Wednesday, 12 June 2013


Last night in Greece, it felt as though Margaret Thatcher came to town and closed down the mines. Britain was Greece, and the mines were the Greek state's public broadcaster; as I watched the events unfold on television, I couldn't help noticing how 1970s ERT's building looked. It may as well have been Margaret Thatcher speaking instead of that kedikoglou bloke - he was saying the same things she was saying. In Greece's case, the job got done in one fell swoop because there was little hope of getting it done slowly over time; the state knows that road too well having been down it so many times in the past.

The signal for each state channel is now switching off one by one, just like that! I know it's simply not very democratic of the state to simply throw employees out of a job, but they werent going to go any other way, were they? Nobody wanted a Margaret Thatcher, but Greece needed a Margaret Thatcher. Somebody had to pull the plug, but it couldnt be a Greek - it had to be a non-Greek who will look like a bad person, a jealous foreigner who wants to harm Greece; to me, it looked as though it was the Greeks who led themselves to their own downfall on this one, employing buddies and cronies, employing too many people than was needed, and over-paying them - they didnt envision their demise, but now that it's happened that can't exactly complain.

I got tired of watching people call a strike every time they wanted something - it didn't take much for tesachers to close schools and electricity workers to switch off the power and bus drivers in Athens (but not in Crete, where ALL the buses were privatised ages ago) to stopworking. Who did they think they were holding the public to ransom?Ddid they think that it was that easy to get what they wanted (which was invariably always a pay rise)? Did they ever ask the private employees how they would get to work, who would look after their children when they didnt have school, how they would cook their meals or how their children would write their homework? And in the pre-internet-popularity days, who would report the news to them? Didnt they care? If they had worked hard to achieve their demands, the results would be visible in society; but this was rarely the case - they rarely worked to achievetheir demands, they simply made demands. Just who did they think they were? Did they think they were born with a golden penis or something?

Then I got tired of the unions who were always supporting these people, who were always public servants; whenever new measures were brought in to give pay rises to workers, it was only for the public servants. Private employees only got what rubbed off the public servants - they were constantly treated as second class employee. Now we are all the same, and I can't help feeling happy about that, especially when one of my work colleagues told me the other day that she had to pay to see a gynocologist (her husband is a public employee and she never used to pay any doctors' fees in the past, like I did, when IKA wasnt working, and it rarely is even now). We work side by side, but she always got the freebies, whereas I paid for everything I needed. Well, who did she think she was? Was her vagina made of gold and needed special treatment?
Rabbit stifado in the pot today, slow-cooked on the gas range.
Somebody had to chop off heads, but no Greek could do that because another Greek would come along and say 'hey koumbare, you wouldnt do that to your best friend, would you?', so here we were, all good buddies of each other, not being able to change our life, but continuing to dig deeper graves for ourselves because we were afraid to let go of someone we thought was a millionaire. Little did we know (or even care) that he was dying anyway and he had used most of his money on fresh fish at Pasa Limani. Well, it was his money, and he could do what he wanted with it. He was kind enough to give us some, but now that he hasn't got any left, it's hardly his fault that he isn't giving, is it?

That's why I think we needed someone like Margaret Thatcher to chop off some heads, but if that person was Greek, we'd never have the κότσια to chop the heads off. A stranger had to do it, and we let the stranger get involved by promising to do these things ourselves - now we can say 'it's not my fault, i didnt want this to happen, the stranger said i had to do it'. And that's what the government did last night - it chopped off heads in one fell swoop; finally, what had to happen over a period of time took place in one night. It could have happened over a period of 10 years, but remember we were all koumbaroi, and no one wanted to do harm to their buddies.

Strangers dont care about your buddies, they just go ahead and do what they have to do; even though those strangers now look like they have Greek faces, we have to remember that they are only there to do the job the strangers told them to do. It's a terrible thing to chop off heads, but somebody has to do it. I did it today when I chopped the head off a rabbit I was cooking. It felt gross, like it always does, but I had to do it if I wanted to cook the rabbit properly. After sacrificing that rabbit, you need to show some respect to it and its previous life, so I will be eating the head, because my family still feels icky about doing that. I'm good at cutting heads off - the state could have hired me to do the job for them. Butat the end of the day, I would've allowed my family (and their families) to keep theirs. I'm Greek; that's what Greeks do.

Funny my husband still won't eat that head - he would never chuck a hare's head out, he'd eat that because he knows how precious hare is (he hasn't caught one in ages, proud hunter that he is). But he doesn't see a rabbit's head that way at all. I was the stranger that came along to teach them that a rabit's head and a hare's head are equal. We can't eat a rabbit in a way that simply pleases us; we can't eat rabbit everyday, so when we have it, we need to eat it in a way that respects the sacrifice of that animal to feed us.

And so it is with the Greek state broadcaster employees; they had a good life for a long time, and now that they are not needed any more, so to speak, they will be treated respectfully with their redundancy pay and whatever other benefits they are entitled. That's included in the price of the sacrifice. But after that, it's each to his own. That's the kind of world that we were living in in the first place. they couldn't have it both ways.

There are many things I will miss from Greek TV; some of the documentaries were actually quite good, especially those concerning the diaspora. But no one tried to make the enterprise more viable while they were still being paid (why should they bother when soemone else was paying their way for them). Now that I won't be paying licence fees through my electric bills (the licence fees will be stopped from now on until a new system is in place), I am using it to pay cable TV. I feel sorry for my generally speaking monolingual Greek aunt in NZ who will no longer have ERT for company. But she wasn't paying for the service in essence; she can still watch Greek TV if her kids set it up for her via the omnipresent and cheap-to-use internet. Too old to learn, you may be thinking, but that is the way of the world now - there will be many people who will now be left out of the world because they didn't do the done thing earlier, thinking it didn't concern them, or it wasn't useful for them, or they didn't need it - oops, wrong, they did, or at least, it eventually caught up with them.

The funny thing is that I was in NZ at the time that it did similar things to what is being done now in Greece - so Greece is simply 25 years behind. I couldn't find a job at the time due to the imposed cuts, and so... I came to Greece, where the money was flowing. When NZ was restructuring her public service in the late 80s, I recall stories in the press about people being thrown out of their offices without any warning. They were given a box to take their personal belongings and that's it, the familiar sob story of someone treated unfairly in a democratic state. Chair-hogging Greeks would never accept this and the state would have been in for a long long struggle with extended strikes. Rather than go through this, they simply shut down their existence and severed them from the payroll:
"At a time when the Greek people are enduring sacrifices, there is no room for delay, hesitation or tolerance for sacred cows."
RIP ERT (or EPT as we call - oops, called - it in Greece). It was good to know you. I look forward to your meeting your offspring - a new revitalised form of your previous self.

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