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Sunday, 28 June 2015

Referendum (Δημοψήφισμα)

It looks like we are going to get a referendum next Sunday after all, as it was just voted on in the Βουλή. I don't think my fellow compatriots are in a position to make this kind of decision, which is of a political-economic nature, but since we have been given the chance to vote, we can either take it up and be part of the action, or deny the chance to take a pro-active approach to deciding our future. So here is my reasoning about how I will vote:

I think the whole Greek issue is one of misunderstanding. The Greek side are passionate, the non-Greek side are astute. The Greek side accuse the other side of blackmail, but any person with an Anglo-Saxon education (like myself) should be able to clearly see that the non-Greek side is simply using literal meanings and facts and figures to get their point across. One side is playing with a WORD file while the other side prefers EXCEL. (Not my metaphorical phrasing - I heard it a while back.) This is why a political level agreement was needed on the Greek problem. But who will sacrifice their politics to find a compromise that will make everyone unhappy to some extent? No one. Both sides have something to lose in this issue: one side is worried about a lack of funding, while the other side is worried about setting a precedent. I guess this is part of the compromise. We're all going to be unhappy to a certain extent.

Apparently we are going to be asked something like:
Should Greece accept the loan/bailout package as outlined by the creditors?
I think I know what a YES vote would mean to that: not much will change in my life as I know it up to now. Greece has been a bailout addict for a number of decades now. But I don't know what a NO vote will really mean, because we haven't had it explained to us. There is no Plan B (except for wait and see). We are all hypothesising about what might happen in the event of a NO vote - we don't actually have any real idea what it will mean. But I don't even want to hear of Greece taking out a new loan that will not be repayable. I don't believe in loans. I've never taken one out, and I hope the same goes for my kids, that they will never ask for a loan. More importantly, I don't want any potential grandchildren to still be paying this loan off when/if they are parents themselves. That's why I'm voting όχι.

I'm not voting NO to Europe or the eurozone - I'm just voting NO to a new loan, or bailout, package, program, memorandum, and any other way it is also known. I hope NO means that Greece gets no more money from strangers, and she can learn to live within her means, and she learns to use her resources wisely in order to ensure this. If the referendum question was:
Should Greece remain in the European Union?
I'd immediately know what I'd answer to that: ναι!

If the question was:
Should Greece remain in the eurozone?
I know the answer to that one too: ναι!

I will leave it up to Europe and the eurozone to decide if they want non-Anglo-Saxon Greece in their Anglo-Saxon club. Let's face it: while Greece is a lovely country, she can look like she is veering right off course concerning many aspects of western-world life as we know it.
The issue of filling up your petrol tank, emptying supermarket shelves and flocking to ATMs to withdraw money reeks of an urban crisis. People who live in apartment blocks in Crete don't have gardens and may not have access to their fields. If you come up to my house, you would not even suspect what was happening. 

I live on the island of Crete, where things are really "not that bad". For those that have been following my blog over the years, they will understand what that means. For those who haven't, if I were to explain this in one sentence, I'd say that we will never go hungry on this island. I don't want to kick the can don the road with a NO vote which will eventually catch up with us again: better to go bankrupt now in the summer, before the cold weather sets in - we can start to clean up our act under more favorable conditions. As I write, the ATMs are empty, people began hoarding basic items by clearing shelves in the supermarket, and petrol stations are drying up. This is the knee-jerk reaction to any major event that could cause turmoil: people panic. I watched people last night trying to withdraw money from empty ATMs: what made them decide that they needed to withdraw 800€ (I watched them as discreetly as possible as they pushed the buttons on the machine) on a Saturday night? It is sheer panic and nothing else. I have to hand it to the 10-year-old that I overheard in my loud noisy boisterous Greek neighbourhood last night:
Daddy says that if we go to an ATM now, it'll give us drachmas.
Panic brings out the worst in us.

Even if the YES vote wins, I will still be happy with that because it's all I've ever known of Greece - that she is an indebted country. Whatever happens, I think Greece is still going to be a great country, and people will always be guaranteed of having the time of their life when they visit Greece.

The Greek Collection - work in progress: "All eyes on Greece".
The outcome of the Greek referendum will have far-reaching consequences; it is not just about Greeks continuing to fool the rest of the world about their virtuousness in implementing sound fiscal policies (my opinion, of course); it is also about the rest of the greedy world who may eventually have to deal with the real possibility of other countries following suit: saying NO when they usually said ALRIGHT. Tsipras was brave to make this move; it's something that Papandreou mentioned he would do back in 2010 but decided against it after being pressurised by the EU, which in turn was worried about the stability of the euro at the time. The EU feared that the euro would fall and the EU would break apart if one of its members were 'allowed' to be bold enough to escape its noose. The EU now says that they have a stability mechanism in place so that an GREXIT will not have serious consequences on the global economy. (Yeah, right.)

I feel sorry for the Greek people because they have been aided and abetted all their lives into making bad voting choices, and now they are being forced to make a crucial political decision themselves, after having elected a government only five months ago to make important decisions like these ones. The average Greek citizen is neither knowledgeable or experienced enough to make such a decision. That's why we choose politicians to represent us in parliament. So even our politicians are useless. And who do politicians come from? The people themselves.

I think there is only ONE way out of the crisis - Greece needs to go cold turkey: stop accepting other countries' money, see where your country stands financially on its own, and then find ways to make money in your country for your country. I can only deem this solution to be the right one. It's from that 80s era that did Greece in. Before that, Greece was poor. Then Greece became a member of the EU in 1981, and suddenly, unprecedented personal wealth became the norm. Now we are seeing what this wealth entailed: bad choices that looked good only on the surface.

As a final word, I am reminded of the words of Nikos Kazantzakis (1883-1957), the greatest Greek writer of modern times (writer of the classic Zorba the Greek), who was born in Crete, died in Germany, and was laid to rest in the old city walls of Iraklion on the island of his birth:
I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free.
UPDATE: "In the interest of transparency and for the information of the Greek people, the European Commission is publishing the latest proposals agreed among the three institutions (European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund), which take into account the proposals of the Greek authorities of 8, 14, 22 and 25 June 2015 as well as the talks at political and technical level throughout the week." (click on the PDF at the bottom of the page)

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