Greece – The Death of A Nation
February 6, 2012

I had to go to Athens last week, which is something I don’t like doing anymore.    This once vibrant city, oozing with life, hope, and excitement has the scent of death coming from its very soul.    As if I needed a reminder, I went past the Olympic Park. Back in 2004 it became the symbol of everything Greece aspired to be.    God, we even got load of medals in those games, we had arrived!    Greece stood proud amongst the other nations, looking into a bright future, equal and shoulder to shoulder with its partners in the EU.    The symbol of our prosperity paints a sad picture today.    Totally unused because of the high operational costs involved, the Olympic stadium, once home to cheering crowds and heroic deeds, is now a mass of flaking paint, rotting wood, padlocks, security fences and barbed wire.    And, perfectly on cue to accentuate my thoughts, a homeless family shuffles past, on their way to nowhere.    What happened?

As is proven throughout history, the rot once again started from within. Incompetence, corruption, bribery and greed took hold of the political elite, was fed by the business elite, and the perfect recipe for disaster was being served up.    But that is nothing different from elsewhere in Europe.    Banks collapsed, bailouts are arranged, foreign leaders started interfering in internal affairs for self-serving reasons, but again, that is nothing different from elsewhere in Europe.   Why is it that Greece, throughout its history, has to excel in the drama and catch the eye of the world?   And then I realized, it’s because it is Greece.   Cradle of democracy, home of the greatest thinkers, physicians and scientists of antiquity, fiercely independent, feared fighters when they have to, gentle and soft whenever they can, and so much more.    Greece is being made an example of, to stop it from becoming the example.

The people of Greece have an inborn, healthy disrespect for anything and everybody that tries to control them, including their own government.    In conjunction with the “leading lights” of Europe, a barbaric and inhumane program of austerity is now being imposed on the people of this country, designed not to solve their problems, but to kill their spirit.    The program of austerity makes absolutely no economic or social sense, but is nevertheless imposed and viciously pursued by our own puppet government, on behalf of their masters in Europe.

The only reason this brutally insane program of austerity is being pursued with such unrelenting vigour is to make an example of the Greek people, so that others wouldn’t find the courage to stand up and say enough.    And the price being paid by the people of Greece is enormous.    People are literally dying in the streets of our cities.    Charity workers say that the most cited reason for people seeking their help is “hunger”.    Charities in Athens, previously engaged in dealing with alcoholism, drug abuse, domestic violence etc, are now almost exclusively engaged in looking after abandoned children.    The social fabric, once the glue that held this country together against all odds, is being ripped apart by hunger and poverty.    Hundreds of homeless people wander through the streets of Athens.    Mothers abandon their children in the hope that somebody will have the means to look after them, suicide is rampant, and social injustice the norm of the day.   “Greece needs to get it’s house in order” European leaders shout at us.    How do you get a house in order when the occupants of the house are being kicked about?

What you are looking at is not the result of an economic downturn or even a recession.    What you are seeing is the calculated result of a highly organized program to bring a people to its knees.   What you are not seeing is the human cost of this exercise.    TV news does show the fat cats around the table in Davos, discussing “the situation”. No fear of bumping into a homeless, hungry human being there, is there?    They broadcast interviews with Merkel and her puppy Sarkozy, gallantly stating that Greece will not be let go, while behind closed doors they insist on the most brutal program of austerity being made even more inhumane.    TV happily shows the “self appointed anarchists”, “hooligans” and “agitators” demonstrating in Athens.    It’s on TV, it has to be true.

They will however not show you the desperate people roaming the streets for food, or the farmers in Northern Greece handing out free food in the cities.    Did you see the two children who arrived on our island a few days ago after 8 days on the road, alone, with only a few stale sandwiches to keep them going (the last food their mother had for them before she walked out of their lives)?    Did they show you the 76 year old man who froze to death last night, in the back of an abandoned car?    The people say he had worked all his life to help build a better Greece for his children and grandchildren.    The foreign, Swiss they say, owner of the house he lived in put him out last month, because he couldn’t pay the rent anymore….

The human cost of a dying political and financial system is being counted in front of the world’s eyes.    And the question is not “how much?”. The real question is “who’s next?”

Ephilant  6.2. 2012

“Down with that sort of thing”
January 6, 2012

Down with that sort of thing

“Occupy doesn’t know what it wants,” or so we are told.  Allegedly Occupy is a global movement of i-phone wielding, privileged malcontents shouting “NO”.  In an Irish context, it’s a crusties meets Father Ted  “down with that sort of thing”  affair.  A recent Vincent Browne show saw one of the movement’s rare appearances on the Irish ‘mainstream media.’ And the viewer was treated to variants of the above dismissals by panelist John McGuirk.  McGuirk, giving a polished performance, came across as the epitome of the slick conventional politician. Robin Wilson, the Occupy spokesperson was not so polished.  Probed by Browne, Wilson said Occupy “wanted democracy.”  Vincent told pointed out we had just had an election, a democratic one. Wilson said the government had betrayed us by not burning the bondholders. Vincent pointed out that the Fine Gael manifesto had never made such a promise. To McGuirk’s delight, the Occupy spokesperson faltered. But empathetic to the Occupy cause, Vincent let the spokesperson off the hook Because whatever about the details, the system had failed the people. They were paying an unjust price. They had been had and they knew it.

Ex Fianna Fail, ex Fine Gael, ex Libertas and unsuccessful Independent candidate labels Occupy as incoherent

McGuirk, however, capitalised on Wilson’s unsure performance to paint the Occupy movement as uninformed amateurs, novices out of their depth.  The ex Fianna Fail, ex Fine Gael, ex Libertas and unsuccessful Independent candidate implied Occupy was incoherent!  McGuirk is a poster boy for the traditional political world, an analogue world of either/or. You were for something or against it.  You were either for capitalism or you were for a workers’ revolution.  If you said NO, you were beholden to explain what you said YES to.

And if you could not clearly do this, the inference was ‘leave it to the big boys, leave it to your betters.’ But the dawning digital age does not see the world in such simple divisions.  The simple either/or point of view is being overtaken by a more novel one of both/and. According to McGuirk’s rules, Wilson had lost the game. But what he didn’t seem to realise – and what the Occupy spokesperson failed to clarify – is that Occupy does not want to play by these rules.  It does not want to play the game, it wants to find an entirely different form of sport.

A coup d’etat by a corporate criminal class

Occupy does not claim to have the answers. But it knows that the current system is broken. In the movement’s parlance, the system places the interests of 1% above that of 99%.  And in the meantime it appeals for the restoration of law and order. For fairness. For social justice.  Curiously Chris Hedges of the New York Times sees the Occupy movement as the voice of “true conservatives.”  Hedges argues that democracy has been hijacked by radicals. And the radicals are a criminal elite who have pulled off a corporate coup d’etat.  The true conservatives demand that law and order be restored by bringing the criminal class to book and that democracy be rescued from the corporate elite who have hijacjked it.

The view that a corporate criminal class is seeking to guard its ill gotten gain has been highlighted by some of the more infamous scenes from the Occupy movement. Frenzied Madrid police beating peaceful seated protesters and the now infamous Lt Pike casually pepper spraying kids like he was watering roses have beamed out powerful images showing not just the delinquency of the system but the near psychopathic realms to which the 1% will stoop to defend its privileged position.  These are loud and powerful messages dramatising the forces Occupy is opposing.
Much less dramatic and less discernible is the novel, subtle way in which the movement is seeking to establish what it stands for.

What Occupy says Yes to cannot be captured in a youtube clip.  Tentatively, the Occupy movement is trying to find a way out of the quagmire and trying to discern a whole new way of playing the whole game. The aim is a popular, collaborative new form of democracy which will be robust enough to resist being hijacked by special interests. And that, to put it mildly, is no small or easy task.  A challenge to national, parliamentary democracy itself.  The Occupy movement is a picket line on the dysfunctional politics as we know it.  Whether Occupy will succeed is anyone’s guess but one thing is pretty certain, it is throwing an unforgiving spotlight on how the current system has failed the people.

Kevin Barrington  5.1.12

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