Postcard from Ouranoupolis
Here we are in Greece in the middle of something very very important. We often are. She’s Greek, I’m Irish, we’re married and we’ve been through The Colonels, The Americans, New Democracy, Pan Hellenic Socialism and one hell of a lot of explaining. Greece has always been hard to explain. It never looks like it’s in trouble. Life continues to happen, in the Greek style – despairing politics, because of the almost complete, endemic corruption of almost every function of the State alongside an economy that usually looks like a cartoon version of the free market – vivacious wheeling and dealing, bargaining, buying and selling, no receipts, very little tax paid. It looked Greek-normal even under the Colonels and it does now. But the coming referendum is not normal.
We have two guys next door. One of them builds stuff and calls the present Syriza government ‘donkeys’. He wants private enterprise to be given its head. On the other hand we wants Greece to be a proper country (Kanoniki Hora). He avoids whatever Government regulations he can because what’s the point in obeying laws when nobody else does? He wants laws but hardly any government. He’ll probably vote Yes in the referendum because the Government wants him to vote No.
The other guy worked all his life as a highly competent fixer of things, contributed the maximum to pension funds, obeys the law and supports Syriza. His pension has been halved by the austerity measures as have those of many we know. He’ll probably vote Yes in because he thinks a No vote will take Greece out of the EU altogether – two ‘Yes’ votes but for opposite reasons. It’s a mess and it looks like no information likely to be available will help. Even if everybody were to understand the details of the offered deal, nobody is at all clear what would follow from either a Yes or a No.
The EU is Greece’s chance to build a reasonably functional State. So it’s a pity that the EU is so ignorant about Greece. There is some understanding of states recovering from being part of the Soviet Bloc, what they lack, what they need and how their physical position affects their life. There is no such understanding of Greece, for ages a client state of Britain and the US, ruled by more or less puppet governments, cut off from its natural cultural and trading partners in the Balkans and the East by the Cold War, inundated by migrants and with its greatest asset – agriculture – in need of radical reorganisation.
The apparent simplicity of referendums will fool nobody in Scotland I hope. With this one, even when the result is known, none of us will
be sure who really won or what will happen. There is great fear.