Thursday, 19 February 2009
Greece 2009: Welcome to the dark side
So I was in Greece last week.
I did the whole staying-up-till-six-am-eating-and-drinking-with-family. I played the let’s-see-how-much-caffeine-it-takes-to-kill-you game. I saw friends. I walked the streets of my youth. I spent time at home.
It was good.
But inevitably at some point, I turned on the TV. And, the Petroula debacle aside, in the space of the 10 minutes I lasted in front of it, I saw 3 things:
I saw the anchorman of a major channel battling with the news that the Prime Minister of Iceland is gay. Why that is news in the first place, I cannot say, considering it is neither newsworthy nor new. But they were announcing it still and the newscaster was struggling with his terminology. After half-starting on ‘homosexual’ and ‘lesbian’ he settled for ‘the PM of Iceland has… errr… special abilities’. Quite. X-ray vision and telekinesis, I’m sure. Pity I’m straight. But for a change in my sexual preferences I could be Wolverine.
So I flicked the channel in disgust and I got the news on a different one where the reporter had intelligently edited clips of a few ministers contradicting themselves drastically in public statements made within the last few days. My favourite was the minister for agriculture. On being informed that a group of disgruntled Cretan farmers were coming to Athens (with their tractors) to demonstrate, he said they would be welcome and a public debate would ensue. What actually ensued was a street fight complete with teargas and police violence captured on camera. The same man subsequently said that the state did what it had to do to prevent social unrest. So the state moves against protesting citizens, for their own sakes. How reassuring.
So I flicked the channel in despair and got three government spokesmen, ministers and under-secretaries, as well as a clip of the prime minister all saying the same thing ‘we have a plan to get the country out of the financial crisis’. ‘What is it’, ask the journalists. ‘We have a plan’ they repeat. What is it, I shout at the TV. ‘We have it and have had it since June’, Palli-Petralia (Minister for Employment and Social Protection) insisted. Yes but what is it? ‘We have it’.
Insolent citizens not taking the government’s word for it. Shame on us.
So I switched the TV off and turned to the newspapers. Asking for it, I know, but I am a news junkie and will never learn. So I discovered the following: I learned that the government’s popularity is waning (there’s a surprise) but the Prime Minister remains popular and is thought of as the stronger leader (God help us) – possibly assisted by the fact that the leader of the opposition seems to have no ideas whatsoever and an inability to string a sentence together without stumbling at least once.
I also learned that information about abuse in Greek prisons had been released again a few days previously, but no inquiry had been instructed and nobody seemed to be doing anything about it. I read about the farmer strikes and road blockades (part of which was the Cretan farmers incident). I also read about the failing economy, the faint echoes of land-sale scandals implicating the church that are now old news and the odd report about financial irregularities and EU controllers. Business as usual, really.
And then it struck me.
How all this was reported as a matter of fact. As if chaos, disorder, narrow-mindedness, dishonesty, injustice and incompetence were given facts of life that we were all powerless against. As if all this was our fate and, although we can see right through it, there is nothing we can do about it, there is nothing that can be done about it. As if change is not an option, not a possibility. As if hope is all but dead even though criticism isn’t. As if we are all spectators in a football match we have no power over. We can shout and swear but can’t touch the ball. We can see all that’s wrong but don’t believe we can fix it, don’t believe a fix is possible.
So nobody acts.
So nothing changes.
So welcome to the dark side.