So we all voted and hoped, didn’t we? And look where it got us. Probably because we voted with our hearts, our bile and not our heads! However, with another election in mid-June, perhaps this time Greeks can show they care about their jobs, their houses, their lifestyles (still not as bad as they could get) and their families’ futures.
Syriza came in strong because voters wanted to show how betrayed they felt at the last ten years under ND and PASOK. Many who voted later regretted their action when they saw how strong the party had become - and, in particular, their inflexible stance on Austerity and Public Debt.
It reminded me of 1997 when Labour trounced the Conservatives in the UK, simply because so many of the electorate wanted to show their anger. The result was a landslide for Tony Blair and we got stuck with his policies for 12 years!
Of course nobody wants austerity, and of course nobody wants to pay extra taxes. But shouting won’t make them go away! Like it or not we owe them and we are going to have to pay them - one way or another. Europe won’t just sweep them under the carpet as the German Hausfrau does with unwanted dust!
And if we renege on the debt and withdraw from the euro, what then? Some think the rest of Europe won’t let us go because it would prove too expensive. But remember the words uttered recently: “Greece withdrawing from the euro will be very expensive, but letting a Greece that won’t pay its obligations stay would be even more expensive.” So we would become the pariah of Europe, unwelcome and distrusted everywhere outside our own homes.
Then, what about Turkey’s attitude? I imagine they must be licking their lips in glee at what is happening. They know that if we leave Europe, with debts unpaid, nobody is going to lift a finger to help us, whatever Turkey may demand of us. With no credit, worldwide, and no spare parts for defensive armaments we are sitting ducks if our neighbour decides to get a bit pushy. And then we will all be crying - but this time over spilt milk; and after the horse has bolted and some of our islands have changed hands!
Do you really want a strong Left in the hands of an inexperienced man who has never operated at a European level, despite being a gifted orator at local government and grassroots? He would probably make an able junior minister, but not yet a Prime Minister. He still needs to learn to mix water with his wine and listen to the world outside Greece, not just the voices on protest marches!
Furthermore, do you really want a fledgling Nazi party to grow plump and strong (we are already approaching the number of parliamentary representatives Hitler had in May 1924)? Do you really want a government with no seasoned politicians to represent us at the worst time Greece has ever experienced since 1949? What could these people offer you, your families and your country for the future, despite their obvious sincerity?
At best, all the intelligent young people will leave Greece, with only those too old or unskilled to make any kind of career abroad remaining. Remember, this happened to a degree after WW2, and, later, led on to the civil unrest that paved the way for the Junta.
Unfortunately, overall, we don’t really have any strong and able people, with the exception, perhaps, of Venizelos and Bakoyannis who both seem to be trying hard, in their own ways; as are Manos and Kouvelis in theirs. They may be somewhat diametrically opposed, but they are probably more open-minded and stable than many of their peers. Samaras I strongly distrust; his record from 1992 evidences that. He appears to care only for himself and personal glory!
As for the others: Papandreou is too weak, KKE aren’t even interested, and most of the other party leaders are simply too inexperienced and closed-minded. They still need a few years following able leaders to firm up political knowledge and convictions based on probability, not simply ‘pie in the sky’ possibility. However Syriza’s statement that ‘there should be international investigation as to whether any of what we owe is odious debt,’ is undoubtedly valid.
Although it will be a difficult choice and based mainly on gut feeling - as nobody really shines as a dynamic leader - I just hope that the electorate will show a bit more wisdom for their country and families at the next ballot. People must primarily vote ability rather than party. They must also consider that if we go back to the drachma many people are going to freeze in winter when fuel bills TRIPLE, due to exchange rate. Going back to the drachma is tantamount to emigration to the lowest of 3rd world countries. How many of us are physically strong enough to face that and survive?
A final matter that comes to mind is corruption. People like Tsochatzopoulos need to be sent to the International Court at The Hague and charged with treason against the EU. After all, working against and betraying Greece is working against the EU. He said that if he ‘goes down’ he will take 200 others with him. We want those 200 names. We want them all to go down, too. If we really want to eliminate corruption, we need to start convicting – and to simultaneously proceed against those who bribed him and others.
As Greeks we have been bought sheep for a long time. Will we still say ‘Baaa’ in June as we are led to the slaughterhouse, or will we learn to sing a more responsible tune?
Cliff Parry: A Breath of Wales in Central Athens
If you don’t screw up every so often, you’re not human – at least that is my defence! However, my last cock-up resulted in an afternoon of extreme serendipity.
The British Council, in its teacher training hat, had come up with the novel idea of inviting exam candidates to an Athens hotel in order to practise techniques for the FCE Oral Exam. Yes, candidates, not teachers! It’s absolutely brilliant when you think about it; I’ve never heard of it being done before!
For decades teachers have been invited to seminars where, given the best training Cambridge and the Council could provide, it is hoped they will skilfully transmit whatever they remember - between the coffees and canapés - to their students. But this year, perhaps emulating the removal of the middleman in business settings, the examining body was going to focus solely on candidates.
Of course I had received the invite; of course I thought I had read it carefully and of course I replied I would come. The only problem was, the invite had not been for me, it was for my students!
So Council staff and particularly Cliff Parry, were rather amazed and amused to see Jenny and me and asked where our students were. Then the truth came out that I had screwed up, and we all laughed (rather shamefacedly on our part, to be honest). However, since we were here, they said, we might as well follow Cliff’s talk and pretend to be students.
It was a revelation. Cliff was at his best and having us there to pick on for the embarrassing questions - and whenever he wanted to make the kid’s laugh - it was a very lively session. Boy, did he make us work!
By the end of the session we fully realised that coming to the candidates ‘do’ was about the best thing we could have ever done for our teaching abilities. We all try to do whatever we think is right in the classroom, but however hard we try we can never rival Cliff. He most carefully, and very funnily, told the kids what they should do, how not to bore the examiner and, most forcefully and importantly, what they should definitely not do (with us playing the part of rather dumb and badly trained students and the kids killing themselves with laughter).
When he mimicked the kids who had been taught by rote: all information squeezed into one VERY LOOONG sentence (and adding different accents, to boot), we just died! It was something like: “Eh, I am Yanni, I go to school, to 3rd class High School. Eh, I live in a house with 3 rooms, I have a mother and a father and a brother and a sister. Eh, I play football and listen to music.
I go with my friends to the park and we play. Eh, Saturday and Sunday enjoys me most because I have no school and in summer I swim in the sea and eat ice cream.” After which the child looks on expectantly and waits for a pat on the head!
Our feelings at the end of this session were that the candidates who came probably understood much more about the FCE Speaking Paper than they had the day before. And I had the sneaky feeling that most of Cliff’s techniques are, unfortunately, very rarely used in language schools ... however good the teaching!
If the British Council ever offers another session like this, I strongly advise you to go. Take the kids as well, of course, but come yourself, too – and be prepared to learn and work. Definitely one of the best unscheduled workshops I’ve been to for a long while. Bravo Cliff, bravo British Council.