Crisis kitchen

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No food today folks…

Soup kitchens
Soup kitchens

Today I saw photos of soup kitchens in Greece, again, with long and growing queues: this is not news it has been happening for a long time now, did you know about it? I heard about how small business owners gone bankrupt keep silent about their unemployment, too ashamed of the stigma. The stated unemployment percentage in Greece must be inaccurate with so many people keeping silent: there is no hope of help or social welfare. Not to mention the taboo of accepting charity help. In Greece, just around the corner from you, there are more and more stories on the steep increase of homelessness; parents giving up their children to social services; suicide on the rise. I saw images of protest on the streets of various cities in Greece on 10 February 2012 and massive protest banners adorning the Acropolis . And everyone if gearing up for massive protests.

When I left Greece 15 years ago, for what I thought then would be 3 years of British education, I could not have imagined this fate for Greece.

My parents were annoyingly hard-working. I remember their frustrated conversations about growing tax evasion and their comparatively high tax bills: they felt naïve and were sometimes mocked for their lack of ‘courage’ to evade tax. Do I believe that tax evasion is the only reason Greece is where it is? No, I think it was a symptom as well as a cause.

Can I comment about what is happening in Greece today? Unlike other Greeks all I have only been a professional adult in Britain; it is only through my parents, family and friends’ experience that I can comment. When some of my Greek friends, having been educated or worked abroad for a while, started making their way back ‘home’ in the early noughties-to make art; be lawyers, doctors, teachers; start businesses, or families; or just be with their families, or just to be-I stayed on. My choice until recently baffled quite lot of people but nowadays no one asks me why I am here. No disrespect but there is not much I will bother saying about my choice: it has been personal and therefore right; and had nothing to do with jobs, status and money, or indeed this crisis. Of my Greek friends who have returned to homeland, very few had a painless transition –sometimes being treated harshly for their choice of foreign education, and faced with nepotism and lack of meritocracy, even gender prejudice-and now they are getting this: an undignified financial junta, a monetary dictatorship, the loss of their dignity, a situation that seems to be going nowhere. Has part of the problem been that many Greek families and people contributed their money to the foreign economy through, e.g. education, rather than investing funds and skills in Greece? Some think so… I have reached no conclusion, and if yes I have contributed to this problem.

I am trying to understand what a solution to Greece’s demise might be: is the only dignified way out to default? I honestly don’t know, but it seemed to be the better choice for Argentina.

Still,  I am particularly angry that my 75 year old father is at risk of being deprived of much deserved security in his older age: a man that has been working since he was 13;  and who already experienced 2 recessions; a civil war and the end of the Second World War in Greece.

But as allegedly the UK is also entering another recession phase and unemployment in Wales particularly, but also across the UK, is rising, I once again conclude this is a global problem not one of or caused by Greece: to think otherwise is naïve and insulting to one’s intelligence! And I wonder what is to hit the UK too, after all the other countries queuing up for harsher times: after all personal debt in the UK is a lot higher than that of the Greeks. The past few years here seem resonant of the decade Greece went through before recession; there is a welfare state, but the family structures are not as tight. Once I swore never to make the mindless sacrifices to my personal life that my parents made for me. Ironically I now find myself working to pay hight taxes, a ridicuous mortgage, and bills; and not being able to entertain even the thought of some these mindless sacrifices.

So the question I pose to you wherever you are is:

How is it that across this world we accept to be governed by an incomprehensible force of fictional markets, a system that made very little sense until its collapse, and still remains nonsensical and ludicrous? It feels like a live version of monopoly, where countries like Greece are waiting for a get out of  jail card…in vain.

My father stoically says that we will all be ok: I can hear him smile when he says this to me on the phone.  On 12 February 2012, Greece will see mass protests. Tonight we all get on with our moods and lives as always: we will be ok but this does not mean we remain unaffected and indifferent. So that you know…


‘The Argentina experiment’, an excellent documentary made by the Exantas team in Greece who visited the country ten years after recession and in the depth of the Greek Crisis.

Soup kitchens and stories of a growing number people seeking free meals in Greece in English

For the Greeks:  Pandespani blog’s fantastically sarcastic and intelligent entry

As usual Kostas Kallergis site about the Greek Crisis: When the Crisis Hit the Fan

Why the Crisis is a Global phenomenon: A December 2011 SOAS Seminar (watch at least the first 15 minutes)

Guardian’s 10 February editorial about the crisis, the euro and Greece

My previous blog on our crisis: a recipe for destruction.


A recipe for destruction ?

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I have lost my appetite… There is something deeply wrong in my psyche when my kitchen becomes still and quiet. It looks so clean! And this is not just because Dan has been meticulously keeping the house beautifully tidy. My favourite room of the house has not been hosting my creative rants. For now: I have lost my ability to meditate over mouth-watering scents, aromas and flavours.

I am deeply affected to the core by what is happening in Greece. I am in a state of turmoil, sadness, awe, anger, anticipation, disappointment….all that and more at the same time. All I can think about is a persistent question: what have been the ingredients for Greece’s recipe for destruction?

There are moments when I want to run back to Greece to join the people I love and all these intelligent, affected people I am conversing with on the internet. I am not sure what more we can do or say: but I just want to be close to them. I feel a bit like a traitor being out here: 14 year of drifting into an ever growing diaspora.

I am left speechless by the quantity and quality of the analysis, discussion, written word that is flooding the blogosphere, the internet, twitter and Facebook. The wavelengths of the web are carrying a wealth of information and opinion in an age where citizens become valid journalists and reporters of their own reality and ideas. I am amazed by the guts of some of the Greek journalists who recently published a front page with a blank picture frame during this politically volatile week for Greece, in anticipation of a new prime minister, one who in reality was appointed by the Merkozy twins. At times I have been disappointed by the unnecessary and naïve nationalistic responses and statements of some and the attacks of Greeks on each other: a cancerous and unnecessary approach to coping with all of this.

I weep silently at work, in the street, at night lying awake and in my dreams. But I also have moments of pride and excitement to see such a high percentage of young Greeks produce such quality art, expression, views, blogs, parody, and see how they cope with this demise in a dignified way withstanding the unjustified attack of idiotic and naïve foreign voices that are looking for a new scapegoat in the international arena for politics (instead of finally comprehending there is a global shadow theatre of master puppeteers that we have ALL collectively been part of without our conscious choice and through pledging political indifference or ignorance). We will all be affected!

This week I have been gratefully and accurately informed by “When the Crisis hit fan” of Kostas Kallergis that Polukarpos Palainis pointed to me. I have laughed at the satirical commentary of Pitisirikos, a pioneer of blogging and satirical political commentary in Greece with a sharp sense of humour, going strong for a long time (I have known of him for the past 4 years). I have followed Ellinofreneia (Greek madness) and the fantastic Press Project as well as hundreds of other individuals and blogs. Thank you to all for sharing and keep it coming!

I discuss from a distance, remain deeply affected and think: ‘Is all this virtual stimulation and debate sufficient?’. And once you understand that the demise of a place and a society you love so much is not just the cumulative impact of individuals’ action or a handful of political decisions, political incompetency, mindless corruption, unjustified individualism and opportunism but also an indication of the failure of the global political and economic system that we have all supported with our consumerism and inaction: What do you do? Who do you blame? What change can you bring about and how?

What am I doing here? I take my hat off to my friend Katerina Georgantidou who left Cardiff to return to Greece this summer because of her need to be there and is teaching, organising hooping sessions and classes and giving back her own to contribute to the strengthening of the city’s psyche.  I am sure the transition has not been easy.

In my dreams I have been instructing my subconscious to seek answers in discussions with Chomsky, Socrates and my granddad who was born at the turn of the last century and died in 1989. Some say I think too much: I think that I am perplexed and don’t know how to act. And I just miss being close to those I care about!

I have lost my appetite trying to understand what the foul ingredients of this recipe of destruction are: I find myself in a state of political depression and seek to understand what change I can make to my way of life first and fore most.

I know all this sounds very pessimistic but I do glimpse hope and it is in the same place as my dear  friend Maria Sini sees it: in creativity, art and imagination that can perhaps help us reshape and regroup, change micro cultures we don’t like and maybe reinvent what now seems lost . Recently I have admired the street art of Bleeps. gr, listened to an interview he gave to, which thankfully did not reveal his identity, and was inspired Rachel Donadio’s the references to a renaissance of art rising from the fumes of a Greece on fire in the New York Observer and New York Times on 14 October (I don’t have the reference), seen numerous clips and videos on youtube.

Have you got a glimpse of hope to share with me and each other?

If yes contact me here or on twitter: @moutselia