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Greece Loses its Soul

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The soul of Greece has flown away, zipping past Mount Olympus, gone.

The negotiating position of Greece à la Troika has gone from bad to worse to much worse, as suffocation of the body politic is well underway. The politicians of Greece have become pliable pawns in the hands of the all-powerful European Troika.

It’s all about saving the Banks, saving the Creditors. The people, well, they don’t count for much “they’re nothing more than numbers,” maybe worse. Plastic bureaucrats see it that way.

Zoe Konstantopoulou, a Greek lawyer and former Speaker of the Hellenic Parliament, recently (April) discussed the issues at Spanish website, tmex.es, explaining the complete loss of democracy and the governing body, a country subject to “dictates to oblivion.”

Indeed, the irony of this sordid affaire takes one’s breath away, as Greece first introduced the world to “demokratia,” or “rule by the people” in 507 B.C., the seedbed of democracy. Nowadays, Greece is a protectorate, a subject state.

According to Zoe K, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras betrayed the people by caving into the seductress of power instead of enforcing the welfare of his people by not negotiating state debt, even though he had evidence of illegality and unsustainability of Greece’s debt. If true as represented by Ms. Konstantopoulou, this is reprehensible at the very least. And, at best, it calls for a major modification of Troika memoranda in favor of the people, including some debt forgiveness, thereby not lopsidedly favoring only creditors and banks.

“The Greek people have been living through hell during the last six years, and unfortunately they trusted that Tsipras would put an end to the extreme austerity measures, which are combined with a total undemocratic regime. Unfortunately, instead of putting an end, he put his signature to a third memorandum, which is even worse than the previous two… People are back on the streets protesting for their rights and dignity because right now they’re being asked to pay taxes which amount to almost the totality of their revenue. They’re asked to give up their homes… They’re asked to surrender public property, which is privatized at very, very low prices. And, they’re also asked to give up democracy” (Zoe K).

Economic totalitarianism hits Greece with a thud.

“Back in the summer we had what equals an act of war, a direct threat to the survival of the population. The banks were closed and the people were threatened with a humanitarian disaster if they rejected the measures, which were put on the table by the Creditors with a 48-hour ultimatum. Humanitarian disaster means the people would not be able to have food or medicine. This is an unacceptable situation for Europe… the direct result of decisions by representatives of European institutions. My approach is that this is complete illegal criminal behavior….” (Zoe K).

Henceforward, the Greek parliament is a rubber stamp for the European Troika, voting on hundreds of pages of legislation in less than a day, forced to pass whatever creditors submit or be forced into bankruptcy, horrible choices alongside chewing nails.

In the summer of 2015 the Greek parliament was instructed to abolish all laws that were passed without prior approval of creditors. Thereafter, parliament did approve laws once again, but only as “drafted by creditors.” Fascinatingly, these same laws were rejected by the citizens of Greece some months previously by a 62% No vote.

Ergo, Greece should trash, throw out, annihilate voting machines and/or voting booths. They don’t count anymore!

European institutions from afar, i.e., the European Commission in Brussels, without legitimate authority over the country are “asking governments to sacrifice the people, in order to save the markets, and save the banks” (Zoe K). Americans have direct first-hand experience with these gimmicks, e.g., the years 2008-09. It’s called “bend over and spread’em,” you’re about to join jolly derriere fraternity. Over time, you’ll (have to) learn to like it!

Dreadfully, the struggle is not isolated to Greece alone, maybe all Europe is losing its soul: “There is a clear rise of Nazi parties, fascists parties all around Europe, and there is a clear rise of racism all around Europe. And, this is a direct result of the policies chosen, of the policies followed by the European governments. These are policies of xenophobia. These are policies of alienation from the principles that humanity has built through the years” (Zoe K).

“But, luckily, and happily, the people are not surrendering. They’re back in the streets. They’re claiming their rights. They’re claiming their dignity” (Zoe K).

The streets of Greece recurrently experience rioting, which has now morphed into the Necktie Movement, as lawyers, notaries, insurers, and engineers join in street protests (Source: Skirmishes in Athens as General Strike Sweeps Greece, AFP and Yahoo! News, Feb. 4, 2016).

Not only do Greece’s professional classes join in marches that include tossing Molotov cocktails at police, there are also splinter groups of protestors that oppose giving away state assets, for example, one group of protestors marched behind a banner written in Chinese, opposing the imminent sale of the Pireaus Port Authority to Chinese shipping giant COSCO.

Port of Piraeus is one of the largest seaports in Europe and the world. It has served as the port of Athens since ancient times. The sale, effective April 2016, for €280.5 million for 51% and another 16% for €88 million after five years to COSCO is part of the Greek creditors’ demands to secure a third €86 billion bailout package. This sale goes against PM Tsipras’ pre-election promise not to privatize the country’s infrastructure. “This is not a concession, it’s a giveaway of property belonging to the Greek people,” claims Constantinos Tsourakis, a worker at the port (Source: Greece Sells Largest Port Piraeus to Chinese Company, RT, April 8, 2016).

“Greece is Shipping,” its culture, its history, its esprit de corps.

Last August, Athens approved the sale of 14 regional airports to Fraport AG on a 40-year contract worth €1.23 billion.

This is neoliberalism hard at work. It champions privatization of public assets, one of its founding principles, or put another way, when the chips are down and prices at rock bottom, and when the people are looking down in despair, shift state assets to private enterprise. This is a universal principle of neoliberalism. The Chinese understand the neoliberal game and feast upon it.

Given enough time, the neoliberal contingency own everything, confidentially in private forget the public.

Meanwhile, on the streets in Athens, “The strikers are furious at government plans to lower the maximum pension to 2,300 Euros ($2,500) per month from 2,700 Euros currently and introduce a new minimum guaranteed basic pension of 384 Euros. ‘It’s true that the pension system requires reform but this reform cannot make it viable,’ lawyer Thomas Karachristos told AFP. In his case, Karachristos says next year he will be paying 88% of his salary in taxes and pension contributions,” Ibid.

Repeating an obvious protest, in order to meet the demands of the European Troika, citizens like Mr. Karachristos will be forced to pay 88% of their salary in taxes and pension contributions. Thence, white-collar, blue-collar, all colors are protesting in the streets. They’re enraged, fighting mad, livid, a call to arms. Duh!

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Robert Hunziker lives in Los Angeles and can be reached at rlhunziker@gmail.com.

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