luni, 3 septembrie 2012

joi, 3 noiembrie 2011

Greece - Last traces of slavery in the civilized world

There are some weeks now that I'm learning Greek, which by the way proves to be a pain the b..ihind :p Anyway.
I'm learning a lot of new things not only about the language but also about the society. And yesterday we got to talk about names. Nothing interesting there.
When we got to surnames (family names), that was a totally different story. You know how you are used to having the same family name with your mother, father, brother etc. ? Well forget that in Greece.
Family names are all masculine - so only men have them. For women, the surname shows to whom they "belong". The genitive form of the male surname is used as a surname for women.
In other terms if your dad's name is Panos your name - if you are a girl - will be Panou which means "of" or "that belongs to" Panos.
Nowadays, women take their father's name (so they "belong" to their father) in the old times though they "belonged" to their husbands. Can you imagine the evolution?

miercuri, 6 iulie 2011

Greece: The Insides of a Riot

Nowadays, Greece has become a common subject of discussion: Greece’s debt, Greece’s crises, the demonstrations in Greece etc.

Every TV station, every news paper from every different country depicts differently what is happening here. The same news is presented with some facts in Greece, with totally different ones in UK and it’s turned extravagantly dramatic and “sensational” in Romania. I have friends calling me from Romania to ask if I’m ok since they see on the news that the whole Greece is on the verge of chaos.

In mass media there are always hidden interests in presenting these kinds of news and I really don’t like being told what to believe. So what news should I believe?

I’m a bit old fashioned from this point of view so if I want something done right, I do it myself. This is why I decided to go and talk to the protesters in Thessaloniki. To get an idea on who they are, what are their intentions, what do they want and so on.

I took my camera and went to the White Tower which is in the center of Thessaloniki. The protesters have been there since the 25st of May 2011. They already have tents, tables and chairs, guitars. The whole atmosphere is very calm and it reminds me a bit of the Flower Power movement. There were people talking, listening to music, exchanging ideas or having debates. Nothing that could remind of the police confrontations that took place last week in Athens.

I found Panos and Anthi in front of their tent. They were kind enough to accept answering some of my questions. Opened and communicative, they explained to me that whatever answers they might give me are their own and do not extend to the whole movement.

Greece has been boiling for a while now but I was curious to know what was the trigger that made them go out on the streets on the 25th of May. Why that exact day?

Going back the revolts in Spain, one of the banners that the protesters had wrote “Shh! don’t wake up the Greeks!” referring in a sarcastic manner to the lack of popular reaction to the economical measures taken in Greece. That was the trigger. Thousands of people went in the streets to show the world they are far from being asleep. From Athens and Thessaloniki to every city and town in Greece, the protests last till this day because people need to be heard.

It’s not only the economical measures that led them to revolt; it’s also their wounded national pride. Panos was telling me how sad and offended he felt when he saw on the international news titles like “Greece on sale”. There is nothing worse than being stripped of your dignity as a person and as a country.


I asked Anthi what are their objectives, their intentions. If they will be heard, what would they have to say? The first thing she said was “real democracy”. Even though that is their goal, they haven’t thought yet on the actions needed in order to pursue that goal. What they do know though is that people should have more saying in how the country is ruled, in the decisions that are taken at a higher level and have a direct impact on their daily lives.

They feel betrayed by the whole political class and believe there is now viable alternative to the current administration. Most of their rage goes against the current government and the decisions they took. Instead of helping the country get on its feet by using internal resources, they asked for external assistance and drowned the country in debt.

The next logical question was if they think that Greece will declare bankruptcy. Currently the long term debt of Greece is 157% of the GDP and the officials from Athens comment that it will reach 140% in 2015(source CNN).

The answer came with a sigh since, they say, it’s not a matter of “If” is just a matter of “When”. They believe that the current government is creating false problems by stating that if they don’t get the loan form IMF they will be forced to declare bankruptcy. It is their belief that in a few years that will happen anyway and that maybe that could be for the best. They would have reached the bottom and they would build their way up from there not depending on anyone. A whole new start.

As patriotic as that might sound though, it does not take into consideration any international issues. If Greece declares bankruptcy, all its debts will be deleted therefore all the counties that lent money to it will lose their money. Right now Greece is somewhere between the hammer and the nail. There is international pressure to pay the debts but there is internal pressure building up also.

About the likeliness of Greece being able to pay its debts, Standard and Poor’s gave it a CCC rating meaning that Greece is
least credit-worthy country rated by the credit agency (source CNN).

The last subject that we have talked about was the riots in Athens and the police reaction to it. Panos told me that he was there during the two days and he assisted at the demonstrations. At some point, he was in a subway station when a group of protesters came running down the stairs. After that the whole subway station got filled with smoke and tear gas. There were a lot of people at the station, most of them having nothing in common with the demonstrations and still the police launched tear gas on them. Apparently the police declared the use of 2600 smoke and tear gas bombs in the two days of riots while the average quantity used in manifestations before was between 100-150. Unfortunately I was not able to confirm or infirm this amounts.

(source AFP/Getty Images)

Another very interesting fact that he told me was that the policemen had their identification numbers removed from their uniforms.”As if” he sad” they were expecting for things to get out of hand and to use force and they didn’t want to be identified”.

When I asked him if he believes that actions of the police were provoked, Panos said that he doesn’t believe that some people throwing stones at the policemen that have helmets, body armours and shields can be considered as a provocation.

(Source EPA)

(Source Reuters)

Even if we are to consider that as being true, though violence is still violence no matter what your weapon is, there were more than just stones thrown from the part of the demonstrators. There were also Molotov cocktails and other exploding materials. In answer to that, Panos told me that in any street demonstration there are those that he called “the provokers”. They are not part of the demonstration itself. They only come to make damage and provoke the police into retaliating.

Panos, Anthi and all the other people gathered at the White Tower are determined to not give up protests until they their voices are heard and the right measures are taken. As they said “It’s a marathon!”

I think we can all have a lesson from Greece’s example. This is what happens when the people we elect to represent our interest are incapable or decide to only represent their own interests and when we “delegate” out social responsibilities. We end up being sold out by the very people we trust.

Gandhi said: “Public opinion alone can keep a society pure and healthy”. Let’s get back to that.