Saturday, July 04, 2015

Kρίση - Referendum in Greece

The people are at their wit’s end and Greece is on the brink. A nervous populous is faced with a decision between uncertain futures and no good option.

I have been a regular visitor to Greece over the past decade and throughout the crisis (or "kρίση"). Over the past 5 years Greeks have become used to the depressing reality of the situation they face, to the point of fatigue. Only this Tuesday I was talking to a shop keeper who claimed the current mess was more of the same. “You will see, this is no different.” But it is. This was not optimism, but a case of the blinkers. Now, with queues at every functioning ATM, concerns over medicine supplies and non-stop animated argument dominating life from the kafe neo to the home and every TV channel, even those so recently in denial are waking up to critical position the country is in.

Anyone with Greek friends or acquaintances will know that passionate argument and discussion is part and parcel of Greek life, but what has so shocked me in the last few days is the unmissable strain of fear which sharpens opinions and lines faces.

I will not detail my own view of how it got to this point, but the reality is that the politicians and technocrats, of Greek and troika hue alike, have combined to leave the Greek on the street with no hope. A choice between grasping to a dwindling future which may have already have gone and rolling the die to likely catastrophe. I have Nasia, a Cypriot, to thank for teaching me the apt phrase – “bros kremos kai piso rema” - the literal translation being “in front a cliff and behind a ravine” or colloquially “between a rock and a hard place”.

The desperation is glimpsed through the invigoration of those demonstrating and proselytising between such opaque choices. Have you seen the question at the ballot box?

How is the everyman supposed to have a clue what this means? Add in the lies, political spin and bluff from both sides and one is swimming against the tide into a whirl pool of skata (Greek for “shit”).

Frankly, I do not know what to think and have no clue of what is going to happen next. There is no breathing space in the polls, any difference within statistical error. As those who know me are aware, I am an optimist, but I see no good outcome. Only varying levels of crap, at least in the near term.

A “Nai” (yes) vote has to be the safer option, with a chance of European reconciliation and future negotiation. This is though a rocky and highly uncertain path with little real upside. Another decade of austerity? I do not believe the populous can take it.

An “Oxi” (no) vote leads to the complete unknown. Probable melt down, but that faint almost cruel glimmer of hope. You can see it in the thousands who crowded into Syntagma for the “Oxi” rally on Friday night. Hysteria in grasping for some type of future. The polls show that those with more life in front of them are heavily weighted to “Oxi”. Change, any change.

Even with the best case scenario over the coming months, the actions and arguments of the present will divide this country for years to come. Events in the recent Scottish independence referendum have illustrated how referenda tend to harden views and polarise. Consensus will be hard to find in the difficult times ahead.

I choose to ignore the worst case scenario.

Time and time again, one phrase seems to have dominated communication between Greeks over the past week - “Ti na kanoume?” - “what can we do?” Vote and hope.
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