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Greece in damage control mood
by Thanos Kalamidas
2012-08-03 10:58:14
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While you are reading these words I’m in a small Greek island in the middle of the Aegean Sea. Living abroad for so many years like I do, there are too many things that influence you and change you; actually after a bit of time you discover that you have roots in different places for different reasons. Saying that, for me returning to Greece is a challenge to senses far beyond the five ones. Sometimes I even discover that I see places through my memories and not through my eyes. But this time the feeling is often overwhelming and the senses are provoked and provoking.

The last two years all of us, and especially us Greeks who live abroad, have often found ourselves in defence mood. We're fighting stereotypes and prejudice and even though for many years I have said that I feel more European than Greek or anything else, lately I've been forced to defend my national identity and I have more and more often said that I’m Greek, occasionally even dismissing my European identity. This time nobody asked about my latest adventures or my latest trips. One of the first questions was “why do Finns hate us so much?” And here was me trying to explain that the average Finn doesn’t hate Greece and the Greeks but tries to understand what’s going on in a totally confusing world. I was trying to explain that the Finnish people are poor and equally hard working people who see their life getting more expensive day after day, while their income is getting smaller. And all this while the government and the opposition is battling inside the Finnish parliament, deciding if they should help with the Greek bailout or not. I try to explain that when everything is getting more expensive and the only thing you hear is that the government is forced to pay the Greeks who have gone bankrupt due to a corrupted system. Even though nobody connects these two things the constant bombardment from the media forces you connect them. As a result when you see the milk going expensive you blame the …Greeks.

But the answer is there just round the corner and the human factor dismisses all arguments. In a shop a tourist from Finland demands from the saleswoman to give him 50% discount and his only argument is that …I paid your bailout! (it could have been from any country because they told me other examples as well, but because of my connection to Finland all the examples has a Finnish background) A group of people got drunk in a pub in Rhodes island leaving a huge bill and they refused to pay; their argument the same, we paid you with the bailout. In the mainland two couples refused to pay their hotel with exactly the same excuse. In Athens they warned the hotel reception that they are staying in a suite and not in the rooms they had booked through their Finnish agency because they …own the country since they pay the bailout. In Acropolis one wanted to take a piece of marble with him and when arrested he said it was part of the collateral. The tragedy is that they all believed and meant what they said.

Of course these people are the exception, in general Finnish tourists have a good reputation in Greece and don’t forget that Greece is one of the most visited countries in the world. But unfortunately these isolated examples are staying in the memory of the people. And the next time the Greek host will be a bit more careful in case it happens again. And if it happens again – I’m sure it will because stupidity is something common all around this world – then new stereotypes will be created and stereotypes often bring hostility. And yes I love Finland since it has become part of my roots especially since my daughter is half Finn and yes I always feel like I'm defending Finland but then again how can I answer to all this stupidity? It's one thing to blame the government, the lack of information and education – I have often pointed out in arguments that insulting Greece is like insulting all of Europe for a variety of reasons, including historic and philosophic – but how can you excuse people insulting people while depending on their hospitality? How can you explain that stereotypes create stereotypes and this evolution becomes more and more violent.

And now how the Greeks fell. There are many who live in denial; there are those who try hard to show that nothing has changed, that the open hearted spirit is there, to show the sun, the sea and the joyful attitude. The majority is terrified. There is nothing worse than things happening to you without you knowing, and this minute a whole nation feels like that. A whole nation is in damage control mood and there is no chance for growth as long this nation is in that mood. On the contrary things get worse because hope is also in defence mood and when a nation loses hope then much is to be lost. People, actually the people who still have work, start their day hoping that they will still have work next month. Areas that thrived in the past with shopping centres and services nowadays are a huge series of empty shops for rent. When people calculate their monthly budget they decide which bills they can afford not to pay. Not to pay bills has become a way of living nowadays. Most of the families - if they are lucky - have one member with a job, and these jobs are with minimum income since this it is the golden era of slavery. Slavery is hard work but when a day's wages is not for eight hours but often for twelve hours; when the owner of the company reduces all salaries 50% and you have to compromise even though you can not afford your life, your rent and your expenses because the alternative is being homeless. Another one asked his employees to decide which two of the seven he can fire by the end of the month because he said they know better their needs - this is reaching the limits of cannibalism.

And to answer to some stereotypes: among 12 million people, of course there are some who are rich, who are lazy, who don’t pay their tax and who live using others, but the majority is suffering, losing their hope for any change or any help. And when the Finnish tourist doesn’t pay the bill with this attitude, it makes them feel isolated and defendless. And yes Greeks want to stay in the euro-zone and they don’t want to see their future away from Europe, but as people say in Greece: a bear with an empty stomach cannot dance but bares his teeth! Food for thought as a friend often says.

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Emanuel Paparella2012-08-03 21:52:06
Indeed Thanos, indeed! For better or for worse, in the West we are all Greeks now, even if some know it and others don't yet. An individual as well as a people cannot escape their history. Ultimately, to build a political entity on the "history is bunk" concept (as Henry Ford surmised) is to build on sand. The cultural anthropologist De Chardin discovered that humankind has been on the brink of exctinction several times but somehow it survives. Perhaps there is a silver lining in that "conspiracy of hope," for if there isn't, then the sickness is unto death...

Leah Sellers2012-08-04 03:52:55
Ah, yes, Gentlemen. But Why do we continue to return to this Quantum Loop of the Phoeneix ?
The joyous Fiery Birth and glorious Crative Flight - the destructive Descent into Ashes ?
Ours is but to Willingly Escape the Phoenix Quantum Loop and from Within and Without of Our Uplifted and Uplifting Hearts, Our Cosmically Energized Souls, and Our Enlightened Minds Create a New Genesis.

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