Category Archives: Society

Greek demo dress code: plain clothes

An interesting video was filmed last night during the extensive riots that took place after the demo in honour of 15-year old Alexis Grigoropoulos who was assassinated by a policeman on December 2008.

Greek demonstrators often mention the existence of plain clothes policemen and the infiltration of agent provocateurs in demonstrations in Greece. I too used to believe that this was some kind of a conspiracy theory until I started attending demos after 2009. International media have been reluctant to report on this (with some exceptions) with correspondents finding it difficult to believe that such totalitarian practices are still being used in an EU country.

But this video, filmed last night in Exarchia district of Athens and posted on YouTube by Sto Kokkino radio, shows clearly a big number of what would otherwise look like “a band of hoodies or violent rioters” passing by a team of riot police, heading towards the district’s square where anarchists had set up barricades.

The Greek government does not acknowledge the use of such practices, nor is it expected to comment on the issue after the publication of this video.

Upd: Here’s a second video from the same place/time (Thanks Janine Louloudi).

Goodbye Greece

Another young Greek emigrating abroad. This one goes to Italy. For a better life. For more opportunities. Or simply, for an opportunity.

This was his last Facebook status update from a Greek IP address. He says: Goodbye Greece. And this farewell might not just be on geographical terms.

Yiannis Karageorgos

The Greek Abu Ghraib

CCTV footage has emerged from Nigrita Prison in northern Greece where Albanian inmate Ilie Kareli was tortured to death last month.

The video, made available to Kathimerini.gr on Thursday, shows Kareli being escorted by guards into a waiting room after arriving at the prison and then being led to his cell, apparently bruised and half-undressed. Kareli died a few hours later as a result of a chest injury.

He was allegedly beaten by a number of guards while waiting to be shown to his cell at Nigrita.

The video also contains stills of Kareli bearing visible signs of abuse on his face, back and arms.

Seven guards from the facility were given extra time on Wednesday to prepare their defense on charges of torturing Kareli to death, a day after seven of their colleagues were remanded in custody in connection with the same affair.

Source: ekathimerini.com

There is life after austerity

samargouria

The guy in the photo (right) is Angel Gurría, general secretary of OECD. When he last met Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras (left) last November he congratulated him for managing to bring Greece in the top position, internationally, of the list with the countries carrying out structural reforms.

These reforms were supposed to improve the way the Greek economy functions but also to rationalise the Greek public sector. Last summer, the Greek government had decided to suddenly close down ERT, the Greek Radio & TV Broadcasting company. The idea of firing all of a sudden around 2,500 employees was that ERT was a corrupt and expensive public organisation. At the beginning there was absolutely no plan – after the huge public pressure and uproar that ERT closure’s caused, the government announced that there would be a new state broadcaster created soon. It would more efficient than ERT, cheaper and more transparent.

Almost a year later, a few days ago, Eleftherotypia newspaper published the cost of a show that is now being broadcasted by NERIT, ERT’s kitsch and unpopular successor. It’s a new version of a show about tourism (that used to exist during ERT), trying to convince Greeks to spend their summer (money) in Greece rather than abroad. As if there is enough income distributed in the society for international plane tickets. Anyway, back to the show, here’s its budget.

nerit-spatali

On the left column you can see the people hired for the show (by specialty) and on the right you can see their payment (for the 2-month period which this contract is valid for). In the country where the minimum wage is down to around 500 euros per month, there is a journalist who will be paid 5.208 euros for reading the text messages that viewers send to the show. Out of the 11 people that will compose the journalistic part of the team, two will be handling the social media, each also paid 5.208 euros for these two months. The same will be the payment for the person who will be responsible to call and book the guests of the show while the editor-in-chief of the show will receive 8.060 euros. For two fucking months! That’s efficiency and rationalisation of ERT’s costs.

And if you want to compare with ERT’s already high wages [compared to the rest of the media market] the guest-booker in the old version of the show (at ERT) was earning about 30% less than the current NERIT’s payment.

As for increased transparency, these people have been hired without a some kind of competition, no job vacancy announcement, no evaluation of applicants.

A vicious circle, creating worst monsters than the ones we had in a supposed attempt to modernise, to get improved, to restructure [sic].

venizelos gurria

Back in his December 2013 visit, Angel Gurría had also met Evangelos Venizelos, the Frank Underwood of the Greek political scene. After the many congrats for Greece’s obediency, the OECD general secretary told him a sibyllic ‘There’s life after debt” which kept me wondering what the hell he was trying to say.

I get it now. There is indeed going to be life after the austerity. Those who get paid 5.000 euros for reading text messages will survive. The rest will have to emigrate abroad. Those who can afford their basic medication will survive. Unlike the woman in Lesvos who died last week [inside the local hospital!!!] simply because she couldn’t afford her medicines for hypertension.

There will be more international congratulations for this government and for these policies that cause such collateral damage. The elections are approaching and Samaras has invited everybody to congratulate him so that Greeks can be convinced that we’re on the right track, that we are exiting the crisis. Angela Merkel will be the next one with her visit planned in the coming days. Others will surely follow. They should all feel responsible if this vicious circle continues.

One Sunday morning

Good morning!

One of my girlfriend’s Facebook friends posted this photo at 6.30 this morning.

patras fire

Patras, Greece. 19/1/2014 Photo by Dimitris Gkioulos

Dimitris Gkioulos wrote next to the photo: Two hours ago, a woman living across the street from where I live was burnt from a fire created by a heating device. I woke up to her desperate cries “Fire! Fire!”. Now let’s calmly continue our day…

Due to the continuing austerity and the ridiculous tax on heating oil, people in Greece are forced to use cheap and often dangerous ways to heat themselves during the winter. Burning wood in fireplaces or even braziers has been the solution for many of them. As a result, the extensive use of firewood has caused tens of deadly accidents so far and, in the case of areas surrounded by mountains like the Athens basin, it is also responsible for the phenomenon of smog. See my post here (“Greece is on fire or the alter of austerity“) for more on this topic.

Meanwhile in Athens, the smog keeps haunting the city. I’ve even noticed that the traditionally minimalist weather reports are now enriched by a new qualitative index. Smog risk. In the UK you have the windchill factor, in Greece we have the smog risk. A number working in the subconscious, telling you whether you can exercise in the open air, dry your washed clothes outside or simply take a stroll in the local park for some fresh air.

Some days ago, early one morning, I took these photos. This is how smog looks like on a bright sunny day in Athens.

Update: I just noticed that there was also a relevant blog post about the fire accident in Patras. Here’s the link and here’s the translation:

4am in the morning and you jump out of your bed to a desperate cry “Fire! Fire!”. You go out to the balcony and you see this [see photo above]. And then the neighbours tell you about yet another brazier next to you, yes another victim, a woman. I didn’t ask what was her name, how old she was, if she had friends, children, grandchildren, dreams or just pills and stress about her pension. I was ashamed. That’s what it was. And when I returned home the air was smelling burnt flesh. Your fucking culture…

ps. She was 62 years old. Yet another victim (the count is lost) of the undeclared war. The war is always a class war but, right now, we must just shut up.

And the butchery begins!

More and more, as the crisis deepens, I get the feeling that this country is showing two extreme faces. On one hand I see solidarity, people reconsidering their exaggerated lifestyles, reason substituting madness. On the other hand I see an extreme version of individualism, desparate people having lost hope for change, trying to save their own asses.

People simply want to have a job, everything else can be fixed. They’ll do anything for a job. The employers know this and they’ll offer almost nothing in exchange for labour. Karl Marx at his best.

I was having a drink a couple of nights ago with a friend and she was telling me about this woman who was desperate for work. She was living in Agrinio, a city in Western Greece where unemployment is high and young people are escaping elsewhere in Greece or abroad. The woman ended up accepting to work for a butcher’s shop but only during the holidays. The salary was 20 euros for 17 hrs of work. An insider told my friend that the butcher’s turnover was 25.000 euros.

butchery02

Some months ago there was an uproar when a hotelier in the island of Aegina posted an ad asking for an employee to work at his hotel voluntarily (!!!). In exchange he was offering accomodation and food. That’s how far (and low) we have gone as a country.

People are so desperate that there are some who indeed accept (or could even beg for) such working conditions. “It’s better than nothing” they’ll say and I can’t really blame them, it’s not their fault. But I can’t either turn a blind eye to a country becoming more and more like a cannibalist society somewhere deep in the virgin rainforests of Papua New Guinea. It now seems that the need of work is driven more and more by our instict of self-preservation.

I’m going to get that job. It’s either me or you. Like the guy in The Axe of Costa Gavras. I’m going to eat you, as wild animals do in the jungle.

Writing these things, a weird quote comes to my mind. I was watching the trailer of the upcoming 2nd season of the “House of Cards”. At the end of it, a cynical Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) says:

For those of us climbing to the top of the food chain, there can be no mercy… and the butchery begins.

butcher

Oh yes… and Happy New Year!

Law and morality on discounts

Racism and ethnic discrimination is not something new in Greek society. The emergence of Golden Dawn as a player in the Greek political scene gave a sense that everything racist in Greece is somehow connected with these thugs. But racism is everywhere, from the governing New Democracy party that frequently lashes out against immigrants in hope of not losing more votes to Golden Dawn to everyday matters. Like working at a super market.

According to the newspaper Avgi, an employee from the former Soviet Union was working at a promotion company advertising cosmetics. She was sent to promote the products at a branch of Galaxias super market chain. After two hours the manager of the branch told the woman that she can’t work there anymore because of her origin, since the super market chain was Greek and is only for Greeks. She replied that she has been living in Greece for more than 20 years and that she has recently even got the Greek citizenship. The manager insisted and later the promotion company  fired her since they only cooperate with Galaxias super markets.

When I first read this article I thought that it’s probably the manager who took the initiative to apply such labour practices in 2013. However, with a quick visit at the company’s website, I found out that the vision of Galaxias is:

Galaxias was founded and continues to operate as a purely Greek Super Market with Greek funds and Greek employees.

What the fuck? How can a company advertise such racist policies on its website? Since when did the Greek legal system start to tolerate ethnic discrimination at work on such a high level?

Treaty of Amsterdam (1997) - the signature of Theodoros Pangalos, then Foreign Affairs Minister of Greece.

Treaty of Amsterdam (1997) – the signature of Theodoros Pangalos, then Foreign Affairs Minister of Greece.

Greece has signed the Treaty of Amsterdam and the Racial Equality Directive, both within its EU integration, that were supposed to be incorporated (and effectively applied) since more than ten years ago. Not to mention the Universal Declaration of Human Rights half a century ago.

Toilet paper on offer this week - on the top of the leaflet it says "100% Greek Super Market"

Toilet paper on offer this week – on the top of the leaflet it says “100% Greek Super Market”

But no. These treaties are rubbish. Stains of ink on diplomatic toilet paper. The countries that abide with these law and principles are stupid suckers. And yes, a mediocre super market chain like Galaxias, living on its own fascist galaxy, can make all the discounts that it wants. On the prices of the toilet paper. On Greek and European legislation. On morality. On humanism itself.

The Politics of Knives

Here’s a short video on the current situation in Greece, produced by Ross Domoney. I found it interesting and informative and thought you will too.

Summary:

The neo-Νazi party Golden Dawn has been active in Greece since the mid-1980s. Through the years, GD has attacked migrants, antifascists and homosexuals, often with the tolerance or even the collaboration of parts of the Greek police force. In recent years, the party saw a largely unexplained soaring in its funding, a broad coverage of its activities (whether real or fictitious) by mainstream media and the opening up of more than fifty local branches across Athenian neighborhoods and Greek cities.

The ostensibly meteoric rise of the GD in mainstream political discourse came at an extremely critical conjuncture, amidst the global financial crisis that hit Greece hard from approximately 2008/09 onward. In the 2009 national elections, GD had received a mere 0.2% of the vote; in 2012, its share sky-rocketed to approximately 7%. The electoral success of GD was matched by the introduction of anti-migration policies by the government coalition, often-encountered police operations specifically targeting anti-fascist activists in Athens and other Greek cities and the rise of racist attacks in the country.

On September 18th a self-confessed GD member, Giorgos Roupakias, stabbed anti-fascist rap musician Pavlos Fyssas (aka Killah-P) to death. In the aftermath of the assassination the GD leader, Nikos Mihaloliakos, and key GD MPs and members have been arrested and charged. Only now, after decades of presence in the Greek political landscape, the GD’s connections to the country’s security forces and political establishment are untangled and exposed in mainstream political discourse and in the media.

Produced by Ross Domoney, Klara Jaya Brekke and Dimitris Dalakoglou.
Filmed and edited by Ross Domoney.
Script edited by Klara Jaya Brekke.
Music by Giorgos Triantafillou.
Special thanks to Lena Theodoropoulou and Yiannis Chri.

A new type of civil war

I’m getting fed up of these numb mornings. I usually wake up in the morning, I prepare my coffee and sit on my computer to read the news and check the newspaper headlines. This morning my entire electronic universe was filled with the story 34-year old rapper Killah P (known as Pavlos Fyssas) who was killed by a fascist in Amfiali, Keratsini district, near Piraeus.

The victim, a singer known in the area for his anti-fascist lyrics and activism, was watching last night’s Champions League match with his friends at a coffee shop. During one of their discussions they said something (bad) about Golden Dawn. Someone from the crowd, obviously a Golden Dawn member (not just a voter), has called his fellow neonazi thugs and, after the match, the singer was ambushed, attacked and stabbed to death in front of his girlfriend and another couple.

Here’s one of his songs (you can activate English captions for the lyrics).

Can you be something less than immensely furious about this? I can’t.

Some days ago, another group of about 50 neonazi thugs have attacked a team of 30 communists who were wheatpasting on walls posters for the coming Communist Youth Festival. Eight communists were injured in the event that also took place near Piraeus, at Perama district. It was, once more, one of those mornings.

To tell you the truth, I didn’t expect a serious escalation of anti-leftist violence from Golden Dawn, despite the stated hatred from both sides. There was a very popular quote that was often appearing in my facebook timeline:

First they came for the immigrants, but I wasn’t an immigrant and I didn’t speak. Then they came for the communists, but I wasn’t a communist…

I was quickly scrolling down when I’d see this. But I am now afraid that the violence between Golden Dawn and anything Leftist is not an accidental confrontation in a battle to claim the streets but a rise in planned incidents.

One year ago, Golden Dawn MP Ilias Panayotaros has given an interview to BBC’s Paul Mason. Sitting comfortably, he said that Greece is in a state of civil war. Paul Mason, a connoisseur of modern Greek History, insisted on the phrase “civil war” and Panayotaros explained:

Greek society is ready, even though no one likes it, to have a fight, a new type of civil war. One the one side there will be nationalists, like us and Greeks who want our country to be as it used to be and on the other side there will be illegal immigrants and anarchists…

Watch the video here (go to 01:55 for the Panayotaros segment)

Last week Golden Dawn was involved in tension during two events that commemorated some ugly moments of the Greek Civil War. One was at Meligalas and the other was at Giannitsa. There were no immigrants involved, just leftists and nationalists.

There have been hundreds of attacks against immigrants, leftists, homosexuals and others and the Golden Dawn party has always denied involvement. There was never a denouncing of the event itself because there were seldom enough proofs (for Justice) to incriminate them. This morning, the killer of Pavlos Fyssas has been arrested and, unofficial police sources say that, he was a supporter of Golden Dawn. Was he an official member? Does it make a difference? Of course not. He was definitely a member of a circle of thugs who have answered the phone call at the coffee shop before the end of the football match.

Not only the killer himself has now blood in his hands. The person who made the phone call also has blood in hands. Golden Dawn MPs, like Panayotaros, who have used hate speech against all non-nationalists, who have made anything they could to polarize the Greek society, they all have blood in their hands. And all those who have voted for Golden Dawn should now feel the thick red liquid in their hands too.

The Golden Dawn ballot is now wet and it’s not black anymore. It’s bloody red.

Update: I just found this great poster made back in 2012 by b-positive

“You’ve armed their hands with your vote”

You can’t be serious!

Two opinion polls were published yesterday (one by Public Issue and one by Pulse). Both had two notable changes.

1. SYRIZA was around 1% ahead of New Democracy

2. Golden Dawn was the other party with an increase, it scored some 13%-13,5% (NB it got 7 % in the 2012 elections)

The neo Nazi party is now stabilised in the third position and many people wonder… What the fuck?

I was speaking with a foreign correspondent here in Athens about these polls and she was telling me that most polling companies (which are not the most trustworthy institutions in this country) tend to play down the actual ratings of Golden Dawn in order to avoid the furore. She also told me that the actual ratings of Golden Dawn were rather closer to 16%. But still, one could say, they are too small and no one would cooperate with them in government.

No one? Well, just the other day, Babis Papadimitriou, a presenter of SKAI TV and a longtime supporter of all austerity measures since the beginning of the Greek economic crisis (with whatever this may mean about his political affiliation), threw the idea. “If SYRIZA can discuss the possibility of a coalition with the Communist Party, why couldn’t New Democracy discuss the possibility of a Conservative cooperation with a more serious (sic) Golden Dawn?”

I am not sure what exactly he meant by “more serious” but it seems that he at least recognises the fact the neo nazi party has had a pretty indecent behaviour so far, linked to all sorts of abuses, racist violence, populist rhetoric and foul language inside the parliament. He indeed admitted it in a later TV show. But can they become serious, Mpampis? Are you serious?

In any case, speaking of seriousness, there has been a more serious aspect in the afore mentioned opinion polls that few media have highlighted, or even discussed. It’s the qualitative analysis of the party ratings in specific age groups. According to the Pulse poll, Golden Dawn was the second party in the age groups of 18-29 and of 30-44. It makes you think that Greece is lucky to have an ageing population with more old people than young ones, that births have dropped by 10% this year according to some reports yesterday, that younger people are less inclined to be bothered to vote and that older people still tend to vote the same party that once hired them or gave them a good pension. All these, otherwise negative characteristics, are saving this country from becoming officially fascist.

I got a very dark feeling in my guts when I saw this table. Check for yourself and tell me how you feel.

Pulse Age Groups

The colours (from left to right) represent New Democracy, SYRIZA, PASOK, Independent Greeks, Golden Dawn, Democratic Left, Communist Party, Other party. Blank vote/Invalid vote/abstention, Undecided voters.

And when you try to describe to people, in and outside Greece, about what is to come in the near future, they read your blog posts or look at you, with a puzzled face, and say: You can’t be serious!