(photo with president of Greek parliament Zoe Konstantopolou. Check out link. Wouldn’t want to mess with this lady.)
By Luke Ming Flanagan
Reading the reports of the ongoing discussions between Greece and its creditors, watching the various leading players from both sides on the news reports, to-ing and fro-ing with the numerous panels arguing the rights and wrongs, it’s understandable if many people think that what they’re witnessing is just another made-for-TV drama.
For the last three days I’ve been in Athens, part of the GUE/NGL group study week and no, before anyone leaps in here, it has NOT been a holiday. It has though been an eye-opener, a very sobering eye-opener.
For the people of Greece itself, what is happening now is not entertainment of any description. It is their day-to-day life lived under a black cloud, it is their future and the future of their children hanging by a thread.
This is their reality, real people living real lives in a surreal situation, where even the most stubborn and stupid of economists must admit that the programme which was dictated to previous Greek governments has been proven an abject failure (catastrophic social impact, radically reduced GDP, incrementally increased debt, massive unemployment, poverty and deprivation on an almost third-world scale, etc etc), yet here are the same people who dictated that programme insisting that the new Greek government continue its implementation.
DO THIS – OR ELSE
To blackmail them to do so, to bully them to do so (and well we know of that experience in Ireland), they threaten financial Armageddon; to bribe them to do so, they offer them scraps – a few hundred million here from this fund for youth employment schemes, a few hundred million there for investment from the laughable Juncker Plan.
None are more vocal on this subjugation of a nation than Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and her hard-line Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schauble. To me, this is like someone forced to go with begging-bowl in hand to the gang who once broke into their home, robbed and wrecked it, raped the women and massacred the men (as the Nazis did in the Second World War), and now decades later are back in a new guise, still robbing, still wrecking, still wreaking havoc among the general population but now much more subtly.
It is rotten, rotten to its core, though it’s very important to add an asterisk to the above paragraph – just as there were those Germans who risked all to protest Hitler, there are now those Germans who protest what’s being done by Merkel and Schauble, not just in Greece, not just to other struggling EU countries, but inside Germany itself where the ordinary people have also been left behind.
IRELAND’S NOT-SO-NOBLE CALL
Out here for these last few days, listening to one impressive guest speaker after another from the new Greek government (including several Ministers), hearing their entirely logical and reasonable arguments, on several occasions I’ve found myself cringing in embarrassment as Ireland was referenced.
First, it was back to the occasion immediately after the Greek elections last February when our own Taoiseach Enda Kenny was first and fastest out of the blocks to shoot down the Greek request for a renegotiation of its programme.
Then it was on the proposed migration policy of dealing with those unfortunate people from places like Syria who are taking their lives in their hands to cross the Mediterranean and seek refuge in Europe. Most of those who flee end up in either Greece or Italy. What was proposed was that there should be a fair and proportionate distribution across all countries of the EU of those refugees and migrants. First out of the blocks to protest on this occasion was the United Kingdom but again, this Irish government didn’t delay – they were next. By the way I come from a family of migrants. 19 out of the 20 of my family and my wife’s family were forced to emigrate. Economic migrants! A dirty tag nowadays.
Several times I have spoken here, to the group itself but especially to our Greek hosts, explaining that while this Irish government is doing all of this in our name, they have long lost their mandate, a mandate they gained through lies and falsehoods but a mandate they immediately betrayed.
LAST STING OF A DYING HORNET
That government though is on its last legs. For the past few months, in increasing desperation, they have abandoned all pretence even of democracy and the Taoiseach who promised more inclusive government, more transparency, an end to cronyism, has again forced legislation through the Dáil without any real debate, has again treated the Freedom Of Information Act and the process of Parliamentary Questions with absolute disdain, has waited til its hand was forced before even pretending to act in the public interest, and as for the cronyism – they have out Fianna Fáiled Fianna Fáil, something I would never have thought possible.
Less than six months ago the Greek people voted for change, real change and today, despite that black cloud hovering over them, not alone do they have no regrets but in confronting the aggression of the Troika, Syriza has gone up in their estimation. Whatever the consequences, they choose freedom and independence over debt slavery and dependence.
In less than six months (because I don’t believe this government will go full term) we’ll have the same opportunity in Ireland. We too should vote for change, real change. A return to Fianna Fáil is just that, a return; a return to Fine Gael, well…
Now I know what’s coming. Who can we vote for? Sure they’re all the same. The answer is obvious. I am living proof. Run yourself. Trust yourself. Time for us to take over.
Time for us to grow a back bone like the Greeks have done.