Wednesday, 29 February 2012

The Fall of Greece...... again!

sections of a huge column lie where they fell in Ancient Olympia

I have been taken to task for my pollyanna approach to our life in Greece this past winter. I do not apologize for taking a positive approach to the world but, in these days of media influence, it is perhaps time to say what I think about the current political, social and financial climate in Greece. What follows are my thoughts based only on my perceptions and feelings - at best an ethnographical account, at worst sheer unsubstantiated opinion.

But first, it must be said that in rural Greece, life is little affected by the violence and the unrest of the cities. Here

buying fruit in the Kalamata market in February

there are markets year round with fresh produce ....

 and ....
                you pay cash!

a coffee outdoors before lunch in Koroni in February

Here you enjoy yourself, the sunshine and your friends

-- keeping to the village routine which means a coffee and social time before the two o'clock lunch

.... and....        
               you pay cash!
 Koroni harbour with the Taygetos mountains -February

Here you enjoy the beauty of nature and the gift of sunshine year round


                     you don't have to spend a penny!           

one kilo of greens for one euro - Saturday market in Kalamata - February

Only in rural Greece could you buy fresh artichokes at 7 for  five euros, one kilo of  'fresh from the ground spinach' at one euro, or 20 kilos of the best potatoes for 5 euros.

These people's way of life will not change, no matter what happens in the world, in the  European Union,  or in Athens. It may be a susbsistence existence but they have everything they need to enjoy each and every day and they are much to be envied for the quality of their lives.

the Acropolis by night - How can we let this go

There is much wrong with the Greek system. But it is not the fault of the Greeks. They are not lazy, they just know how to enjoy themselves. They are not "takers", they are a product of bad governmental policies. They are not violent, they just want to be heard.

Feb 26, 2012 The burnt theatre - evidence of violent protests

With aging demographics, the Greek pension system needs a complete overall. Too many are getting pensions at too young an age.  A female friend arrived in Greece in her twenties and has been collecting a pension since she was 47 all the while running a successful small business. I was told that if you work for 20 years (some said 15 years) and have a child then you qualify for a pension.

On the other hand, private companies do not administer their own pensions. Everything goes to the government to administer. This is shades of WACKY Bennett and the Teachers' Pensions in the late sixties in BC. Imagine if you had worked all your life, and contributed to your pension fund faithfully. Your company kept to the rules and  turned those monies over to the government. Now, that pension is administered by the government who saw fit last year to reduce pensions by thirty per cent. That is what happened to several friends of ours who had worked for forty years for a pharmaceutical company.

For rent signs, broken windows and graffitti in Athens

And the pensions they do get are small. While their government pensions are more than our CPP and OAS;  my teacher's pension is double what their government pension is. And we don't have the constant worry of our pensions being reduced.

burnt mailbox of an apartment building

Probably, of  more importance, is the need to raise revenue in Greece. While all our transactions have been cash in rural Greece, you can imagine that there are a lot of under- the-table deals where personal revenue is never reported for taxation.

There have been stories about the need to go after individuals who owe millions to the government in back taxes. When they don't stop the looters, the graffiti "artists" and the vandals; will they stop white collar crime?

the Greek military in ceremonial dress - Feb 26/12

But the European Union is also at fault. The big guns in the north expect all countries to make themselves over in the northern image. I object to that. One size does not fit all when it comes to countries, their people and their cultures.
What would Portugal be without its fado singers, Spain without its flamenco, Italy without its pasta, Greece without its island culture - where would Shirley Valentine go?

the Greek flag on an embassy building

I think about good administrative practices: in a school system, a hospital, a large company. Good management gives a certain freedom to each of the classrooms, departments or sections. I once had a superintendent who advocated for a system that was loosely coupled but with tight properties. Apart from making me think of  a prostitute's underwear, I understood that each part of the system had to be tightly administered but the whole should be related more loosely and bound by shared goals and values.  I am afraid that the opposite happens in Greece and its place in the European Union. Greece is loosely and very badly run and the EU is trying to hold the system together far too tightly. I fear the relationship is doomed.

And sometimes no matter how much counselling takes place, how much hard work is attempted, sometimes it is better to let the marriage go and endure the pain of divorce. There is often more happiness for both parties on the other side. In my opinion, it is time for the EU and Greece to part ways. I like Greece too much to see the pain continue.

The king is dead. Long live the king!

The temple of Zeus. What will be left of modern Greece?

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