Thursday, 17 December 2009
The Greek financial crisis made the BBC news. That's how bad it is.
And by that I don't mean that the BBC's nod bestows significance, or strictly come dancing dance-offs and wheely bin face-offs would be events of global import. What I mean is that the financial crisis in Greece got serious enough to be global news, where the Athens riots of last year got a passing mention and the national election of a mere few weeks ago, none at all.
And although normally, when I tell people in London I'm going home for a few days, their eyes glaze over and the croon 'oh lucky you, big blue sky and sandy beaches' even in February (and no, I never let them down by saying Greece is not on the equator and it's cold in winter). Now they shake their heads. My Greekness is cause for concern. 'Oh' the say. 'Oh'. 'Things are bad out there aren't they?'
Yes. Things are bad.
Things have been bad for as long as I can remember and yet still manage to get worse quite regularly. Astonishing really. But not in a good way.
New taxes appearing right left and centre in a desperate attempt to refill the empty state coffers with the massive twin holes in the bottom, deficit on the one side, corruption on the other. New taxes for everything, till the only thing left untaxed is thinking rich thoughts. And if anyone else is reminded of the Sheriff of Nottingham, let me know, because I can't get the story out of my head.
So what is to be done?
There are no jobs and those that exist are tragically underpaid.
Unless you have one of the government or party-related cushy jobs in which case you are not lucky, you are simply part of the problem.
There is no infrastructure, no growth, no fiscal policy.
There is little hope, limited enterprise, no silver lining.
Corruption in government and business alike. Venality. Paternalism.
Violence on the streets, sex on TV.
People living at home till they are 40 and using their meagre salaries as lavish allowances – what is not enough to live on becomes excellent pocket money when all it needs to buy you is over-priced coffees and the latest mobile phone.
Something's gotta give.
The parents who will eventually need to retire, the adults that will eventually need to stand on their own two feet, the flimsy bridge between soaring prices and plummeting salaries.
Something's gotta give.
Will it be riots again? Will it be the EU and the IMF stepping in and sorting us out? Will it be a Christmas miracle like in the movies? I know not.
I know not and, I confess, that for the next few days I will seriously try to care not.
I'll keep my head down and try not to think about any of this. I'll use my euros – bought with pounds that I have earned by myself, living in a home I am paying for myself, sustained by goods and services I am paying for myself through a job that, if nothing else, allows me to be financially independent as people my age should be. Paying predictable, if high, taxes. Living with occasional annoyance but not with despair. That's right. Living away from Greece and only visiting occasionally. As I will tomorrow.
And I'll use my euros to pay for over-priced coffees and exorbitantly priced glasses of local wine. I'll look at the Christmas tree and not the TV screen. I'll read a good novel and not the newspaper.
I'm going home, damn it.
I am going home, not to the crisis, not the crumbling state and social entropy. Not to the violence and the despair. Not even to the hope of a new start.
I am going home to my mum and like so many Greeks before me, I am leaving reality at her doorstep and cocooning myself for a few days. Only for a few days. Then I'll be back to being an adult, a worker, an analyst, a political animal. But not now.
Now I'm off to mum's and with any luck they'll be cookies on the table and cartoons on TV and I may even write a letter to Santa for that new pair of shoes I really want. And peace on earth. And a financial miracle for Greece.
It's Christmas, after all.