A general strike is expected across Greece today. For majorcities such as Athens, this is expected to make a challenging life moredifficult. In a village on the outskirts of Volos in the north, it shouldn’t becrippling, but the debate is still intense.
The owner of a small, one-star hotel tells us that she hasto lock her doors for the first time in her life. Neighbors used to be able towander casually into each other’s homes unannounced, but not any more. There isfear.
Few trust the banks any more. Older folk are closing theiraccounts and keeping the cash at home, easy prey to an increasing numbers ofthieves roaming the back streets and alleys. But the petty thieves are nothingcompared to the official thieves at the pinnacle of political power.
Daily scandals emerge in the news about this politician orthat well-connected official who started public service with humble means andwho now rides around in a 70,000 euro ($100,000) Lexus. Deals made with Germanbanks for big projects and infrastructure vanished once the loans were signed.
This hotel owner feels secure enough. Unlike so many otherhoteliers who took government sponsored loans to upgrade and expand, she has nodebt and could close her doors today and still live comfortably.
Another woman in Rhodes complained that the government paidhalf of the expansion and upgrades at the big hotels, new furnishings androoms, but the small hotels were turned down. They were told that it wasbecause the big hotels had more employees, but the real reason was suspected tobe corrupt political clout.
In front of the parliament at the Syntagma Square in Athensa few days ago, a massive rally of citizens were continuing the month-longprotest against the budgetary reforms that are being imposed by theInternational Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Union, and the big banks. “Theyare trying to sell off everything of Greece to the big banks…the water, themonuments, the countryside!”
Unemployment is very high in Greece, tourism is off, andseveral workers said they were planning to go elsewhere for jobs, perhaps toBulgaria or Serbia. At the same time the police were confining the activitiesof the angry artists and firemen on the streets of Athens, the police were alsorallying from all across the country in defiance of cuts to their own pay.
A young, naïve protestor in front of the Parliamentexplained to a blogger’s camera the solution was to stop using money. “If we’dall have a smile and a change of heart, we could do what we want and all livewell together. There’s enough food, clothing, and shelter if we’d just learn toshare.”
Everywhere one can see the graffiti of the anarchist left,“Profit = Theft”. To a great many of the youth, dressed in their finest fashionand sporting high-tech computers, motorcycles, and cameras, the villain is“capitalism” and the solution is just getting the correct person at the helm ofgovernment. They hate the corrupt system, but have no notion of what shouldreplace it. Indeed, “Who is John Galt?”
Ironically, the square is circled by a vast army ofentrepreneurs from other, much poorer countries. These diligent survivalistsclerk the booths and march the sidewalks peddling the food, drink, and sunglassesto a crowd of spoiled, new age revolutionaries.
There is intense anger with Prime Minister George Papandreouand his Socialist Party. Protestors explained that they supported and voted forPapandreou when he came to power because he said he would clean up thecorruption. Now they scoff at these empty promises.
The hotelier near Volos said Papandreou won the lastelection because his opponent said there wasn’t money enough for all thespending promised by the Socialists. When asked for whom she voted, shereplied, “None of them. They’re all liars.”
A working man, Giannelis Panagiotis, told us, “They are allbabies. This whole nation had their hand out when money was offered from theEuropean Union. We need to stop being babies, go back to being poor, andrebuild from the beginning by relearning how to produce wealth by ourselves.Greece has all the natural resources and wealth, but it isn’t being used toproduce anything.”
The best summary is from Jason Zafolia, the GreekRepresentative of the International Society for Individual Liberty, “Theresponsibility for the present bad situation in my country has to doexclusively with our political system of statism or mixed economy according towhich the state could make us live beyond our economic means.
“The Greek politicians of the last 30 years were demagogueswithout principles and ideology, increasing the size of the public sector bytaking more civil servants, more public spending to pressure groups and, ofcourse, more debt in order to gain elections.
“The population encouraged that because from the schoolyears they were taught that the state can solve all our problems. And now howcan the present government ask for the money back from the Greek citizens? Asyou have seen from yesterday’s demonstrations, it’s not that easy.
“As Frederic Bastiat wrote in his book, The Law: ‘When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of menliving together in society, they create for themselves in the course of time alegal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.’”
In the midst of the crowd a cry went out as the runners fromSparta completed their four straight days journey by foot to join the protest.Yet, visiting Thermopylae a few days later, where the few, staunch 300 Spartansfaced off against a vastly greater Persian army in 480 BC, we felt a chillingreminder of the devastating impact of betrayal.
The Spartans were ultimately defeated by one of their ownwho sold out to the Persians and led the invaders through a secret path in themountains. Today the betrayal is by their own politicians.
Kenli, Giannelis Panagiotis, Ken, Li