Thursday, 11 July 2013

The weeping (Ο κλαυθμών)

In the horrible little Greece that Ellada has become as of late, regarding the question of jobs for the people, pay rises, and now, the redundancies that are being discussed and negotiated, it has always been about public service jobs and nothing else. And so it continues, with the forced mobilisations, mandatory redundancies and firing of employees - it's all about one class of people who gained rights above all others: either you were a public servant or you were not.

And so it remains, as it has always been this way unfortunately in contemporary Greece, always. We even have a whole square named after weeping public servants: Πλατεία Κλαυθμώνος, Plateia Klafthmonos, the Square of the Weeping:
"Klafthmonos is the name of a central public square in Athens... since 1878, the name that remains until today, "Klafthmonos' Square... The name "Klathmonos" was given to it after a vignette in the Estia magazine, because, there in front of the Finance Ministry, redundant civil servants gathered together after every election to protest against their dismissal, since at the time, there was no permanence of public employees and each new government laid off employees hired by the previous government and recruited their own voters... at the end of June 1989 on the occasion of the unveiling of the eponymous sculpture, the name of the square was changed to "National Reconciliation Square", a name which is not in use."
It's still Klafthmonos Square today, and it reminds us of what we are by now used to for over a century and a half - that public servants are a social class in Greece, and that - most likely - this will not change.
Life continues much the same for most of us.
When Harilaos Trikoupis made it a term in the revised Constitution of Greece in 1911 that the permanence of public employees is guaranteed, he had no idea what his edicts would be putting the country through a century later. Trikoupis was Prime Minister seven times. Despite the economic crisis of his sixth term, he was still voted in one more time:
His sixth turn in office (June 22, 1892–May 15, 1893) was a dramatic one. The country's treasury had been depleted by overspending and systemic corruption often caused by political campaigns in which parties promised massive spending programs. Trikoupis stood before parliament and made the most famous statement of his career: "Regretfully, we are bankrupt" (Greek: "Δυστυχώς επτωχεύσαμεν"). The servicing of foreign loans was suspended, and all non-essential spending was cut.
And the worst thing is: Nothing seems to have changed since then. We are back to square one: already, the cries and wails are ruining the summer peace...

UPDATE: A little extra information from someone more knowledgeable - Athenians used to refer to the fired public servants as 'Pausanians'; it's a play on words, using the verb 'pavo' (I cease) since their dismissal was more euphemistically phrased as 'cessation'.

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  1. In Portugal we are just alike. The discussion is always about cutting the wages of public workers that, for many years, had privileges over all the other workers (in terms of wage, career progressions, health and social benefits, and so on...). Our work legislation is different for public and private workers. Public money is still being wasted like it belongs to no one when in fact it belongs to all of us - correction: we all have to pay for few people to spend as they please.
    I still think that while public and private workers are not alike, we will not solve this crisis. Actually, we cannot solve this crisis as it is, our politicians seem more interested in they our personal disputes than the national interests and we have no one decent to vote for. And since I don't really believe that miracles happen...

  2. i believe things will change as long as we arent able to borrow money - the problem is that we are still being given loans - so why expect anything to change? (nipping it in the bud is not well known in greece)

  3. And all this wailing for the school guards which as far as I know in my area are part time employees payed 170 euro/mth. I really liked their protest together with the city police workers at the Nea Dimokratia offices. They complained directly at those who hired them threatening to change their vote obviously. The next in row to be dismissed public servants will march at the PASOK offices although PASOK is not expecting many votes from anyone anyway.

    It is going to be a war of social classes if anything is going to change. And we haven't seen anything from this war yet. I wonder if SYRIZA gains access to power as a last attempt of the priviliged class to retain its gains. Only that SYRIZA will stop the borrowing and the priviliged class will be shooting at its legs.