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Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Strike (Απεργία)

National strike action has been planned for today - but as usual, it's up to the individual to choose whether s/he strikes or not.

Last Monday, some trade unionists paid a visit to my workplace, disseminating their propaganda as they popped into each office, including mine.

ΠΑ.Μ.Ε - the acronym of this trade union is always a source of derision - you often hear people replying 'Έλα' at its mention.

Kalimera, the bright-eyed smiling young girl of no more than 25 years of age addressed me, we'd like to bring to your attention the forthcoming workers' strike on Wednesday, she explained in that very polite comradey voiceover that Greek αντιεξουσιαστές use when addressing strangers, placing a leaflet on my desk.

"Kalimera," I replied, relishing the thought that I would be giving them an unexpected earful, as I would deliberately disobey all the niceties of polite discussions concerning Greek politics. I had already gathered that they had been indoctrinated to the 'cause' and were completely brainwashed to the point that they cannot see any more of the forest further than the trees before their eyes. 

We hope you will rise to the challenge with us, the (equally young) man said, to beat the system that proposes εξαθλίωση, he continued, stressing the last word in a well-rehearsed manner.

"I don't think I will bother with striking, if that's what you mean," I replied, which I knew was a cue I was giving them to start off their communistic spiel.

But if we accept all these severely constrictive measures that the government is proposing, you do realise that it's like putting a noose round our neck, the girl pleaded.

"If you think I will live better with more money in my pocket, you are wrong," I answered. And before they gave me an answer, I continued: "Throughout my life, I have lived as though I have been in crisis mode; this economic crisis is nothing new to me, and I'm quite satisfied that I can live with less money."

The girl's eyes widened: But what can a young person do with €592 a month as a basic salary? They can't even pay the χαράτσια levied on them!

"If you make €592 a month, it is highly unlikely that you will have any property in your name to pay tax on, unless you inherited something you can't afford to maintain, right?" I smart-alecked back, trying not to make them run away too quickly because I really didn't want my guests to leave my office feeling unwanted and I really did want the conversation to continue a little while longer as I was enjoying it.

But we can't even talk about surviving on €592 a month! she exclaimed. If you take out rent, electricity, food and telephone bills, you won't even be able to afford petrol for your car!

"If you're making €592 a month, you shouldn't even be driving!" I spat back. "What's wrong with walking?" I asked her. "Or riding a bike?" I added, just in case she thought I was talking too exclusively.

Well, I never thought of Greece turning into something like China, the man replied, but this time, he did not have that dopey smile on his face which he had carried with him when he first entered my office.

"What's wrong with China, then?" I challenged him, "The Chinese are doing quite well for themselves, even if they all started off their own lives riding bicycles."

Well, even if you use bikes instead of cars, the girl butted in, if you have a family, €592 a month won't even be able to buy the basic necessities, like shoes and clothes. You need to show the economic terrorists that you will not tolerate impoverishment for much longer. At this point, she was sounding like a guidance counsellor, without realising how misguided she soudned herself.

I got up off my chair, and pointed to the jeans I was wearing (bought in December 2003 from Farmers, during the last time I went to New Zealand). "I can wear old clothes", I told them, "and I'm not embarassed at all to tell you I've had them mended, and you would't even have noticed, right?" I knew this would leave them a bit dumbfounded. "I really don't feel impoverished since I've always learnt to live frugally," I explained, "and this crisis isn't going to kill me, because I won't let it."

You can't really say much more to a person who replies in the way I did, so I realised that this was the cue to say our goodbyes. I could also sense their inexperience - they were probably still wondering which planet I came from. So I gave them a little help to buzz off quietly. "Come to think of it," I said, "if this is a national strike, I suppose it includes school teachers, doesn't it?" I asked them in my politest tone.

Yes, it does, although... their voices trailed off.

"Oh, I know what you mean," I picked up from where they left off. "Only if the teachers want to strike, right?" I maintained control over my voice, because I really did want to farewell these poor naive souls out of the office on friendly terms.

"Tell you what, if my kids' teachers are striking tomorrow, I will probably go on strike too," I lied. "But you probably won't see me carrying placards at the πλατεία," I added, "because I think I'll use the day to catch up on housework, if that's OK with you."

And then we all laughed together. I'm sure I had my fun, I hope they had theirs too. And we all lived happily ever after.

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