I admit it. I’ve been hiding under a Cyclopean rock. I started this blog because I wanted it to be a positive, upbeat place, and positive and upbeat are not great words to describe me these past few weeks.
Greece has a government now. A government almost identical to the government it has had for the past several
years decades. Is there a reason why things should have changed? Is there a logical, common sense reason why voters might have chosen a different party to form a government – a party that has not been the direct and foremost cause of the domestic factors leading to the crisis? Apparently the answer to these questions is “no, we’re happy with those parties. They represent us well. We trust them. Their leaders are honest, ethical, above corruption, and clearly work for the best interests of the Greek people.”
I don’t have the right to vote in Greece, so at least I am spared the additional frustration that voters for other parties feel, of having cast their vote into the black hole of New Pasocracy.
As a permanent resident, tax-payer, and lover of Greece, however, I share in the same frustrations that most people, everywhere on the political spectrum, feel: the quaintness of voting in a political realm when decisions are being made, just up above, in the banking realm.
And so Greece has sworn in a prime minister who has pledged to continue to do everything exactly as before, when everything before failed comically. It’s been reported that his top pick for the all-important Minister of Finance is the president of Greece’s largest private bank. The government was formed by a coalition with (whom else?) PASOK, and with the small Democratic Left party, a party that serves very little purpose except to absorb the anger that voters felt against the government and then collaborating with the government, essentially nullifying the “protest vote” that they campaigned for. What does a coalition with PASOK and Democratic Left mean? That some members of PASOK and Democratic Left will be in cabinet positions… just not any of the members that anyone actually voted for; the members will be unelected party members. Even the ND cabinet members will be – it has been reported – so called “technocrats,” a Greek word that means “rule by experts” (i.e., unelected bankers and the like).
ND and PASOK campaigned, and came to power, on the platform of “renegotiating the agreement with the Troika.” While the campaign was going on, European political leaders and the German press sent constant inappropriate messages toward Greek voters, telling them that they must vote for these parties. (Inappropriate because voting in a national election is a domestic matter.) But as soon as the government was formed, the message changed dramatically: “no renegotiation is possible. You can ask all you want, but the answer is ‘no’.”
The nice thing about the campaign season, despite the annoying ads, is that people say nice things. Candidates make promises that people want to hear. Bad stuff is put on hold. But now the elections are over and, for the first time in two months, they’ve started again with the constant news reports on the new austerity measures starting in July. S is expecting another pay cut. We’ve lost our prescription drug coverage, but the number removed from the paycheck for health insurance hasn’t gone down at all. We just found out how much we owe (yes, owe – for the first time in our entire lives, we owe) for income tax – and it’s a four digit number. A kind of large four digit number. Every last one of those four digits is more than we can afford. But we have to pay it, because if we don’t, we get fined even more. And eventually thrown in jail. [We owe even though we made much less than the year before. It's because the standard deduction was reduced to much less than half of what it was before, and pretty much all tax write-offs and credits were eliminated; there are also several new taxes that were added. Everyone in Greece is dealing with this same thing right now.]
I have nothing but disgust and distrust for the new government. Their campaign tactics repulsed me. The demography of their voters (retirees for the most part) doesn’t impress me. They are proven failures, every one of them. There is no hope for Greece with this government. False hope would have been better than no hope.
It might seem hard to believe that in Greece in 2012, people would actually vote for “politics as usual,” but it isn’t. There are two explanations: 1) the Greek public was the victim of a campaign of terror launched by the old political parties, the European political and banking community, and the mass media (although only the media were really honest about doing it); and 2) old people tend to be conservative. Greece has a lot of old people.
I did, however, see one small glimmer of hope. I have a friend in Thessaloniki who voted (like everyone in my generation) for Syriza. So did his two brothers. His parents – retired now, one from coal mining and one from working in a factory, who went to Germany to find work after the war when Greece was destroyed but Germany was booming, and who have remained illiterate throughout their lives – have voted for ND in every election since ND was formed, for reasons that they themselves cannot articulate. This year, for the first time ever, they didn’t. They couldn’t bring themselves to vote for a different party, but they decided to stay home. “This is your future… you have to decide,” my friend’s father told him. Despite this gesture, Thessaloniki – due to a last-minute terror campaign by a local ND politician – experienced a massive increase in elderly voting, and was the only major city in Greece that voted for ND – even after voting for Syriza in May.