the TV told me to be happy that we have a government again

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.

15 thoughts on “the TV told me to be happy that we have a government again

  1. I share your frustration about not being able to vote (in Spain) and equally, feeling it’s not my responsibility (because why should people living in a country be able to vote?) and so therefore feeling one step removed from the annoyance and disappointment.

    Banks hey? To be fair to Greece (and Spain, Portugal, Ireland) – it’s not just their own bankers that have stuffed things up. It’s all bankers, and especially the world leading bankers in America. Recessions are always global, and since the 1920s, they seem to have been initiated by the USA. But you may have a different take on that one.

  2. Heidi, like you I haven’t posted recently, as I just didn’t know what to say! All of our friends here in Crete are feeling incredibly disappointed & frustrated. Crete was, it seems, solidly behind Syriza, but to no avail. The people we talk to are retirees/middle aged & young alike, and they all wanted Syriza to win. We, too, have just had a painful tax bill, for the first time since we came here, and there is a rumoured chance that there will be further charges on our agricultural land as well.

    Frankly, I can’t see that this government will last long with the level of opposition, but we will see, won’t we?

    • After I posted this, I actually thought of you and wondered if you had been holding off on posting for similar reasons!

      Crete was one of the biggest (unreported) stories of this election in my opinion. Seeing all of Crete light up in pink was something even I didn’t expect (and I was actually expecting Syriza to win the election).

      I am pretty pessimistic on this government. I actually think it will last. The Europeans will do everything possible to keep ND/PASOK in power, and as we just saw, they have no shame about involving themselves directly in Greek elections. If ND screws up, PASOK can’t come back to win, so ND has to stay in power at all costs (“at all costs” being an acceptable price to pay according to ND…) I would like to see the government fall by November but I don’t think it will happen. As you say, we can only wait and see.

      I wish these people who talk about doing things “at all costs” actually knew what it felt to pay those costs.

  3. Thanks for your ‘real life’ views as ever. I agree that the world seems beholden to international bankers and that democracy, whilst being an excellent theory, doesn’t seem to work in any of its forms when on an international stage.
    We talked to a local fisherman, traditionally a PASOK supporter, saying the austerity needs to be redefined so that the poorest who cannot afford it do not have to subsidize large shipping companies (and the like) who pay no or little taxes. Sadly he had to say that shipping companies are a problem because they can work from any country, as can other big businesses to avoid taxes, so how can you make them pay their share. It’s about time that world politicians got together to ensure that taxes are paid in the country where the money is made -especially by the rich who seem only interested in making themselves more rich.
    Our press seems to think that ND and their coalition partners are promising to try to improve the austerity terms. Will they have the guts to realign them so that the rich companies and individuals who caused the mess get to pay back?

    • I’m going to be writing more for a short time but then for the month of July I’ll be mostly away – work takes me on a huge road-trip around Greece – probably the best job ever… I’ll have a lot to blog about when it’s over!

  4. Heidi thanks for keeping us updated what happens in Greece. I live with my Greek husband here 14years, and I got so out of touch with Greece and the Greeks in the last months, I left beginning of June to go to Germany to my sister for two weeks. After the ordered and great silent Germans, I came back with renewed love and hope for Greece and her people. God reminded me in His word Romans 13:1-7, He is in control, do not fear!!! Even with such a dissapointing goverment, let us put our trust in the Lord, He will work everything for the good, for those who love Him!

  5. Thanks for your post. I surely feel for you and your family, as well as the citizens in Greece. The whole Euro experiment is entirely a political union, and is dictated by the interest of the North, i.e. the Germans. Frankly, I don’t know how the Northern Europeans and ECB can just dump the responsibility for what is happening to Southern Europe and expect the whole EZ to be kept together. We will see…

  6. Thank you for your informative posts on this topic. It doesn’t seem like it should be so much to ask for all of us to have honest and well-intentioned governments, does it? I just finished reading “Team of Rivals” about Abe Lincoln and recently read “River of Doubt” about Ted Roosevelt, U.S. presidents of former generations. Both books made me wonder if it is possible in our present time to see leaders with such integrity and intelligence. If the answer is “no”, one has to wonder why not….

  7. I thought you may be interested in this blog, which includes a link for any of your rich Greek friends (or friends of your readers?) to follow and help make Greece debt free.
    http://greece.greekreporter.com/2012/06/27/greek-ship-owners-to-make-greece-debt-free/
    I don’t understand how a donation of 168k can pay off about 1.5 million – but however it works it has to be a good thing that some rich Greeks are finally getting a conscience about avoiding their taxes before.
    Sylvia

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