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Thursday, February 23, 2012

A message from the streets of Athens: “save us no more!” | Reflections on a Revolution ROAR

A message from the streets of Athens: “save us no more!”

by Leonidas Oikonomakis on February 23, 2012

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We don’t want your money. We don’t want your lies. We don’t want your conditions. We just want to live. No sheep was ever saved through bleating.

By Leonidas Oikonomakis

To Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik,
who were murdered in Homs yesterday

Tuesday, 16 February 2012. Brussels.

The bad pupil, once again, is Greece. And so the eurozone Finance Ministers approve a ‘rescue’ package deal (as they prefer to call it) of 130 billion euros to ‘save’ her from her bad self.

I watched them smiling and congratulating each other, jubilant that they had a deal: Luxemburg’s Prime Minister and Eurogroup President Jean-Claude Juncker, Greece’s unelected Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, IMF Chief Christine Lagarde. I also watched Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos and ex-Prime Minister Giorgos Papandreou (both members of the political class that led Greece to this point) hailing the deal and urging for more democracy in Europe [sic], while at the same time apologizing for the misbehaving citizens of their country who “had for years been disillusioned by wealth with feet of clay.”

Wednesday, 17 February 2012. Athens.

The citizens of Athens — pensioners, workers, unemployed and students — are protesting against the new deal and the new austerity measures that accompany it, ahead of the vote for approval of the related emergency bill legislation. They do not share their — unelected — government’s jubilant mood and consider the new austerity measures a stairway to poverty and despair. And they express their sarcasm for the dominant rhetoric:

“Have you heard the news? They have rescued us again!”

They are not being ungrateful; they are right. Because what the new austerity measures will mean for them is:

  • An additional 15 percent wage cut to their salaries — which have already been reduced by 30 percent since 2009 — to increase ‘competitiveness’, or so they say;
  • A 22 percent reduction of the minimum wage: 32 percent for people under 25, to tackle youth unemployment [!], or so they say;
  • Which in turn automatically brings unemployment benefits (for those lucky ones who are eligible for one, for Greece does not have a minimum income scheme) to a level below the poverty threshold;
  • A 7-20 percent cut in pensions (including those pensions currently as low as 300 euros);
  • Laying off 15.000 civil servants in 2012, and 150.000 before 2015 (in a country with more than 20 percent unemployment already!);
  • A 1,1 billion euro reduction in pharmaceutical expenditures;
  • Just a tiny 0.15% GDP  reduction in military expenditure (Greece has been the #6 top-spender on military equipment as a share of GDP in the world in the past 15 years, displaying a major preference to German and French weapons);
  • At the same time, (profitable!) state owned enterprises and assets (ports, airports, motorways, energy, real estate) will be privatized (“transferred to more productive uses”, as they call it in the neoliberal slang).

A message from the streets of Athens: “no more rescuing!”

What is more, the people of Greece have never been asked whether they wish to be rescued, or at least to be rescued in such a way: in exchange for labor rights; wage and pension cuts to levels of slavery or — at least — poverty; civil sector lay-offs; fire-sale privatization of state assets; the destruction of the welfare state. Instead, an unelected government under the orders of a Troika is taking decisions on their behalf.

And at the end of the day, who is really being rescued? The people of Greece? The eurozone? The banks? The country’s political establishment?

The answer is yours.

“After the uprising of June 17,
the Secretariat of the Writers’ Union
handed out a few leaflets on Stalin Avenue
in which one could read that the people
had lost the government’s trust
and that only with great effort
could they recover it.
Would it not be easier
for the government to dissolve the people
and elect another?”

~ Bertold Brecht

P.S don’t believe what they tell you: this crisis is first and foremost socio-political.

“No sheep was ever rescued through bleating.”

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