Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Greece in Uproar

Thursday, 20 October

Yesterday the Parliament in effect jettisoned the Greek Constitution. The issue was not simply whether to enact into law the newest, even more oppressive demands of the EU (the French and the Germans); that was never really a question. The issue was whether to do it without any period of discussion, as required by the Constitution and also by the rules of the Parliament. The argument was that this was for the good of the country; the demands of the Europeans must be met NOW or there would be no more financial aid (in the form of a loan to pay off other loans, if that makes any sense). So what’s best for the country is to become a lawless land, or more accurately, an outlaw nation. Obey the Constitution whenever it may seem expedient; otherwise, just ignore it. I think it was Barry Goldwater once said of the American Constitution that unless you respect it, it’s only a piece of paper. (Demetrios points out it’s not as if the American government had never violated the Constitution.)

Last weekend there were demonstrations here in Thessaloniki, as well as in Athens, and in 951 other cities around the word. Yes, that’s nine hundred fifty-one, in 82 countries! I’m glad people are finally waking up and letting their feelings be known, but the problem is, it does no good whatsoever where the government is not accountable to the people. The people can demonstrate, strike, riot, whatever; a government really not working for (or paid by) the people doesn’t care in the least, isn’t vulnerable to popular opinion. Go ahead, ventilate your pent-up frustrations; your government will encourage this and point to it as a sign of a free society – but beyond that will not pay any heed at all.

Yesterday there was news coverage of a petropolemos in Athens. You probably know that petros means “rock”, as in “petrified” or as in “Peter”. And polemos, well think “polemic”: a war or a fight. So that’s what they had yesterday in Athens, and it went from rock-throwing to something worse. One demonstrator died, although we aren’t sure how it happened. Anyway, that turned the climate even uglier; today the footage showed fires and tear gas.

There has been and will still be a whole series of strikes, so many the television shows you lists of them, and the dates: these workers will strike next Monday and Tuesday, those workers, from Tuesday through Thursday, etc. Yesterday and the day before, there was a general strike of all public workers, so we had no taxi or bus service, no libraries open, no schools, etc., etc. Our garbage is still piling up; has been since last time I wrote you it had been collected. It looks worse now than the pictures you may have seen several days ago; there’s twice as much garbage piled up on nearly every street corner. It’s a miracle it doesn’t smell very bad. Maybe it’s because all the older, more rotten, more odiferous stuff is buried deep under newer stuff. Plastic bags help, which everybody uses, and the cool weather is also a godsend, in the circumstances.

Nobody is complaining about the garbage. The only complaints we hear are about the government; the other day a lady passed me coming out of a shop, and looking at her receipt (showing the heavy tax), she said in a shrill voice, “Thievery!”


Anam Cara said...

I am so sorry to hear all this. Although, I guess, under the circumstances, it's not surprising. How much longer 'til you return to the USA? Will your return be delayed by all of this?