Incapable of giving up a few privileges for the sake of the common good, of looking ahead to the future of the generations to come, and of making decisions that only three years ago may have saved the country from the abyss into which it has plunged; this is the image of the Greek ruling class of today, that of a country up to its neck in an economic crisis which has driven thousands to desperation and more than a few to take their own lives. It is a plunge that has led to the closing down and bankruptcies of hundreds of businesses, one after another in quick-fire succession.
How did it get this far? Could it have been prevented? Who is behind this disaster? ”Ouzo Amaro” (”Bitter Ouzo”) by Patrizio Nissirio (eBook Fazi, pp 115, 1 euro) is a journey into the Greek crisis. It is a journey amid economic indexes, the scourges of state budgets and the heavy-handed demands put forward by the international community. However, it is also a journey amid the people amid the acrid smell of smoke bombs and the desperate cries (of those who most certainly were not the ones responsible for it) that only make the headlines when a fatal or sensational element comes into play.
”It was five in the afternoon, the time established by the private (GSEE) and public (ADEDY) sector unions for a large-scale protest, a ‘siege’ of the Greek Parliament in a last, mostly desperate, attempt to prevent voting in the assembly in the latest in a long strong of austerity measures,” writes the author, ANSAmed chief and former ANSA Athens bureau chief.
There were thousands of people gathered in Syntagma (Constitution) Square on Sunday February 12, 2012. All the social classes were present, from mathematics professors to housewives. There were also such well-known figures as “Manolis Glezos, the legendary eighty-nine-year-old partisan who ripped the Nazi flag off the Necropolis in 1941, and Mikis Theodorakis, the well-known composer of the Zorba the Greek soundtrack. There were also about thirty anarchists – as Greeks call what Italians do: the ‘black bloc.’”
”Normally,” Nissirio continues, ”they would have shouted them down and hurled insults at them. However, on that Sunday, something different happened: they applauded them. It was incredibly unnatural.” A sign of the immeasurable desperation of Greeks. Could this have been avoided?
”If the measures adopted by Greece and imposed by Europe had been taken only three years ago,” said the journalist, ”we would never have got to this point.”
Where did the Greek ‘tsunami’ come from? Thirty-plus years of political patronage, corruption and false accounting.
The beginning, in the eyes of the author of ”Ouzo Amaro’,’ could arbitrarily be set at the 2004 Olympics.
”When the lights of the final ceremony went out, the reality began to take shape and washed away the dream: those sixteen days of sports at the highest level also represented a financial abyss and were to become an endless series of missed chances.”
The Greek crisis is not only the result of the selfishness of its managerial class. It is also the progeny of false accounting that pushed Greece an inch from total collapse. And then there are European partners ”who scold Athens, but who continue to look after their own interests in what is often an unscrupulous manner’.’
What will happen now? The early elections on May 6 are still up in the air, and perhaps more than just a shot of ouzo (the traditional aniseed-based liquor) will be required to digest the last course.