pitiless! I bleed with what you are doing.

(sing on the right has a euro-swastika symbol and writes New Occupation)

By Panos Maragos

Translation:

Merkel: What is this Paul [Thomsen of IMF]? The Greeks don’t live in slums, neither do they survive with acorn!!

Paul Thomsen (holding the troika report): The reforms are not completed yet Mrs Merkel.

Last but not list, another one of Dimtris Hatzopoulos. It’s a bit older (I think it was published a week ago) and it’s not directly linked to Angela Merkel. But I really like his style so here you have it.

By Dimitris Hatzopoulos