Gillian Bouras
An Australian
Writer
Living in Greece

July 2015

Summer is usually holiday time, fun time, in Greece. This month and next month are regular break periods and school holidays, when families take trips, and when retirees and the young spend hours on the beach. Tourists arrive in droves, and most often go island-hopping, and in so doing help to keep the country going. There is a lightness of mood and quite a deal of frivolity. Usually.

This year it’s different. Very much so. June 30 was always going to be a fraught date, and is proving to be so even as I write, for Greece is just hours away from defaulting on the huge debt owed the International Monetary Fund: 1.6 billion euros, a sum to boggle the minds of most of us. I, for one, can deal with only a certain number of noughts, after which my imagination stalls. Negotiations aimed at somehow managing this problem broke down, and in the early hours of Saturday, June 27, PM Alexis Tsipras shocked the European powers that be by announcing a referendum. This will take place on July 5, and will ask the Greek public to reject or accept European proposals. It is not clear how well the Greek public understands the proposals and what acceptance or rejection of them will mean, and there is virtually no time in which to acquire such an understanding.

Greece, it seems to me, is facing what the psychologists call a double avoidance conflict. Whatever happens now, the country is going to face an uphill struggle. Well, it’s been facing it, really, for five years or more. The austerity programme imposed on the country during the last five years has had grave social effects. The unemployment and suicide rates have soared, pensioners and the aged have suffered, as has youth. ‘We have lost a whole generation,’ a friend of mine remarked sadly not so long ago, and I’m inclined to agree. It is deeply shocking to think, and to know, that human cost is of little significance to those who wield power. It seems that Athenian-based hedge fund managers are panicking, and well they might be, but I would be surprised to learn that they are worried about paying the rent or the business of feeding and clothing children. Nor do they have to stand in queues at ATM machines, where the withdrawal limit is currently 60 euros.

There is little the ordinary person can do apart from speak up and out; Greeks are good at both, and they are also good at taking to the streets, as is evident in the huge demonstrations that crowd Syntagma Square very regularly in these troubled times. I demonstrate in my own way: interested parties can check my protests out at www.eurekastreet.com.au (Just put my name into the search section.)

Now it is July 1st, Greece has in fact defaulted, but the banks were open today. Sort of. Police and security guards were very much in evidence as crowds of pensioners waited at doors. Many in this group do not use ATMs, and the banks were functioning up to a point so that such people could withdraw the grand sum of 120 euros. The crowds I saw and observed remained calm, although things were not necessarily so in Athens: just the pressure of population makes a difference, obviously, and the Riot Squad has been on standby in several places.

A foreign friend of long standing and I met mid-morning, and swapped news, views, moans and groans. We agree there is a very difficult road ahead, regardless of the result of the referendum. Her parents, now no longer with us, lived through the Second World War, and at present my friend and her Greek husband seem inspired by the war-time British venture called Dig for Victory. This project was a concerted effort to reduce Britain’s dependence on imported foodstuffs: gardens, parks and sports grounds were routinely dug up and transformed into vegetable plots. People were encouraged to keep chickens, rabbits, goats, and pigs, and it was eventually estimated that 1, 400, 000 people had allotments.

My friends are talking seriously about digging up part of their large lawn, and also reverting to village life, at least to the point of keeping of chickens and goats. Time will tell. One effect of the ongoing krisi is that the young have, in many cases, been forced to return to the lives of their grandparents: no bad development, in my view. For one thing, villages that were thought to be dying have taken on a new lease of life; for another, the young are reconnecting to the land and to their heritage. And the life of a farmer, no matter how precarious, is far better than one of continued unemployment.

Now it appears that the banks will be open to pensioners for the next two days. Here’s hoping that they can get at least some of their money. And here’s hoping, devoutly, that matters will have returned to what passes for normal by this time next month.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gillian Bouras

 

Eureka Street

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Eureka Street

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Gillian Bouras 2018 CreativityGames.net