Greek Referendum: Germany should be thankful for the OXI, it is the only moral basis for negotiation.

The Greek referendum crisis resembles a marriage crisis. The “cheater” was punished years ago with long term austerity, hardship and humiliation. One day she decided she is fed up with the hardships and even though she really does not want a divorce, if he keeps punishing her like he has done for years, she will file for one. He now feels angry and humiliated at her rebellion which exposed fully his unforgiving character to all their common friends and – passive aggressively- remains silent and vague about their future together. The ball is in his court to decide whether he will finally forgive her or let her go.

This is of course an oversimplified analogy and it is common sense that countries and their representatives do not act emotionally or whimsically. But then again whoever experienced the Greek Referendum and had the chance to look closely at the OXI voters can easily see that this was a matter of heart and pride, an emotional explosion and outcome of years of built up frustration.

When you ask your people a question, they are likely to be honest about how they feel about it. Simple people have straightforward answers. And in the case of Greece, the vast majority of the OXI voters are young and belong to a new generation that opposes lots of things. They not only object to more unemployment, poverty and humiliation but they object to the Greek political and social status quo. They say NO to political corruption, nepotism, media monopolisation and the shameless manipulation of the public by the mainstream media. They say NO to lack of functional institutions and shady laws.

Young Greeks want to remain part of European Union but they fully realise that in order to truly be there they need to get rid of debris from the past. That was the NO of the new blood. And it was even more reinforced by the weakness and lack of respect of the YES campaign, carried out by discredited symbols of the old political world.

Germany should be thankful for the Greek “No”. It shows maturity and willingness to be European in the true sense of the word. It shows responsibility and desire to be treated like an equal, not a misbehaved kid. It shows commitment to carry out its responsibilities and to work hard towards economic development. It is the only moral stance on which an honest and productive relationship can be built.

“Conquer your Fear and you will conquer Death” Escaping Reality or Challenging our Belief System?

Lately I have been thinking of all the people I know back home that deliberately escape reality. By reality I mean all the practicalities of life-nowadays mostly related to the loss of money, acquisitions or social status-that went wrong and now appear to have dire consequences on our lives. Of course Life is not about money and our reality should not be about taxes and debts.

In debt ridden Greece a growing number of people, unable to control how things will turn out in their lives, appear to choose to sweep problems under the carpet. After all maybe what the Science guys say about perception based reality might be true and perhaps the problem will just disappear once you turn your attention away from it?? Or something like that. (Higgs boson bottom line interpretation by those of us who never had any idea of what particle physics is saying).

Truth is we all have different ways to cope with things. Our minds process information in different ways and we subconsciously or consciously choose our defense mechanisms. In this sense every single piece of information out there is perceived by each and every one of us in a different way. We could never go into another person’s mind and experience their perception. We can never know what they truly fear or feel in its totality even if we spend hours and hours psychoanalyzing them by listening them trying to explain. In this sense what we call our gut instinct about people can often give us information that we cannot logically justify.

The devastating financial crisis has brought radical changes as to how we see our closest family members, friends, colleagues, or our selves. It has changed the way we see society and life. It has changed the way we visualize the future, and it has altered our value and belief system. People cannot easily adapt to radical lifestyle changes. There are those who often prefer to shut down and dwell in the past or in a better place on their minds and hearts. A growing number of people around me, at the expense of others as society rushes in to remind us, would rather hold on to these illusions for a bit longer. Maybe if they let go they feel they have nowhere else to go.

There might be a feeling of sadness when you observe, but in the mind of the object/person there is probably peace. Peace after all, like fear, exists primarily in the mind. Is it real peace?? Society critically attacks. Will it be real peace when the bank comes knocking on your door and claim your house? Or when you realize that despite waking up every day at 7 and go to what you once called work you have neither income nor real work to do. Probably there is no way to escape what is happening in the country right now. And you will wake up one day feeling it. They want you to feel it after all.

No matter what happens, the bottom line will remain the same: it will never really be about the bank balance, the house or the car. What will matter most will be the family, the companionship, the love, the laugh you shared that night. It will be about the good time you had and about how good you felt. It will always be about those nice experiences that the chemicals in your brain or the energy of the place or the people created for you that moment in time. You will never be sure what it was exactly, but you will hold on dearly to it.

My conscience says deal with it with Dignity and that is how lots of people do it right now. But when it gets too upsetting, too much, too devastating, too ugly, sweep it under the carpet and refuse to be sad. Refuse to be overwhelmed by fear and defeat. Like everything else in life, these too, are part of the same illusion.

Concrete Walls: The Future was not here yet.

Athens todayAncient Athens had rivers

Our parents’ generation in Greece had a lust for concrete. Property became the ultimate lifelong investment and status symbol. The Greeks invested everything they had in construction and property as the property prices skyrocketed 15-20 years before the recession to what is now known as the Greek property bubble. Furthermore they were allowed to build almost everywhere and anywhere they pleased as the shady construction laws and inexistent urban planning allowed them to be creative, often in total ignorance and disregard of the environment and their neighbors. In the history of the Modern Greece trees were cut down and rivers (which were considered sacred by ancient Greeks) were buried for the sake of development and prosperity.

It was as if their concrete lust could provide a lifelong stability and the heavy thick walls could protect them from all kinds of misfortunes and disasters. My parents built a house where heavy injections of concrete “would make sure that it can never be demolished”, as my father proudly announced to us. Twenty years after and struggling to get a decent internet connection through the thick “anti-seismic” walls I wonder why we insisted to build a medieval fortress. True, twenty years ago the fear of an impending earthquake or even a fatal meteorite coming from space was more real that the heavy property tax of today. The latter was a scenario completely and utterly unthinkable.

People believed that things should be forever, eternal and inherited by descendents that would cherish them for…, well, forever. The same idea of eternity dominated all aspects of the Modern Greek life. Jobs in the public sector were idealized as the ultimate career opportunity that would keep you employed no matter what. A false sense of stability that came after two ugly world wars, a civil war and a military junta gave people the hope that “We are there, the drama is over.” In short, that the Future is Here.

Apparently this security was false. The older generation can now acknowledge the fact that there was a naive positivity and false sense of prosperity. Trying to “downsize”, rebuild or remodel is not a job to do overnight.

Closing, I want to remember my grandfather who died when I was six. My grandfather who had seen the hard face of life fighting in two wars (against the Germans and the Greek Civil War that followed) was reluctant to buy or own property. My grandmother had to beg him for years to buy a house and in the end after many years of marriage he had to do her the favor, go to the bank, get a loan and buy an apartment for her. The reason for his reluctance was that he believed that property was a form of slavery and he wanted no such attachments that came with debts to the bank. During his time people must have thought he was irrational and that his family was unfortunate.

Nowadays we, grandchildren and children, think about his life views and decide that grandpa was a very forward looking man and that he also possessed a sense of detachment that would be rare in the years to come.

But in his detachment I can now get a glimpse of our globalized, “refined” revolutionary, but still distant future.

How we learnt to live Without: The Greek Debt Crisis

The Greek debt crisis has taught us Greeks to live without. Without common sense and without logic. In need of money but without valuing it above everything else.

We watch the horrid news on TV every night announcing new taxes, new scams and new ways to make people give up everything they have. And for some reason no one twitches. As a Greek, you are at this point of acceptance. You are going to pay more and more and you are going to give up more and more. Or if you have no money to pay you will sit back and wait for the consequences. And then in that dark place you realize you either need to find peace or disappear. You need to continue living by sharing what you have with the ones you love.

There are those who say that you are a slave if you do not react. That you are dangerous if you continue paying higher taxes to compensate for those who cannot pay. Also that you contribute really nothing because you do not join the revolution against the system. The fault with this idea is that denying paying as a principle does not make you revolutionary. A few years ago it made you a part of a rotten system and reinforced the mentality that only idiots don’t cheat the system. It makes you imitate the behavior of the politician and the businessman. It makes you revengeful. At the end of the day whether you like it or not, you will still depend on those naive “idiots” who always got their hands dirty for you.

I watch my family in Greece watching the horrid evening news on the tv. They make bitter comments here and there but nothing appears to shock them really. I wonder whether they are hypnotized or merely have given up. They have paid and paid and paid at the point of not calculating anymore. Their tax return (a rare case nowadays in Greece when you have donated your life’s savings to the State under the name “Tax”) is a few hundreds euros less than it is supposed to be. No one twitches and no one claims. Who counts anymore? In the end they turn off the tv and they feel better already. And life goes on.

Being in a younger generation, I used to feel much more angry and bitter. When Skywalker was offered a job in Sweden I gave him immediately my blessing. Who wants to live without any social justice and any security? I felt disgusted.

Now I am feeling grateful for the things we Greeks still have. In many ways in the crisis we have lost and found each other.
“It must be frustrating for the Germans seeing all those Greeks still enjoying life”. A Greek friend who knows well the Athens cultural scene recently said “There are so many free theatrical performances and events you can enjoy until late the warm Athens evenings.” In every corner you still see big groups of friends enjoying the night and chatting away till dawn, sharing cheap wine and good company.

There are brave and noble souls out there that are neither tax evaders nor crooks. They have no Swiss bank accounts and would never commit fraud. As long as they have a roof over their heads and food on a plate they are not afraid and they refuse to give up. They are still kind to each other and civilized. Not because they have been taught this way by a just, organized or responsible Government but because they have chosen to.

They still have trust and faith in humanity when nobody gave them the right to.

And that’s true guts if you ask me.

(I want to believe in peaceful revolutions, call me a dreamer but I somehow have to)