Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Dam Breaks
















A shockingly small white coffin emerges in a sea of young people dressed in black, and applause goes up to say a last goodbye to Alexandros-Andreas Grigoropoulos, the 15 year old who was shot dead at point blank range on Saturday night by police in Exarcheio.

Staggering behind the coffin were the parents, crippled by grief, and his mother who could barely stay on her feet. Her son had called her to tell her he had reached the centre safely, where he was celebrating the birthday of a friend. A mere ten minutes later, she was told to rush to the hospital where his life ebbed away for absolutely no reason.

And Greece erupted. The generation of Alexandros, tired of a government that has refused to ease their frustration, fed up of working their fingers to the bone and still being the first generation to be worse off than the one that preceeded it, dispairing at living in a country where it's not what you know but who you know and hopeless at watching their parents dig deep into debt to provide them with degrees that turn out to be meaningless, has finally boiled over in anger.

If anyone hoped that the three days of riots would let up soon, the images from the funeral of the teenager are likely to set things off all over again.

Despite throwing my hands up in frustration at the hot headedness of the Greeks who like nothing better than having a strike or a riot, this time I am completely backing the young people who have taken to the streets in anger.

No one has listened to their voices, and now they are lashing out in the one way they know will finally get everyone's attention.

Whatever really did happen on Saturday night, one thing is clear from the eye witness accounts (unfortunateley for the police, there are several and they all concur). Alexandros and his friends got into an argument with two police officers in the bohemian district of Exarcheio. There was no baying mob as the police claimed. Shots were fired, supposedly in the air, and an unarmed teenager lay dying on the road as the two officers calmly walked away.

I've been to Exarcheio, it's one of my favourite parts of Athens. It's a part of town that goes against the grain, where young people are able to find expression, and maybe it's this that terrifies the authorities so much, especially the police who really ought to have something better to do.

Every single time I go to Menandrou street, the police are there. But are they cleaning up the drug users and prostitutes operating in clear view? No! Of course not. They're too busy breaking up groups of immigrants who gather on the weekend in the only part of town that they can really claim as theirs. When they're not busy beating up immigrants, they're stopping cars driven by women to flirt with them and issuing tickets if the ladies get irritated. And when they're not doing that, they're shooting dead unarmed teenagers.

The Greek media has thrown impartiality out of the window and turned on the police. Kudos to them, because all though this police killing is getting unprecedented levels of coverage, the news debates have made sure to mention police killings in the past, not only Greeks but immigrants and the Roma too.

Meanwhile the riots have divided society down the middle. I am in full favour of them, believing that it's healthy for a government to be scared of its people when it really fucks up. And this time the government deserves everything it gets.

Greece has been a member of the EU since 1981, but is plagued by corrupt and self-interested politicians, crippling bureaucracy, cronyism and an increasingly disillusioned public.

The left wing government of the PASOK party was voted out in favour of the centre right New Democracy party in 2004 in a move to affect change in the country. But the change that the Greek public had hoped for was not to come and the government’s failure to listen to their voice came to fruition on Saturday night.

The crowds that have taken to the streets in anger at the unprovoked murder of a teenager represent all spectrums of Greek society, but mainly members of what is referred to in Greece as Generation 700 Euro, in reference to an entire generation of young people who despite enjoying an unprecedented level of further education are not able to find jobs that pay them more than EUR 700 a month, a sum that is barely able to cover a modest lifestyle.

The cost of daily living in Greece has rocketed while pay rates have remained the same after the Euro replaced the inflation-ridden Drachma in 2002, resulting in one in five Greeks living below the poverty line and young people being unable to afford to move out of the parental household or start families.

Greek youngsters face some of the toughest school systems and university entrance standards in Europe through a poorly funded educational system and are then subject to government entry quotas for universities that fall well below the actual demand. The result is families putting themselves under huge financial pressure to educate their children overseas.

Despite all this, Greece has one of the highest rates of unemployment in the EU for under 25s and of the original 15 EU states, it is the only one where higher education does nothing to improve a candidate’s job prospects.

Simple day to day tasks like the installation of a phone line or the paying of taxes are in Greece an exercise in negotiation skills and bribe paying.

Add to this a government that seems embarrassingly incapable of dealing with 21st century problems like the processing of illegal immigrants, a bullying police force that acts with impunity and now a global financial crisis impacting the country’s faltering economy, and it’s easy to see so many young people are so angry.

In my opinion only a small section of the crowds are trouble makers. The rest are just plain angry and are venting this anger through violence. And really, when you consider all the facts, why the hell should they not be angry? As so many news commentators have said, this is a generation without hope. The youngsters waiting outside at Alexandros's funeral were crying not only for the waste of a life, but also for themselves and their wasted lives in a country where the government is not the least bit bothered about their futures. They were tears of anger, sadness and frustration.

If this government has any brains at all, they will take a serious look at cracking down on the grievances of the young people who see no future instead of the rioters themselves.

Glass can be fixed, shops are insured. If they wipe out the hope of an entire generation, they are sowing the seeds for their own demise and if that's the road they want to go down, we haven't seen anything yet.

44 comments:

toomanytribbles said...

excellently said.

Bel Ludovic said...

You've persuasively set out why the demonstrators felt unable to express their frustration at the shooting (and everything else you describe) in any other way, but the moment at which a legitimate outpouring of anger becomes a mindless orgy of violence was reached long ago.

Can four nights of destruction REALLY be justified? Has the point not already been 'got', or will you have to put up with several more nights of this? And after how many nights of rioting will your support for their actions be sustained before you consider enough to be enough?

Try saying 'glass can be replaced' to shopkeepers whose Christmases are now ruined, to restauranteurs and hoteliers whose livelihoods will be adversely affected as visitors steer clear and Athens's tourism returns to the dismal levels of before the Olympics.

I don't deny that this has been a superlatively shoddy government, but the opposition are no better and are no alternative. They would offer more of the same, as they did until they were booted out in 2004. And if this government falls as a result of these riots, the rule of the mob will have won, a worrying precedent will be set and Greece will become even more ungovernable.

Anonymous said...

Wow. It's scarey that you have found a man guilty before he is even tried. Is popular opinion all it takes for you to condemn someone as a murderer? Unfortunately pressure like these rioters are applying will not bring out the truth The truth is the Greeks cannot respect authority, even if it is deserving, so they will never have law and order.

Psofofeggaro said...

unfortunately dear only a few people out there rioting are youngsters or poor people. The majority is immigrants and comunists, taking advantage of the situation. Things are bad, because no matter what political side the parties are, their gonna do the same, again and again, as they do for 30 years now. It's pity for the poor boy, because everyone's taking advandage of the situation and he doesnt deserve that. Parites have their favourites and make deals under the table while we try to make a living with what other people in EU spend as a rent.
Things won't change....
things won't change......

Rositta said...

I can agree with you to a degree. Burning private property and beating up people is not dissent, it is pure hooliganism. I know what things are like there, I too have two young nieces in the work force. If you think things are any better this side of the pond you are wrong but young people do not go on rampages like what we have witnessed on the news the last three days. Killing a child is always wrong no matter who does it and I understand the police have been charged...ciao

stassa said...

Hey! You're sheherezad on cif, aren't you? I'm reading that comment thread now.

It's so weird, reading about the things that happen in my own city from abroad. All I can understand is that I can't get a clear idea, because everybody is either too close to what's going on to be objective, or too far away to know what's really going on...

I wish I was there. I could then walk the streets of my city and see with my own eyes. But thanks for the perspective- I don't like the idea of riots, but I do trust your judgment.

Take care, of yourself and your man.

bollybutton said...

stassa, yes I am! Everyone else: we are all entitled to our opinions, so let's go ahead and bash it out. Lack of dialogue is partially what got us here.

I love Greece and this is the country I will be raising my own children. I need to know that they won't get shot at for being cheeky and that, if they want and they're good enough, they too can run for prime minister even if their last names aren't Karamalis or Papandreaou. Greece kicked out a monarchy and military rule and got a system of political dynasties instead, people who live in a whole other universe to your average Greek.

teacher dude said...

Brilliant post. You summed up everything that has happened so eloquently.

toomanytribbles said...

words like 'always' and 'never' are fatalistic and disconnected with a country that has gone through much political and social strife.

funny how 'comunists' [sic] and 'immigrants' cannot be counted among the poor or should not have a say in their governments.

i, too, disagree that violence is the answer but i can fully understand the rage. this is not a momentary problem and it certainly isn't limited to greece. hopefully its energy can be transformed into mature political action.

bollybutton said...

Thanks Teacher Dude, and well done on your very popular CNN ireport!http://www.ireport.com/docs/DOC-159640

If anyone is interested, my ireport is at: http://www.ireport.com/docs/DOC-160333, but it's more or less the same as this post.

toomanytribbles, us immigrants always get the blame for everything, boohoo!

toomanytribbles said...

you all know that this has happened before, don't you?

http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2008/12/414702.html

betabug said...

This is the best I've read about the situation ever, thank you very much.

"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." - John F. Kennedy.

When there are no democratic means to put pressure on the corrupt justice system and the corrupt class of politicians who "own" the country, the water will boil over at some point - no matter if we want it or not.

And as for Bel Ludovic, it doesn't matter if the family clan ruling the country is this one or that one, that's certainly not the matter.

bollybutton said...

I think it says it all that this morning the head of the shopkeeper's union said that they will be suing the government, and not suing for damage by an unknown party.

I do feel sorry for people who have lost their shops and jobs, but all this can be replaced. A life cannot. And you have to marvel at the sheer stupidity of the police when they fired live shots into the air last night, and then claimed they were just "sound bullets". Sadly for them, journalists on the scene picked up the empty shells and showed them on camera.

This anger needs to come out. As betabug pointed out, Greece is not the kind of country where the government will take notice of peaceful sit in type protests. They need to be scared to do something.

deviousdiva said...

Brilliant post.

I was wondering how long it would be before someone blamed the immigrants. I need wonder no more...

toomanytribbles said...

i don't think the issue is to scare the government into doing anything. the most the they will do is try to find some way to get people to let off steam in order to hastily patch up the tattered rags of their parody of democracy.

the easiest and most effective way is to bide their time to allow people to grow weary of the protesters, have portions of the population redirect their anger towards one another and emptily promise anything to get the people to acquiesce into compliance.

Anonymous said...

It's the best analysis so far...

stassa said...

Ben Ludovic:
Tourism levels in Greece have never been "dismal", certainly not with 15 million people, mostly Brits and Germans, visiting every year since anyone started keeping track.

Psofofegaro:
By all means, let's blame the immigrants now, coming here, taking our jobs, marrying our men, it's their fault the country has gone to the dogs. We certainly didn't have any riots before the immigrants started coming in.

Above all, let's go to their blogs and tell them what we really think of them. You know, like you just did.

Oh ok, fuck the subtlety: Bolly is an immigrant. Got it now?

Anonymous:
Greeks cannot respect authority. And neither should we. Would you respect anyone who can only make you do what they want you by threatening you with violence? Maybe you would- in English, "respect" has certain connotations, where superior force can be "respected", for example. Not in my language, not in my country and not in my heart. This people didn't bow to the Persians, we didn't bow to the Romans, the Ottomans, the Nazis, the Junta... Generally, we don't bow to noone- our necks are as stiff as a Brittish upper lip. I am not proud of the riots and the destruction, but I am proud that my people "cannot respect authority". If you put us down, we'll get right up and kick you in the teeth. And good for you. Though certainly not for your teeth. Ta.

bollybutton said...

Hi Stassa, psofofeggaro is entitled to her opinion and I must defend her as she is a regular and positive comment leaver on this blog. I don't take her point of view personally.

This "immigrants causing trouble" angle is appearing all over the British press. We base our opinions according to which channels of info we have.

Hope said...

This was an excellent post! And an interesting point of view.

Every life is precious and for one to end for absolutely no reason is tragic.

But, every year more than 5000 people are killed in Greece in car accidents. I don't see anyone hitting the streets and demanding the government do something about that. Instead all I hear are people moaning and groaning about how hefty the fines are and how unreasonable the police are for enforcing these laws.

As a result, I cannot find it in me to condone the violence and utter disrespect that these youths have shown for public AND private property. As a result, their message does not touch me.

The only thing that will touch me is if these youths, this generation of 700 (which I am part of; except I was getting paid a measly 500) begin to act the way they want their government to act.

Our government is a reflection of our society, of us. It does not exist in some vacuum made up of people completely foreign to us.

It is what we have made it. What we allow it to be. As long as the country, its politicians, its media, its citizens continue to play this blame game, change will come far too slowly and at a price far too high.

And these riots? Will have served absolutely no purpose.

stassa said...

Ah, I'm not attacking deadmoon. I know she's a regular and that she must think you're OK- but to me her comment indicates that she thinks you're an exception and that "immigrants" in general are responsible for some? many? all? of the evils in Greek society.

I'm sure deadmoon means you no harm, but there are so many people in Greece who don't know you personally, and have no idea what kind of person you are. If we allow it to sink in to public opinion that "your kind" are looters, trouble makers, who are only here to disrespect our laws and take our jobs... where does that leave you? Not any random man or woman who (more or less) shares your ancestry- but you, specifically?

I know from my personal experience that when you belong in a marginalised minority, the members of the majority tend to treat you as a stereotype, even if all the evidence that you're not at all how they expect you to be is staring them in the face. Some day we have to get over all those misconceptions that we have for each other- in fact, it's exactly that kind of misconception that is prompting some sectors of the public to say that "the cop was right to shoot, all those anarchists are the same". But how are we going to stop the prejudice if we keep speaking its language?

toomanytribbles said...

it never ceases to amaze me how people can be convinced that working people, senior citizens, students, immigrants and citizens, have conflicting interests.

we're in the same boat.

Adam Rothstein said...

Lovely writing, thank you.

As you said, "glass can be fixed, shops can be insured."

Property destruction is anger, not violence. No matter how much property is destroyed, it will never be as violent as a citizen killed in his own streets by the state.

Anonymous said...

Young people have reasons to get angry?
Ok. So they burn houses, cars etc - they give lots of grieve to other people WHO DID NOT INJURE THEM NOR THE POOR GUY WHO WAS SHOT!
Come on, that´s bullshit.
This angry mob doesn´t have a heart and doesn´t have brains.

graffic said...

Nice summary of what's happening in Greece. I guess it groups many of the ideas running in the streets, Tv and people's minds. Nobody has expressed "the problem" better. +1

But, I cannot justify free violence. I just cannot understand why someone who can be my friend has to destroy my car, my office, my favourite cafeteria. Why attack someone who has nothing to do with your problem?

What will I earn if I burn your (you = readers) car or shop or office? (Make you angry, for sure)

Have any you been angry? Really angry? What did you do then? Did you do something similar to the things people is doing now? Did you do something totally opposite?

I guess all of us, if we have a job, we will be tomorrow there, working, and not burning our offices to fight against the government. We will return home and we won't destroy our houses.

I do understand that some violence is directed against the government but still there is a lot that just hits you.

Force out of control is useless.

Really good post, sorry if my comment is not up the level. :)

bollybutton said...

While I also disagree with destroying shops and leaving people out of work when the economy is already so bad, I feel that material damage is outraging people much more than is necessary.

A life was lost. A child's life. A mother who cherished that child in her womb for 9 months has had all her dreams shattered. NOTHING comes ahead of that. All of Athens could be smashed to pieces and it still wouldn't come close to the damage of a lost life and of all these hopeless young people.

If you watch the news the people who lost their shops/cars etc are all angry as to why the police wasn't around to do something. As yet I've not heard anyone say "Who the hell do they think they are smashing up my shop." On some level, everyone can understand these young people.

Maybe I am too sympathetic to the youngsters because Mr Zeus spent his teens protesting his generation's causes (apparently lemon juice in the eyes counters tear gas's effects) and I watch his niece work 6 days a week, morning to 10 at night, and still only be able to dream of moving out.

This is an angry generation. They are taking matters into their own hands. Look how young they are, and look how much bravery it must take for a 16 year old to face down armed police. I readily admit that as much as I wanted to go and at least observe the riots, I was too chicken, and I'm a full decade older than these kids.

Can you imagine having to protest in your school because your books and equipment are shit while the Church is swimming in money and setting up offshore companies? (this is not an anti Christian rant, we have the exact same issue in the Home Country, just a different religion)

When education in a developed, EU member state should be a right and not a priviledge, these teenagers get outdated study materials in crumbling buildings. The local high school I went for Greek lessons in is a paint peeling, smashed window, graffitied mess, and it's the reality of most Greeks who can't afford fancy private schools.

We need to look at the circumstances that got us here, which are a lot more damaging than burnt out cars and looted shops.

Sesi said...

There is so many things I want to say, many of them just irrational rambling, I will however try to make the text coherent.
First of all, Bolly, your post was right to the point, very well captured and speaking impressive, though sad, truths about our society. They bare more meaning than any of ours, because you can view things impartially, not having the Greek mentality to its core, not having been brought up in Greece, and being an immigrant, even of love (a sort not wholly unknown to us).
Yes, it is the sociopolitical situation that has driven the people to the streets. Alex's death, even unfortunate, unjustified and irrational, was only the spark that lit the fire. For anyone having eyes, they, including myself, knew that this was coming. I expected it last April, with the last BIG national strike, but it did not come then. The fact is, the Greeks always take their time with everything: their neskafe at some plateia, their lunches which take huge amounts of time, their shopping which takes days, their cooking that is never done in 20 minutes for a traditional meal, their revolutions which are never done early, but always late! So this one took something like 20 years to errupt. And I do not see it stopping any time soon.
People now have access to information, they are not easily manipulated via the MME or political speeches. People have developed critical thinking and now filter the information they are fed. Thank god!
Justice has not named the Officer who shot Alexis guilty, however, there is some indication that he may have been. And, unfortunately, there are sufficient cases in the not so far past to show that even if he is pronounced guilty, his sentence will be rediculous.
Dirty deeds committed by public figures of any sort gone unpunished are the norm here, but the people now are a bit smarter or more informed than they were, and cannot bare this anymore.
How DARE they publish a campaign about tax consciessness? How DARE they, when we KNOW for a fact that the moneys we pay do not offer the quality of service we should be receiving in return, when we know that our moneys paid end up in some monks or some politicians pockets? How DARE they comment on riots, when the police force is hidiously underpaid? How DARE they talk about education when an entire generation growing up now, GROWS UP WITHOUT HOPE! How DARE they remain in office, and not resigning, when our kids are on the streets, hopeless and desperate and frustrated about their future?
Some times violence is the only way in the country. I do not support the rioters burning down the little shop on Patission street, but I do not mind them burning down the Parliament (if only they would), banks, government buildings, or overpriced stores that have gained thousands of euros by pricing up their merchandize 4-5 times up.
Despire the entire Athens city center burning down though, and despite the riots around the entire country, this government shows no shame. Latest news has it that there is consideration to excersise Article 11 of our Constitution, which says:
1. The Greeks have the right to come together (as in protests for example) quietly and without guns (anyone remember the plundering of the Hellas gun shop?).
2. The police can be present only at public outdoor gatherings. The outdoor gatherings may be prohibited with a justified decision by the police authority, generally, if because of them there is about to be serious danger for public safety, in a specific area, if there is danger for serious disturbance of socioeconomic life, as the law defines.
This translation is as accurate as possible. Now, according to the constitution, IF the police tells the state that the circumstances demand it, the STATE may disallow any protests in a defined area, which in this case will be any major city in Greece. People protesting, thus, will be breaking the law and will be arrested, tried and jailed (I do not know what sentences there are for such cases).
Supposedly the deadline for rioters to stop, or the article will be practiced, ends in about 15 hours. IF the article gets implemented, we will have to brace ourselves for the worst, because riots will not end any time soon.
It will be justified to the core though! And I will stand by my constitutional rights, written with the blood of people who have died to make sure that our generations live in a democratic, well run country, and not in a country plagued by social injustices and corruption.

Chloe said...

came here via betabug. thank you for the excellent post. at long last.

Anonymous said...

If there's one thing I liked about this post, it's how it portrays things.

I freely admit that before I read this, I generally considered the entire affair rather stupid. I saw it as a bunch of people causing damage randomly, essentially leeching off the death of a young boy, abusing it even, as an excuse to go on a riot.

I think the reason I thought this is basically because I have an underlying assumption, as basic and obviously wrong as it is, that everywhere is the same as where I am.

I live in the UK. If a 15 year old boy got shot by the police here under the same circumstances, there would be outrage. The papers would be screaming about it, the TV and radio news stations would be screaming about it. There'd probably be protests and marches, maybe a small scale riot akin to a football riot in the town it occured in, but nothing as major as what's happening in Greece.

But from reading your post, I see that things aren't the same. The underlying situation isn't the same, the underlying tensions aren't the same. We have our problems with various corrupt / inefficient police departments but nowhere near as much as greece seems to have (after reading http://livingingreece.gr/2008/12/10/greek-riot-police/ this).

It suddenly become more understandable.

I think this is a problem in the international reaction to things like this. There's a sort of unspoken feeling of "bond" between the "western" nations, especially in europe. There are the stereotypes that get playfully (and sometimes seriously) bantered around like germans being cold and hard, french being a bit weird and so on, but there's a general feeling that we're all the same, barring a few odd customs. It's not the same feeling you get when you hear of riots in the middle east; it just feels "right" for it to happen over there.
I think there needs to be more... education? Focus? Something, anyway, on the different cultures of europe, so that issues like this can be understood better. So I thank you for the post, as it helped me understand the issues.

I still can't, though, condone such seemingly mindless violence. I think this is because I prefer clear lines of logic. Police shoot boy, people attack police. That seems logical to me. Police shoot boy, people attack government. That also is logical to me. Police shoot boy, people attack local small business. That is a break in logic. Something there doesn't quite sit right.

Anonymous said...

Bravo bollybutton for a great post that tries to summarise the situation and incorporate all of the cold hard facts. Not a lot of people would be bothered to sit and try to write a concise article about what has happened and is still happening.

You are right. A saying from King Arthur goes: "There is a peace that only exists on the other side of war." I didn't realise until all this happened what shit shape Greece has been in. We who were born in the US, Australia, the UK have no idea what privileges we have enjoyed. We have been lulled to sleep in the comfort of societies rich in social privilege and run by governments who at least try to do what's right. But Greece is not like that and only those who've lived in Greece can understand this. It has been run for at least 2 decades now by overfed, apathetic characters calling themselves politicians but really not caring at all about the 'polis' and only caring how long they can be at the top for and fill their bulging pockets.

Just to show how much of an underlying sympathy there is to the actions of these vandals and angry youth, today I went to visit the tailor who lives down my street to get his take on the situation. He immediately said, "You know, 8 or 9 years ago I told my brother to put an article in the local paper warning that this exact thing would happen." When I asked him how he knew it would happen he said for years now there has been a sense of 'who gives a shit about the next generation?' in government. He said though that this generation of children is not like his generation was as youth; they didn't have such anger because everyone then was in the same boat: all poor, all without shoes. Today, some have shoes, some don't.

Hearing this coming from a person over 60 shook me. I realised that indeed, "what a man sows, he shall reap." The country has sowed injustice. The country has sowed oppression of the poor. The country has sowed more privileges for criminals than for their victims. The country has sowed corruption. And the list goes on.

Those bloggers who condemn the burning of shops etc, I can understand where you're coming from. But consider for a moment: What could push someone, and not just one or two or a handful of people but whole CITIES of people, to act like that? Do you think sane, rational people could act this way for no reason? We're not talking about a Sudanese witchcraft sect here; we're talking about Greeks who gave rational thought to the world and have grown up and been educated in Europe! "Every action has an equal and opposite reaction." So if this is the reaction, what was the action?

These people are not harming people's homes or lives, or even pets. They are practising discretion to some extent so we know they're not crazed. But the shops, the cafes, banks, government offices, polytechnics etc all represent the society that created the problem in the first place. And when you have a Prime Minister and a whole cabinet who are too gutless to face the populace face to face, with nothing to hide and ready to respond to people's needs, when the power people hide away and leave the citizen to cope in whatever way he knows best, then the people HAVE nothing and no-one else to target! It's even written in the bible: An able man can't tell a poor man, "Go, eat and be well!" and not lift a finger to help him!

My final thought: The courageous can never bow to the cowards. He who knows more can't obey him who knows less. It must always be the other way around.

Peace.
And again peace.
XXXXX
GeekGoddess.

bollybutton said...

Thanks GG, I am happy we are able to collect here and exchange points of view, no matter which end of the debate they belong to.

Beyond the beaches and the sunshine of Greece lies a very unequal society. I'm sure most people have had the disconcerting experience of seeing the whole spectrum.

I have interacted with the wealthy of Athens and they occupy another universe to normal Athenians. They have this kind of Mary Antoinette "let them eat cake" attitude. There is money in Greece, there always was, but it got concentrated after the wars in the hands of the few and they sure as hell aren't going to let it slip from their bejewelled hands.

Then you have the middle of the spectrum, Mr Zeus who it took 9 months to find a good enough job despite a list of qualifications and experience as long as his arm. He even went for an interview where he was told outright that the nephew of the manager was up for the same job, so if he wanted he didn't have to do the interview. He did the interview anyway, and surprise surprise, the nephew got the job.

His sister has been, since I met her 4 years ago, constantly at her wits end, constantly cutting corners here or there, each month trying to go without something in order to pay her bills and she's into thousands of Euros of debt because she's had to resort to credit cards. It's through her I am seeing how hard it is to be raise a family to any decent standard in Greece.

Then of course you have the most disaffected, the immigrants and the poor who occupy ghetto neighbourhoods in the city centre.

My goodness how I wish Karamanlis read my blog! I'd love to ask him: how do you justify this level of social injustice? How can you hold your head up? Do you not think that in the majority of cases you should get the job because you're good enough and not because you're well connected? We're not asking for Utopia, and we know perfection is impossible. But really, would it kill you so much to take a pay cut, divert some funds from the Church and pour it into building better foundations for the Greece of tomorrow? Are you happy that Greece calls itself the waiters of Europe, or do you not care because you and yours are served by these waiters?

I could go on and on...!!!!

Anonymous said...

I personally think that the extent of the rioting directed at private businesses has crossed the line. You are not making a point by making someone else bankrupt. Instead, you are losing the momentum of justifiable anger at the loss of a child and allowing the government to convert this to a mob of hoodlums. This is what happened in France a couple of years ago and after letting the riots go on, the government got the rose for coming in. Totally blowing the whole point of the riots.

I don't know how someone "marks up" merchandise 4 or 5 times; if you have a problem with that, then don't shop there. But it does not justify burning down the store.

Similarly, there is no justification for taking out family businesses that probably support a lot of people just over the 700 mark. Its a complete lack of civility and it does not address the concentration of wealth issue. If the mob needs to do violence to make a point, they should do violence to the businesses of the wealthy, not the businesses of the middle class or the foreign companies. This is organized. It should be better organized and better managed. Maybe some of the highly educated business majors need to actually apply their skills.

If people want change to happen, electorally, it can happen. Maybe the problem is the fact that even the young, angry people don't want to be bothered thinking about who they should vote for and actually hold those people accountable.

Just think what not paying bribes for a month would do to Greece. Maybe that's the kind of protest Greece needs.

I totally support the protests and even the riots but not destruction directed at private property unless that property is connected to the government or the action at issue, which is really the shooting of a child. If you want to make a statement about the conditions of Greece, do it effectively - unannounced strike, sit ins, etc.

By the way, as for the argument that things are just things, that is crap. Things are money that has been spent. It is not the same as a human life but it represents, in many cases, serious labor and toil. What right does the mob have to destroy it? Its wasteful. You want to make a point by preventing access to the things? Lock them up, padlock and chain the stores. But don't make another problem for no reason. My ecosense is going haywire at this argument that the destruction is okay because material things can be replaced. This is true, they can be replaced in part, but it costs someone money and if its not replaced by the storekeeper, its replaced by the insurance company, which then raises its premiums on everyone in the neighborhood. So when you destroy the shop, you just tax everyone.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 8:26 again:

Just to be clear, I'm not advocating violence or burning of anything. I'm just saying if people feel like they have to do that, pick the right targets. The trash containers say enough, in my view.

bollybutton said...

Ok let's just be clear that I don't think any of us are supporting burning down cars and shops, but the protesting itself. In doing so the riots are losing a section of support they might otherwise have kept.

I will admit that I had a kind of "ok that's the price you have to pay sometimes for change" attitude at the start of all this, but thanks to the different points of view aired here and elsewhere, I now believe that all this protesting could well be done without destroying private property, because the focus shifted from the issues at hand to the destruction at hand. As much as I sympathise with these young people, I need to reign in my passion for how angry they are too. You can't condone everything done in the name of a cause, even if the cause is one you believe in.

Yes, it wasn't my shop or my car that was set on fire. But, knock on wood, it also wasn't my child that got shot. As I said, the issue is divisive.

Psofofeggaro said...

If I need to apologise for something its my lack of time and mediocre skills on english. Bolly, I know that it's the easy thing to blame "comunists and immigrants" for everything and the fire gets you and people who dont deserve that, like Hermes for example, a guy I know who lives for almost 10 years now here and did whatever possible to "fit in", do whatever job possible and tries to make a living. When we talk about things in general, like "a man cheated me, so all men cheat" we make mistakes and we blame or label people who don't deserve it. But anyway, from the numbers anounced on the media, the majority ARE immigrants, we could see some on the tv screen, steeling shops and you can't deny that.
SOME immigrants, like it or not, in every country they are, not only here, only care for their prosperity, to grab whatever they can and return to their homecountries, richier, without caring about other people back on the hosting country or the country itself because "they're not their people". They're gonna steal and kill and rob and murder you if needed. I live in an agricartural area and stories of immigrants, working on the fields are very common, waiting till the last day of their jobs, to rob the house they slept, the woman who cooked for them while they were on the fields, the man who hired them. I have some personal expirience too.

My absolut personal opinion about the shooting insident is that I don't know what happent, it's investigation's job to show the truth, BUT, police has to maintain order if needed. We watch in cinemas, tv screens, American Media, that a policeman there shoots if needed. Our policemen never do, if anyone does, he has trouble with the law even if its the right situation. Greeks desrespect the law and order, steal as much as possible from taxes, sleep with politics to gain better jobs etc etc. We have desrespect for the law and a burning desire to riot. We go on strikes when problems arise, blaming the goverment, yet in 2-3 years when the time comes, we STILL vote them, because our parents do and we were raised with the idea that THEY are the saviours. Actually, as an example for that, I was beaten at my 19, like a naughty child, pregnant to my son, by my mom, because I voted something I belived was better than the "traditional party" everyone in fammily is voting for.
There have been a hell lot of times that I have shouted "if this is what a greek is, I am not greek, what am I doing here" and wished to leave and go live somewhere else and still wonder what was the mistake and I ended up born in here. Don't get me wrong, I do my country, the fields, the sun, the place, I just can't understand the people in the majority.
As for the kids, belive me, most of them have the attitude of "lets waste more school hours" and they do whatever possible. They would kick and break stuff and paint and destroy, I was a student, I lived there for hours every day, only few of them care really and they do whatever possible to finish school and get out of here. Was on a local net cafe 2 days ago, and it was damn full with 15yo kids playing counter strike, WoW and line age. They threw some eggs and tomatoes on 1 police car and 3 policemen in the central "plateia" of town and then rushed to play the games, saying bravo to each other for losing another day's lessons. Yeah, they care a lot!
Sorry for my big response, you dont have to allow it if you dont think its ok, and I hope I havent offended you.For me it's ok as long as you read it.

Anonymous said...

Hmm. I'm in a country that has legal and illegal immigrants. I think I will openly use nicknames that could easily be construed as racial slurs when I refer to them, act like there is nothing wrong with this, and then I'll blame them for 90% of the crime, all of the forest fires and any major looting. I'll do this while at the same time I employ them, but I'm only going to pay half the going rate that I would pay a Greek for wages, because most immigrants can't produce papers and besides, I should get a discount since my country hasn't thrown them out. Maybe I'll give them a place to sleep, in the old goat barn and charge them only half of what the hotel in town charges for a room.

Even though I do all this, I just don't understand why they don't love, and more, why they steal if given the opportunity.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that the behavior is not because they are immigrants. Its because they are poor and they live in a place where they are treated poorly in many respects and it emanates from government and civilians alike.

My father's xorio, an unwritten place, is allegedly "robbed by Albanians" annually, since the 1970s. Really? What they hell do Albanians want up there - its pretty hard to live there, its not close to Albania and there was no electricity until recently.

Its not Albanians and its not immigrants. Its people. People are taking things of value from stores that have been broken into, because they want the item and probably because they know there is no penalty for their conduct. After all, the approbation of Greek society isn't much of a stick (especially since the sentence can be redeemed anyway and for some of the wrongdoers, that daily dose of namecalling has pretty much numbed them).

In the old days, there were greeks and barbarians. You want immigrants to respect and love you more? Start thinking of them as people, not barbarians.

Rositta said...

1.3 BILLION dollars in damages to your beautiful city, was it worth it? I somehow doubt it nor will anything change...ciao

bollybutton said...

At the heart of it, the riot damage was most damaging because it's completely distracted people from the issue. Let's say there were 1000 young people protesting downtown, and 100 of those go on the rampage. the message of the other 900 has been lost. We live in a country where in 2007 a small minority was heartless enough to set its forest on fire. Let's not let the minority hijack this debate, I beg you.

As for whether all of this would have been for nothing, I sincerely hope not. Maybe it's because I've only lived in Greece for just over 2 years, so I can still dare to hope for change.

Sesi said...

Commodities being marked up 4-5 times hurt everyone but the seller of the item. They inflate our economy, though the staff of such stores still gains nothing extra. So, it is the rich people only getting richer.
Of course do I not shop overpriced items, when I can help it. But it's not just a blouse that is overpriced, it is also pasta, tomatoes, bread, milk, meat. Those things I cannot avoid bying. Although, I can cut down on our meat consumption, which, unfortunately, I am forced to do.
Also, these riots have little to do with the poor boy's death. They have been ignited by it, but by now, it is more of a social protest than anything else.
People believing this is solely related to this act, believe wrong. It is the injustice, social and economical and political, that has driven the people to the streets.
And neither will I close my eyes to pictures portraying rioters with expensive jeans and tetras. I was operating a tetra during the Olympic Games and know very well where they ended up at. I'm not implying that the rioteers were exclusively undercover police or something, I'm just clearly stating that they were amongst the rioteers.
Unfortunately for them, everyone nowadays carries a camera or a video recorder on them, with their cell phones, and most people have access to the Internet, where they can upload such information. Photoshop does exist, and I do exercise critical thinking before believing what I see.
Anyway, I just am a hopefull person, and I honestly believe that we will gain as a nation from all this. Something good just HAS to come out of it.

bollybutton said...

Maybe I feel so passionately about the current climate because this is the first time in my life that I'm living in a country where people power can change something. Let's not forget that and let's not waste that.

Rositta said...

bollybutton, I am glad you are not loosing hope. My husband on the other hand has, he has seen it all and says it's the "same old same old". I personally find very little change since 1991 to now except that it's gotten more expensive. The change starts with your generation and how you teach your children, simplistic, maybe...ciao

Anonymous said...

Rositta,
Yes, I agree with you that it's how you teach your children (do you teach them to respect their elders and those in authority? do you teach them to love others as themselves? etc) but I think when one generation stuffs up, the next one is destined to stuff up too unless they make real big changes. We are placing a big burden on our children's shoulders by asking them to right the wrongs of 2 generations before them. Others set this ball rolling and now that it has grown and picked up speed, it's going to be mighty hard to set it rolling in the other direction! First, it needs to be stopped; and tell me how that can be done when those who set it in motion still persist in pushing it from the other side?

This is a problem for the whole society, maybe even for Europe as a whole, to tackle. We can only make a difference together, and that starts with families. We need to fix the family before we can fix the state.

Cheers,
GG.

Rositta said...

I guess change comes in little baby steps anonymous, you are right. Teaching children to respect elders and persons in authority only works if those people are deserving of respect. That's why simplistic as it sounds the "root causes" which I suppose in Greece are the government needs change. But only the elders can do that for their childrens sake. Lets see if they have the guts...ciao

AL said...

Its good to look at the big picture sometimes.. instead of pointing the finger at this or that. Situations like riots, strikes and public anger and even bouts of violence and destruction are just effects of social discourse. When basic needs and rights; really just plain economic rape, attitudes, mismanagement,... are pushing the average joes to the limit. Sure there are people who take advantage of the situation but still... what is the wider message? Is it good enough to complain about it to each other in hair salons and on the buses to strangers? Will a more 'mature' approach work? who knows? what are the solutions? how can we bring proper systems, benefits, rewards, funding, growth, ... to par? All in all i am just glad that more people in the global arena are being told about the troubles we face here, and which we talk about endlessly like talking about the weather. When worries come about to actually bringing up a child in this country... well for those of us who may not be able to afford private schools, what hope and messages and influences will be drilled into our childrens brains? Does having a decent job like being a teacher, bank clerk, policeman... now mean something totally different. What should they want to be when they grow up? Really.

tolstoyscat said...

Could you please tell me what's happening in Athens now? The news went dead. Is it over or continuing? Thank you kindly.