Greeks in Britaian

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…

Recommendations:

‘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.