Thursday, November 03, 2011

Yes We Cannes!

This morning I went to the post office. I took a number and sat in one of the chairs in the waiting area. A notable silence prevailed. Hanging on the wall to my left were two stamps (from a collector’s edition series), signed by the Greek artist Dimitris Mitaras – the title: Europa, subtitle: circus. Available for purchase at 15 euro each. Under the stamps there were shelves with religious icons which were also for sale. I admit my ignorance, but I don’t know of any other E.U. country where icons of the saints are on sale at the post office. I got my package and left…

I walked past a café. I observed that they had changed the TV channel. Usually at this café, they only watch Fashion TV. Now, customers and waiters alike watched the political developments together. I ended up at the greengrocer’s. The atmosphere was lively there. They had already begun their political debates. Half of them kept saying “and now what will happen?” in a frightened and uneasy manner. The other half were cursing Papandreou for putting the country in danger of exiting the Euro and the Eurozone, with his referendum idea. These same people, up until yesterday, were cursing Papandreou because, they said, he was too compliant with the Europeans. Now they were cursing him because, they said, he is opposing them.

George Papandreou, with his hasty and rushed, as they say, motion for referendum uncovered the “Greek neurosis” – its eternal ambivalence towards Europe. Suddenly all the slogans about “resistance ” about Troika’s “occupation of Greece,” and about the “euro-greedy” have fallen flat. We haven’t seen any nooses hanging in the street. Neither have the football hooligans taken to the streets shouting “this is how those who owe you f…. you over.” Neither has the TV news broadcast any nationalistic anti-European statements by “Spitha” (Movement of Independent Citizens lead by Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis).

I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but today we lived a day of miracles. One after the other. Today, on the day the country got a preview of what standing on the cliff of a Eurozone exit looks like, there has been an explosion of pro-European sentiment. Populists and leftists, descendants of political dynasties and “political nobodies” alike, have forgotten their anti-European slogans and sentiments and hurried to declare their “pro-Euro” sentimentalities. Nobody wants the referendum to go ahead and for Greece to be in danger of exiting the euro. I’ve been living in Greece for 20 years and this is the first time that I am experiencing such a pro-European “tsunami.”

Mr. Samaras has displayed consent and has agreed to a government of “national unity.” He agrees to vote in favor of the October 26 Agreement –which constitutes in essence, Greece remaining in the Euro. Up until yesterday, Samaras was demanding elections “here and now” and he disagreed with all of the previous Agreements and choices of the Papandreou government. Up until yesterday, he didn’t say anything about the nooses and the shouts of “traitor.” Today he did not even include a stipulation, (as he previously did), on the revocation of the law regarding citizenship for immigrants in Greece. (Incidentally, does the latter constitute Mr. Samaras’ vision for a “European Greece?”) In addition, Parliament members from both major political parties have also woken up and signed a common statement in favor of a government of national unity. Living in Greece for 20 years, this is the first time I am witnessing such an atmosphere of solidarity and political cooperation.

However, I witnessed other things of course. Like sleazy personalities, who, up until yesterday were pleading and “sucking up” for a position in the “Papandreou’s system” and who now curse him in the same vulgar manner. But I have been witnessing such things for 20 years now…

Papandreou, with his decision for a referendum, has most likely become an ideal suicide victim. I think that as Prime Minister he made a lot of mistakes and choices that were off the mark. He disappointed many people who expected a lot from him. The fact remains that, with his decision to go to a referendum, he succeeded in shaking the very foundations of the Greek political system and in placing responsibility in its hands – in the hands of a system of which irresponsibility is its favorite hobby. This motion and everything that followed in Cannes, uncovered the entire web of deep political dishonesty and hypocrisy which characterizes the Greek political system. I am sure that the system, when it recovers from the quake, will never forgive Papandreou for that. They will try to make him the ultimate scapegoat.  Furthermore, he gave us the opportunity to once again, see the faces of the Merkozy duo: with greater scowls, looking more uneasy and authoritarian, more cynical, and more neoliberal. Without a trace of self-criticism for their own unforgivable mistakes, for their own omissions, for their own off-target choices, for their populism which instead of promoting a truly united Europe (where all members would consciously and democratically cede sovereign rights in favor of a European ultra-national end) they promote a United Europe where the nationalism of the Great and wealthy call the shots for the nationalism of the small and poor.

If the European Union of the future resembles their faces, then I fear that in the future we will all become Greeks…

(Translated & edited by Gigi Papoulias)

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