2007 - 2021

Leaving Ouranoupolis

greece_police_rtr_img_2On the way home to Edinburgh we stay in Thessaloniki. We are told not to talk politics – an unusual warning in Greece – because families have been divided by the referendum vote.

This sounds a little unlikely unless it was almost entirely the young who voted No, as is perhaps likely. Every single electoral district voted No. In Crete the No vote was almost 75%. It turns out that our old PASOK friend is puzzled. He voted Yes and can’t see that what PASOK was supposed to stand for is now to an extent included in Syrizas aims – as I think British Labour can’t bring themselves to see the SNP as the Social Democrats they are. How is it that the Right can always slither around so expertly, changing while remaining the same, while the Left find reasons to get sectarian about people they could agree with and change things with?

So we talk politics. There is hostility to Syriza on the Left. Some of this is personal and seems to have a lot to do with Yannis Varoufakis’s leather jacket and with the perceived triumphalism and aggressive negotiating style of the party. But maybe this is exactly what Greece needs. Greece has, I think, often taken for granted the goodwill and knowledge of the rest of Europe and the US. I remember George Mavros coming out of talks after Turkey invaded Cyprus having negotiated like the gentleman he was and shaking his head because Greece was not being listened to. Maybe Greece feels stupid. Ireland certainly felt very stupid when the banks collapsed and various improbable and unsustainable bubbles burst. And Greece has never had a Celtic Tiger (or, as the poet Louis de Paor called it, a Celtic Ferret) to feel bumptious about. But at least now there is some pride. Grigoris, who works in the campsite next to us says ‘we are proud again’.

So we spend an evening and at midnight we are taken round the corner to assist at an almost silent vigil at the local ATM machine. There’s a 60 euro daily limit on withdrawals and some people have taken to going at midnight when the queues are smaller and the air cooler. A Greek queue is usually an amorphous gathering of fairly noisy talkers. The midnight queue is quiet, conversations gentle. It’s like the rest of Greece, waiting. Their money is locked up and so is their future.

Businesses have no access to money. Greek lorries and their cargos are stranded in Northern Europe because the drivers can’t be sent money to get them home. A milk company has milk and bottles but no bottle-tops, which come from abroad, so they can’t sell the milk. Thessaloniki’s Archeological Service, which is restoring the city’s Roman remains, cannot pay the tradesmen already contracted to complete restoration work. Paralysis.

While we continue to cheer on the Greeks and to admire the courage of their No vote, remember this everyday courage, their 50 euros a day ration, their defiant patience.

Comments (5)

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  1. KMulhern says:

    I am interested in this whole, “Do not talk about politics” advice when travelling, I have been to a number of countries within and outwith Europe, and been given this advice on a number of occasions, generally from vaguely official looking paper, and it has always been pretty poor advice because I had the most interesting political discussions in the very places where I was advised “do not talk about politics.”

    I do wonder if people visiting Scotland are given the same advice, it would indicate there is some type of political dysfunction present, which needs to be discussed, learned from and hopefully resolved, talking about it is really the only way to deal with these things. Maybe we should advise people visiting Scotland “Do not talk about the weather.” We know talking about that doesn’t change anything.

    1. Diane says:

      “Don’t talk about politics” – of course not, they don’t want us sharing ideas with other countries and vice versa. It suits the neoliberal agenda very well for us only to be concerned with our little corner of the world. Shame about the internet! And I personally talk about very little else when I am away anywhere, it is surely what shapes a country and people are always willing to share their view. I’m going to Georgia in September for the Scotland game, I’m sure there will be interesting political conversations to be had there!

  2. cirsium says:

    “But maybe this is exactly what Greece needs”

    Kevin – no, it isn’t. What Greece needed was a competent government which had back-up plans if the negotiations did not work out. The Syriza government has betrayed the Greek electorate and Greece is now on its way to becoming a colony. Here are a selection of articles on this crisis –

  3. Fay Kennedy. says:

    The system keeps everyone so distracted that there’s little time to converse far less converse seriously about politics. These are challenging times and who is speaking for the ordinary person those with no voice.

  4. old battle says:

    What greater grief than the loss of one’s native land.
    Euripides, Medea, 431 B.C.

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