Thursday, 14 May 2015

Kitchen Politics


Kitchen Politics


Kitchen politics...

I don’t often write about politics, and I’ve tried to keep this a blog about living in Greece, but, more and more we are finding politics imposing itself on our conversations. Nearly every day we get neighbours calling in for coffee and there will be lots of talk about the Greek financial situation. Those on pensions are worried their pensions will be cut (they've already be halved, and the talk is of cutting off completely for a while if the money does not come through from the EU), while others, folk with money in the bank, are worried the goverment will close the banks to stop withdrawals, a situation that definately will happen if this government does a GREXIT. And, I've just read on the internet that shares in a Canadian printing firm have suddenly risen, and the speculation is that they've been asked to print the new Greek currency, while of course the Greek government are denying this!!

While in Athens I frequently buy the ‘New York Times International’, trying to catch up with what is happening in Greece. This is because this has a back section in English devoted to Greek topics. It does not take long to realise that the main topic of conversation at the moment is about the confrontation between international bankers and Greece over a huge debt repayment and below are some of the comments that seemed appropriate to the Greece we found this year.

Greek Parliament Building Athens

There is at the moment a sort of holding in of breath, either this or a great weariness, with continually reading and hearing about the Greek- EU political saga. It seems to me to be like I imagine the feelings of those in a combat zone, sensing they are coming closer to some kind of long predicted horror. In Greece the disaster could lead to resuming use of the Drachma, in the EU to the first national defection.
So when I read in Kathimerini, ‘People are hoping for some kind of divine intervention.’ I grinned to myself.
Alexis  Tsipras Prime Minister of Greece

On one side there is talk of a preparedness for a Grexit by the IMF, and this has sent stock lower and caused Standard and Poor to downgrade Greece’s economic standing yet again. One result that could affect us is that the Greek housing market has declined a further 10% for older properties, while elsewhere in the EU there has recently been some growth.
The politicians in the Greek Syriza Government are playing a dangerous game. Though supposedly left wing socialists these young leaders come from wealthy families, they have said they would make radical changes but they have only reappointed workers sacked in response to previous EU demands, and we hear they too are continuing the Greek custom of appointing family and friends to top positions!

Varoufakis the Greek Minister of Finance

They are talking big and yet doing very little other than keep the country running by doing the same as usual. Most people are aware of this and it seems to me that the Greek disposition for drama is coming into play yet again in these negotiations. Take the example of the Greek finance minister, wanting to hog the limelight with sartorial innovations (recently one of our kitchen coffee sessions was filled with the news that he had started tucking his shirt in!), or statements of being happy to be hated, plus his straw argument that Germany ‘owes’ Greece, as ways of diverting attention and avoiding any recognition of the country’s own contribution to this calamity.

Thankfully Greece is not the centre of the world.’ As someone else wrote in Kathimerini
And, Australia is also not without its own political problems.
Tony Abbott Australian Prime Minister

In Australia TV programs like Q and A (questions and answers) are criticised for their political grand-standing, and being argumentative rather than informative – especially when politicians are given the floor. Folk tend to appreciate the program more when a topic is discussed by experts in that field. So Australians would agree to the following statement from Kathimerini about politicians. ‘They do not make us wise and add nothing to a national debate. In fact they create more worry and confusion by being vague and contradictory.’

Another problem, perhaps even more noticeable in Greece than Australia, which is bad enough, is the Greek media obsession with itself. As someone wrote, ‘In Greece the news media seizes any mention of Greece and it is discussed for at least ten minutes of the hourly new broadcasts.’ And I also read that, as in Australia, in Greece folk think their prime minister deals with modern dilemmas ‘with a strategy of bluffing and conflicting comments.
The Australian Parliament Building Canberra

 But, there is one pretty major difference in the economies of these two countries. Australia does not have huge debts, and it has large agricultural resources and very large mineral deposits. Greece is beset by huge debts, from previous government policy, and though there is talk of petrol and gold deposits its major resource is its summer sunshine and blue seas that draw thousands of tourists every July and August.

Also Australia has a system that works; a good police force and a sound legal system. This definitely makes some aspects of life easier there, even though some criticise Australia for being a ‘Nanny State’ and imposing too many regulations.

There are many laws passed by the Greek government that do not see the light of day.
In Kathimerini I noticed one that should please our neighbours in Lemnos, but will it be put into effect? It involves new rules for beach bars that will limit pavilions on the beach and lounges being set up too close to the sea.

This is what it is like mid summer in Lemnos as it is on most Greek islands. Nice if you like sharing your space with others.

Last summer, in our small bay, we found bars were proliferating to the extent that the beach was packed with lounges and umbrellas and people playing beach tennis. When I went for a swim I found I had to hold up my sunhat and yell out, ‘Coming through!’, then run, hoping to reach the sea before being walloped by a tennis ball. And then I knew I’d not likely find an empty patch of sea to actually swim, without having to go way out into the bay. 

Lemnos can get crowded BUT hopefully never like this!!

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