Δευτέρα, 27 Φεβρουαρίου 2012

Letter to the world: Do not loathe Greece, cause Greece is your future!

Begging for the future gone... BUT read on please...

Monday, 13/2/2012...

Sluggish steps are leading my morning walk to the office.  One day after the Greek Parliament voting procedure, acting as my "saviour" and guarantor of a future that I have not been asked to participate, has decided for me, without me, for the benefits of my creditors. The smell of burned material, and buildings is lingering all over the badly damaged Athens centre.  

The same old story has been unfolded.  At Sunday, tens of thousands of peaceful people, among them myself as well, decided to show that this is not the way, but in the first 20 minutes, we were all tear-gassed like flies in a closed room for no apparent reason.  Constitution square, became for once more, a gas chamber and chaos prevailed in the city. At the very nice convenience of the powerhouse and the politicians, when the so called "anarchists" or just thugs, whose role is highly suspicious in the last 20 years more or less in the Greek street protest movement, almost untouched, were burning down and looting half of the city.  Meanwhile, the police, following an "ingenious" mechanism, basically was forbidding our right even to show that we share a different opinion for the matters and was more busy chasing young and old indiscriminately, instead of the looters.  

Sooner or later, the TV screens around the world and in the living rooms of the Greek middle-"terrorised"-class, were showing pictures of fires devouring historic buildings and to the much relief of the elite, people once more concentrated in the aftermath of the clashes, showing a case of fear and social unrest, which is very suitable for allowing people to believe that the politicians and the creditors way, is the only way out of this mess.  For once more, people around the world, were still trying to understand what the hell is going on with this little corner of the world, which trust me, is not even a small little cobble in its significance in the world economic arena, but somehow we have managed to terrorise the whole "system".  Somehow if we fall, the world will collapse and the sky will fall on all the rest of you.  People around the world, might just say, why don't you shut up and "hello, you are being bailed out of your mess"... So, time to set the records straight.

Truly sad simplistic method of thinking, in the very convenient scenario of the next episode of the Greek Debt thriller crisis. The drama has been strategically produced by the bureaucrats of the EU, our political elite and corrupted system of social ethics, the I.M.F. (International Monetary Fund), Banks and hedge funds abroad, part of the Greek society, which does have a lot to earn from the current status-quo and yes, Germany with the abundant help of France.

You must have read hundreds of pages of analysis, ideas, thoughts, etc. about our case here, in this rather weird place called Greece.  Well. Guess what? Greece is the guinea pig of the future that awaits you all, and you just fell for it.

Let us put some facts straight, from a simple educated Greek man's way of seeing things and living them daily for the last 13 years. Of course the list below, cannot and will not put into place all our troubles and their causes, but surely is the backbone of an analysis:
  1. Getting into the Euro, was by all means, a nice "cookery" class of the books with the Master-chef being the authorities of the EU, who didn't see, didn't know, and the political elite of the country, along with the financial institutions and the corporate world, who having the 2004 Olympic games as a target point, could not resist the idea of the hyper profits from construction, consumption and services that this land could offer. Plus, it was a matter of political decision, to show that countries like Greece, can become members of a northern "club" in a continent that undoubtedly, exists.
  2. Not all, but yes, a percentage of the Greek population was trained by a corrupted system, to be the same corrupted protagonists for years and were systematically cultivated by the idea that you can live a life by the full with not your own means, pampered by easy lending by the Banks, to shop and consume mostly EU goods (so guess where the money was going), build houses, and generally live a lifestyle that was for the first time, in stark difference with the well balanced philosophy of the Greek population that has prevailed through the centuries. Mind you though, a philosophy that arose from the very hard times of a new state that was build in 1830.
  3. Moreover, systematically the Greek economy, shifted from the simple pure primary sector, small to medium size enterprises, good local partly-heavy industry products, and a simple methodology of tourism, to a services economy of basically nothing worthy to mention, multinationals that started to get their grips in the local market, at the expense of the small fish in the pond, a private work-force structure that never operated correctly in respect of rules and regulations, or mechanisms to protect the worker, the employer and the industrialist and pushed the public into an ever-growing search for a place in the well paid-off and protected, in most cases, over-bloated public sector.
  4. At this point, I need to mention that you cannot blame 100% the "child" for being left alone at the "candy" shop, especially when you knew that it has passed almost 4 wars, hunger, poverty, a military dictatorship, a civil war etc. The "parents" were watching as the child got extremely overweight, but they were getting all the profits from the shop as well.  All was well in the Land of OZ!
  5. Systematically Greece, was also pushed by the so called big powers and local agendas, as well as a problematic authority of the political and military class in Turkey, to be in a continuous crisis dilemma and problems with this country on the East.  As a result, French, German and US war industries were making a fortune on the expense of the other sectors of the economy, like education, the health system, infrastructure.  War ships, submarines (some of German nature, which as found out, were malfunctioning), thousands of artillery, etc.  A casino bonanza on two NATO, so called, allies.
  6. A lot has been written about tax - evasion. There are a lot of social economic reasons, why not all, but certain parts of the Greek population would avoid any tax.  The main reason derives from the fact, that taxation was never really worth it, in a country that you were taxed a lot, but got peanuts in returns, as the state was more interested not in investing but basically just paying its oversized civil sector.  Most important: as a simple employer with monthly wages there was no chance that you could avoid tax.  Pensioners, and normal people on the pay-roll where the victims of a system that allowed other social classes (which tend to inhibit the professional credentials of the Greek MPs) to hide a lot of their income.  The whole mechanism was not operating properly for generations.
  7. Before the events truly unfolded, the world markets and speculators, systematically worked against the ability of a nation to find cash in the world stage. Of course, our political class, starting years ago, have paved very nicely the way, by never actually tackling the real causes of the issue or starting to worry a bit. Actually it all suited them. And to put on a blame on some Greeks, this was not as it seems a cause to protest.
  8. There's no bail out.  Basically we are under an enormous, unprecedented by any historical facts in the modern world, methodology of a completely wrong effort to solve a problem that could have been solved so much easier at the beginning, with a generous acknowledgement of the fact that the Greek debt is not going to be repaid, get what you could get and restart. That would cost much less for both us and the tax payers of the countries involved.  The whole issue was though for the Banks, especially in Germany, France and global financial institutions, not to lose their money, which now eventually will lose (!). To build a secure firewall.
  9. Nobody should call "help" a program that among so called partners, basically charges one member, with a much larger interest on the benefit of the other and on the expense of a whole population. Period. This is just doing business like a loan shark.
  10. We are seeing, a vigorous decision by the social and economic elite of the EU and our own country, to shift the wealth from the middle classes, the foundation of Greek society, to the ultra-rich in a way that creates a great divide among the population.  This is well proved by the fact that in the last year or so, more than 22billion of Euros has fled the country to Britain and Switzerland. Or that the country's well off, in the last two years have bought property of 100.000GBP to over 3million in the UK capital. Just to be on the safe side.
  11. Even a first year Economics student, would tell you immediately from the start of the process by the ECB, I.M.F. and the EU, with the interesting from a psychological point of view and rather peculiar stance of Mrs Merkel for discipline and ignorance of the real problems of the Eurozone, that the austerity measures imposed, in close collaboration with the incompetence and unwillingness of the Greek political class to truly reform its corrupted clientèle in the elite and public sector services that it would never provide growth. And that they would never solve the issue by basically cutting the spending power of the middle class, which was the driving force of the economy, and their only care being basically a methodology to get their money back from the loans they were giving. The vicious circle had just started.
  12. Two years on this road, the Greek economy has contracted almost 5% to 7% a year, unemployment is almost 21%, and these are the official rates, which in our country are always less than the real ones, as a lot of people are working in the "shadow". Social services and health services are collapsing with NGOs talking about a Greek disaster, as more and more people seek to them for assistance, homeless rates along with crime, drugs, prostitution, suicides are on a sharp rise.  This is now a society that its own seams are breaking loose and you can see this in your everyday life. On the same time, pensions, wages, benefits have been slashed and people's incomes have been demolished by an unprecedented rape of wealth through taxation, like a new property tax that has to be paid at your electricity bill, otherwise you would end up with no power at all, or huge amounts of money demanded for backdated taxes.  Thousands of families, as all these measures were imposed saw their income diminishing, from e.g. 1200€ to 800€, for a school teacher etc.
  13. The last bail-out package, which people tried to protest again but never allowed, is also a disaster, by slushing the minimum wage by 22%, which will effect all the current wages in the private sector, cutting even more pensions, unemployment allowance to 361€ per month and a huge blow to workers benefits, legislation, collective agreements, turning the country almost in a medieval workforce status of doing business and exploiting the already exploited people.  These days, if you are lucky enough to find a job in Greece, even if you own a Master's from Oxford, you will probably get paid from 450€ to 600€ per month and in a city that is almost as expensive as major European capitals. Euro is to blame for this as well, plus some greedy local and international folks out there.
  14. But the most important side effect of this crisis, which should trouble all of you, is that basically democracy has been demolished, in the land that invented it, by actually allowing the powerhouse of the EU and the markets, to establish by an enormous pressure, (on the basis of pure blackmail to decide whether you are kicked out of the Eurozone and probably the EU or get the money), to form a so called "collaboration" government. Having as a Prime Minister an ex Banker, who mind you was part of the story of the "faked" Euro entrance books, as leader of the Greek Central Bank at that period who basically was called to be the man, no elections of course, to pass all the necessary measures for the second memorandum and massive loan to the Greek state. We are still seeing this play unfold, not only here but also in Italy.
  15. To be fair though, the above road was successfully constructed by utter and worrying incompetence of the two main political parties and lack of a truly gifted person to take in charge this land.
  16. And to close all the above, my personal view is that responsibility lies equally on the Greek people, who were very comfortable in adopting a  certain lifestyle but were not comfortable to criticise, judge for the benefit of their country, their politicians by electing the same folks again and again and still, even if you might not think so, not really involved in the current affairs.  That Sunday, we should have been 1 million on the road.  Not one hundred thousand. The devil's advocate of course would comment that people are simply just struggling more and more to make ends meet and hence there's no time for conflict... I somehow doubt that.
It is obvious from all the above, that the "Greece" that you might be thinking of as a naughty boy or girl in the party, is just the tip of the iceberg in this "family" full of problems that are coming your way and basically nobody wants to talk about.  All those in Europe who complain are so naive, not to understand that this crisis, is a crisis of LIFE, of the way your social state has been build, on the values that Europe should have been following and has failed completely.  Cooperating and not trying to find ways to make money by placing misery on others.  We are the guinea pigs of a system that is collapsing, but does not want to lose its grip on its vast profits and hence the ones who are not "abiding" by the rules, must be severely punished. And yet the punishment falls only on the weak and the vulnerable, as the Latinisation (a syndrome of Latin American economies of the 80-90's with extreme rich and poor) of Europe is on process.

This people, is the Third World War, but it's an economic war. We are indeed living into times that we have never lived before. The exodus for Greece seems as the journey of Ulysses to Ithaca but with even more unknown obstacles.  There are ideas that could be taken from countries like Iceland, where the people managed to take some form of initiative and change the methodology that was pushed on them by the markets and their also corrupted system.  But they still had some form of willingness, from some politicians, to dare and take a different stance for the people.  In the EU and Greece of today the system, is reacting with tremendous propaganda against any other solution, any other agenda, against the beliefs of the ordinary man on the protest street who is thought of as an ignorant lazy fellow.  The dilemma is not only Euro or no Euro! These are false priorities if we want to look ahead in the distant future.

But no... He/she's there, because there are many stakes lost in this battle.  The future of the next generation.  The future of the choice that you do not need to sell all of your land and resources cheaply to huge conglomerates just to pay the bills.  The future that says, let us go back to the basics of our society.  Good raw materials, sustainable cultivation of amazing Mediterranean products, that are constantly been awarded and exported in the world. Services that are of low-size scale but highly efficient and specialised.  Amazing beauty of land and sea, that needs tourism that will respect the human scale, the resources of the land.  That yes, it can provide luxury and majestic facilities, but to clientèle that will know why it arrives here, and how to respect this beauty.  A rich and talented wealth of cultural heritage that is not treated as the least favourite child of the family but its foundation.  This country, steeped in history and with so diverse folk traditions that have managed to survive, could become the epicentre of a world effort that seeks cultural awareness, creativity and act as the transportation system, on the crossroad of East and West, for people to communicate. Simplicity.  Wealth of nature.  Highly skilled & educated young generation.  Humbleness.  Respect.

But moreover, the Greeks must re-organise themselves.  It's not happening yet.  But it may be starting. Slowly.  Re-organising not under the strict terms of the business culture.  But of the human factor.  Go back to see our story as a net of a society that produced and helped each other in harmony.  What one produced the other was consuming.  Cooperation.  Solidarity.  A new start for the state.  This will take time.  All the above may sound like a wish list from the land of dreams, but that's exactly what we need right now, not in Greece, but in the World.  To invent a new system for our planet.  The two that have prevailed the last two centuries have collapsed.

So, maybe it has fallen again on this corner of the world, to invent out of misery and rebirth something new.  Is this our calling? Can we make it?  Are we up to it?

Do not loathe Greece, cause Greece is your future. Yes. As soon as we all realise that, we may start thinking. Thinking for the best. For the children to be born. For a reboot. For your real assistance with ideas, common work on this new path.

After all, the sun rose gloriously again in Athens.  And the first lemon tree and jasmine blossoms poured their smell on the small street I was walking by.  And the music of Hatzidakis still came out of the balcony on the building across the street.  And the sky was so blue, and that amazing light still filled up the Attica skyline.  And kids were playing in-front of the church. And cats were sitting and sleeping at the sunshine.  And life was simply unfolding, as it has always been and done thousands of years now. Cause life always, even under the most difficult conditions, finds its way.  We have survived. We will again.

It's not sheer luck that modern civilisation grew in this corner of the world, called the Eastern Mediterranean basin.  Maybe, it's time for another story to be told.  But we must believe it. And try it. Give it a chance to breath. All we need is your true human support. And jobs. Hard jobs.

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