Archive for September, 2011

The troika is in for a spirited welcome

About 200 hundred employees of the Ministry of Economics have taken over the office of Mr. Venizelos!!

They are protesting against the measures taken for the civil servants sector and demand to have a meeting with the Finance Minister.

They stated that they will stay there and prevent the Troika visit expected today  from happenning

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Thank you Wangari Maathai

Wangari Maathai was beautiful and inspiring. I had the great fortune to meet her personally in Copenhagen, in 1995. The UN hosted Conference against poverty was the venue and she was one of the most inspiring speakers.

Wangari, dressed in traditional African clothes, with her colourful turban, won us over with her honest, no-nonsense speech on the needs of Africa, the troubles of Africa and her aspirations of Africa. She did not hesitate to talk about bad governance at home, criticize lovingly her compatriots and propose changes.

Wangare Maathai was a genuine activist because she had a target close to her heart and went after it with all her strength.

In these troubled days in Greece, when I hear the Prime Minister talking about patriotism I think of Wangare with more admiration: Wangari practiced patriotism, she looked after her country and her people doing simple but necessary things for their well being. I wish there were more like her, I wish I were more like her.

A different view of the Greek crisis – video

Entitled “pay or else…..” the video presents the measures taken and gives background information- unfortunately for greek speakers only.

Mass transport system on strike

Buses and trolleys go on a 48 hour strike Tuesday 27 and Wednesday 28 September.

Taxis are on strike Wednesday 28 and Thursday 29 September.

The metro staff will strike on Tuesday 27 September.

The only mass transport means that seems to be operating is the suburban train system.

The Athenians are faced with a difficult puzzle to solve everyday.

Mass transport strike in Athens Monday 26 September

We are set for a difficult week as from tomorrow.

On Monday no Metro, tram and suburban trains for 24 hours. Buses and trolleys will stop operations from 11 in the morning till 5 in the afternoon.

Taxis will be on a 48 hour strike Tuesday and Wednesday.

In the meantime flights are erratic because of the flight controllers “work on schedule” unofficial strike. Flight controllers oppose the Greek government’s new measures about civil servants and especially the unique payroll rule. Their union claims that there is a shortage of stuff and the fact that flights were operated normally till now was due to their working much longer hours than they should.

Greek crisis:a view from the inside

Today, Friday, I had to go to the center of Athens on business. I had not been downtown for a long time. I detest the center of Athens, end of summer beginning of autumn, when it is still hot enough to sweat, noisy enough to drive you nuts and as dirty as the rest of the year.

This morning I realised why my friends and acquaintances who work downtown look so depressed. There was a strike of the metro, the tram and the suburban train system. The result was a chaos of traffic. The bus system is inadequate and inefficient most of the time so noone is surprised at today’s mess. Add to this explosive cocktail a march that occupied the area between Syntagma and Omonia Squares, trapping cars and trolleys for hours and  adding fuel fumes to the suffocating atmosphere,   and you can understand why the people are so desperate and disappointed with this government as well as with the previous ones. “We Greeks are tired before we reach our place of work!!” , complains a thirty something man.

A young woman is waving frantically at a taxi. She knows she is going to pay an exorbitant amount due to the traffic but has no choice if she wants to get to work on time. “They (her employers) are looking for an excuse to fire people. I cannot afford to give them one”, she says to her friend who argues that taxis are expensive.

I walk from the bus stop to the office where I have to be at ten. It is a depressing fifteen minutes: many old firms have closed and the street is filled with “to let” signs. The number  of melancholy men and women, who seem not to care so much about their looks and are lost in thought have increased. The verbal attacks on immigrants in buses are multiplying and there are charges of physical attacks as well in the seedy side of the metropolis. Racism and xenophobia are invading and eroding Greek society. Extreme right politicians are gaining ground blaming the immigrant influx for the rampant unemployment.

The Social democratic government is trapped in the “markets rule” theory and cannot – or will not? – resist the pressure of the Monetary Fund.

The left, maligned for so long and still bearing the stigma of the  failure of the communist regime, sees its proposals rejected without being heard.

This is the atmosphere in Greece: disappointment with the government’s handling of the situation, despair at the inability of the country to get out of this bottomless debt, insecurity and fear of what may come tomorrow. Naomi Kleine’s “Shock doctrine” comes to mind.

Does Greek society have enough strength and cohesion to withstand this “experiment” and survive? I am no fortune teller but feel that the only way out of this impasse is solidarity and more solidarity, hope and more hope, struggle and more struggle.

Theodorakis protests with music

Mikis Theodorakis, the world-famous Zorba the Greek music composer, continues to be a shiny example for the intellectuals of our country. I do not necessarily agree with all his actions and statements but when an old and sick man has the courage to speak out against the selling of state-owned land I respect him.

On Friday, September 16, Mr. Theodorakis held a concert in the old airport of Athens to promote the idea of a park. The future of this particularly precious land is questionable. While the citizens of the area, environmentalists and people’s movements want it to become a public park, a place of recreation, the government, in its desperate effort to find money, is looking for buyers!!

In order to understand the importance of this decision one has to keep in mind the situation of Athens, its lack of open spaces, its lack of green and how densely populated the city is.

Standing around and listening to Theodorakis emotional music we could not help but think what this sea-side park would offer to the neighbours but to Athenians in general too. The temperature was at least 5 degrees lower than our homes and reminded us of the importance of allowing this breeze to reach our monstrously planned capital.

The Polytechnic School of Athens has submitted a project to the Greek Government about how best to organize and utilise the 5000 acres of the old airport but without response till now.

“Do not weep for the Greeks, with a knife on their throat, tied up in chains they still rise and start all over again and strike at the enemy with a trident made of sun” – this was the song chosen by Mikis to finish the concert. I changed the word “Greeks” with the expression “working people” and was in perfect agreement.