I think I ought to let you know of the happenings here in Greece. I'm assuming that you know a bit of what's going on, but hearing it from a Greek might give further insights... (plus I was reminded that you do get info, when Gary asked me how I am...)
On December the 6th, a group of youths were out on the streets. It is still uncertain if they were out for trouble, or just minding their own business. Probably a bit of both. They run into 2-3 cops. A small clash happened, they broke off. Group of youths wen their way, cops retreated. Then they met again, clashed again (as it appears).
In the process of all that, it does appear (yet to be detirmined) that there was a shooting FROM the cops to the groups of youths.
The result is that a 15 year old boy, named Alexis Grigoropoulos died!
Since then, more than 2 weeks ago hell has broken loose all over Greece.
The death of Alexis (here in Greece we don't, generally, call people by their first names unless we know them. So in general I'm "Mr. Sideris", and the dead boy should be "Grigoropoulos". However since his death everyone decided that they "know" him and should call him by his first name.) has triggered a series of events which only gets worst. But it was only the trigger.
The economic crisis which made Iceland crumble and the Brittish pound lose almost 1/3rd in value has also hit Greece. Not in currency value, since we use the Euro, but in job values, etc...
The goverment, elected for the second time, is unable to do anything and has been dealing with shady methods for quite a bit of time (it does feel similar to getting Bush elected for the 2nd time actually). Scandals emerge every once in a while, and the country is in debt, far worst than any other time, without any major works being done. See, with the Olympics (2004), we were in debt, but at least we saw an underground system being built, major roads (REALLY MAJOR), being made and updated, the largest overwater bridge in Europe, etc... Which does give an excuse of being in debt (along with the Olympics). Now nothing has been made.
People ARE struggling to get enough money to live. Everyone is trying to evade tax (which seems natural to us Greeks), (and btw, as well as pirate anything possible), due to the fact that there's simply NOT enough to go by. Not an excuse for being illegal, just what's happening, mind you!
So, get an act of murdering, get a general dissapointment, at very large portions, and you get Greece in riot.
THE USUAL STUFF?
Usually we would get a bit of rioting from 50-100 anarchists, or leftists, in very specific dates! It does happen, it was always assumed that it's 'a bit of fun from young people', and it would end in a day or two. Now we get 1000s, literally, people rioting, all over Greece, in every major city, all universities, etc... Not so small anymore.
Most of Athens (the center) has been burned down, with myriads of shops, banks, cars being burned to the groun.
Yesterday, or the day before there was a bus full of special officer policemen. At 5 o'clock in the morning, they got hit by bullets, coming from the Athens Polytechnic university! So, in other words, somebody was in the university and started shooting towards the police!
Now, I don't know, what the situation is in other parts of the world, but the universities over here are protected by absolutle sanctuary! No matter what! Unless the head gives permission! Which he did 5 minutes after the shooting took place. Of course he would give permission to the police to enter the university, if someone shoot at them!
Yet the police did NOT enter. It appears that they were too afraid to enter the university!
So, what now?
Well, I'm ok, family is ok, everyone I know is ok. There's not been any death in Greece yet, apart from the 15 year old.
A lot of families have lost their cars, shops, etc. It's not just banks, which could be assumed to be faceless. It's everything! So these people are upset to say the least.
Seeing the police is unable to do anything, and seeing that the goverment is totally unable to even start talking, not to mention protect it's citizens, the people of various smaller cities (not Athens), are taking things into their hands. Some people in Patras and Ioannina (I think for the 2nd city), took over the universities! In order for them not to be ceized by anarchist/leftist forces.
It's not a civil war yet, but it certainly doesn't look good.
Nikolas, thank you for telling us about Greece's problems in your own words.
We get these horrible stories on the TV news, and as always when such awful things are reported, we feel stunned and helpless in reaction.
People are on edge all over the world, with the more volatile people ready to use any excuse to riot and rampage.
Things are always in constant flux, and the current situations in Greece will calm down, but it really is an undulating wave of unease all over the world which is bound to wash up horrible incidents at other locations, at any time.
At the core of it, people's already tenuous belief in governments and economic philosophies rather easily caves in when the fragility of civilization becomes too exposed. It's too frightening for a lot of people, and they react very badly.
Take care, our thoughts are with you and all of Greece.
Glad you're okay and thanks for a first hand account.
In Greece it seems like things have been building up - unsustainable debt, high unemployment, high taxes, and a sinking economy. -An unjust murder seems like just the spark to light the powder keg.
You never really know the story listening to the news and it is insightful reading your account. The internet really does bring us all together.
Falcon has been giving us a first-hand account of what's been happening in Iceland and seeing it from the eyes of someone experiencing it is more insightful.
Iceland and Greece are not alone as many countries are having economic problems. I read that even Switzerland, the bastion of fiscal stability, is sinking into major difficulties. Asia, including China and Japan, are also having their economic difficulties.
It's frightening to see what's happening in Greece and I hope it is not a harbinger of what may come in other countries.
After what you've been through with the university credentials in Greece, and now this. Hope things work out for the better. Maybe you'll come back to Seattle for another commission and bring your family and stay a little while longer.
Be safe and take good care, my friend, and our thoughts are with you.
Things seem to have calmed down, for Christmas more likely. Even trouble makers, anarchists, police, etc, have families and want to have dinner for Xmas. How's that for a general civil revolution? (just a proof that the whole uprising is not such!)
It is true, and as a Greek I can confirm that it's extremely easy to just blame the people in charge, when the problem lies in the society! A vicious circle that needs breaking, unfortunately via violent methods most of the time:
Over the past 15 years (I'm 31) I've noticed that the only possible solution for a Greek student is/was to study to a university! Science, language, etc. People who can't make it into the unis, go abroad and still study these. So you do get a huge chunk of the population with uni degrees, masters, even PhDs, with no job placement! Seeing this, a lot of people have turned their back to such departments and instead have hit the ever lasting army and police instead! People who's only interest is money and a way to support their (future, cause nobody get's married before 30 over here! I got my first son at 26 and I was being thought of being an alien of some sort) family. Training and education is nothing but poor in these situations (army and police), but it does stand that it's the best career choice you can make (!!) Even if you don't like such tendencies, or guns, or violence, or anything like that!
The other very good career move that one can make is to enter the (huge) goverment body of workers: In tax offices, schools, universities (which ok is reasonable to say at least), etc. You get a monthly salaray which won't go away, you get lots of free time, and since nothing is really working in Greece, you are also assumed to NOT try and fix things, or try and work things! So many (including me, I'll confess), wish for a spot in schools, even if unsuitable to teach, even if they hate kids (unlike me, I love teaching at least). They get 3 months of vacation over Summer time, they get 5-6 hours of work every day and above $1200 a month (plus 2 extra salaries for Xmas and Easter). The best thing is that NOBODY can kick you out! It's actually illegal to fire you! (unless you break the law. But dodging work is NOT considered breaking the law!).
All of us, over here in Greece, know about corruption and are certain (!!!!!!) that tax money are being pushed into the pockets of the politicians! True or not true, I can't, personally, be sure, although evidence are rather clear in the TV. The best thing that one can do is to try and not pay taxes! Try to avoid paying VAT! You go to a furniture shop, you get a sofa worth $3,000 and you only pay $2400! Because you get it without the VAT. The transaction is nowhere to be seen! You try and find every little window you can in order to claim additional expenses and save on your taxes. If you do have income from houses and rents, you are still dissadisfied that these incomes are being taxed!
It's a mad world and one that I've forgotten about!
So put all these in the blender and you get:
a. scientists, people who have spend most of their lifes studying without a job!
b. Teachers who hate teaching and hate children
c. Power bearers (police, army), who are there for the money and nothing else. Who lack training (apparently, cause it is reasonable to assume a special police officer, carrying a gun, should know when NOT to us it).
d. Everyone else trying to steal their way into a decent life.
(How more antiGreece can I get, I wonder?)
My problem with all of the above is that the riots did start because of the murder, but the real problems are underneath. And I can't see a solution to all the above, for the shake of me!
And it does worry me! Cause there doesn't seem to be a way to stop riots, trouble, and dissapointment! While there does seem to be a way to go further down:
We had the death of a 15 year old (circumstances still pending to research, so I can't blame anyone, 'officially').
We've had riots from the 6th of December. It's 20 days now!
We've had people SHOOTING towards the police!
It does remain to be seen if any further deaths will be added up, or if there'll be some kind of bullshit (excuse the word please) militant law, which will certainly not solve anything, but divide the rest of the country.
A solution (not permanent) would be to go into election! Then again current goverment is certainly not ready to give up just yet! They are down in polls, so they'll have to wait a better time (for them) to try and go into elections!
BTW, tourist season will open in a few months (ok 5-6 months). Why not book your ticket to Greece while you still can? (honestly, I'm bitter, but can't help it).