Short impressions during the stay in Athens
Here I am, in Athens, almost a week already, discovering the reality of the situation. At a first sight, without knowing the city and the country before, nothing seems to be so different from another big city, except for small yellow and red stickers. And it is not a surprise, life goes on here, of course. But with a bitter taste. It is after discussing randomly with people that one discovers the incredible situation. And apparently, it is only since last summer that things are evolving quickly. It is the biggest surprise for me, I was so convinced that the situation had been on a constant pace the last two years.
People are slowly giving up, the massive demonstrations of last spring came to an end and everyone is more busy helping relatives in big difficulties, « adjusting » their lives to violent salary cuts, renegociating their rent, reshaping an everyday life that has to fit to the new standards of living. The « internal devaluation » imagined by the « troïka » is now getting real, and at a high speed. Hopes in having a weight in the decisions through massive citizen movements are fading, after one year and a half of protestations ignored by the international deciders and violently repressed by the greek state. Time has come for personal « adjustments » , as there is nothing else to imagine. Adjustment means preparing for emigration, to the countryside or abroad depending on the age, or changing the lifestyle : streets are emptying, shops, restaurants and cafés are massively closing, even in the very center where empty and trashed shops are already part of the landscape. One has to stay focused on the essential. And there it comes back to the yellow and red stickers, the first strange signal one sees coming to Athens. In a few months, these « for rent » or « for sale » stickers covered the walls, the empty shops, the bus stations and the pillars of the city, from the Acropolis to the remote small streets of calm middle class suburbs, not forgetting the lower class districts in between.
It is in the middle of this universe that I am collecting testimonials of people met by chance, telling me the « adjustments » in their own life, or true dramas unfolding or to come.
But the general situation has a monstrous aspect, where everything is accelerating in the last months, so fast that it is hard to believe it is real. A new kind of world is appearing and people, to go on living, have to do with that. The hope to be able to weigh anyhow on this evolution seem to have faded, maybe after the strange cancelation of the referendum, a few days after its announcement last November. But this event already seems so far away. Very recent surprises in polls are a sign, showing the decline of the old domination by the two ruling parties : the dynamics seem to change quickly.
But for now, the idea of a future is disappearing when the one of survival is coming. In the 30’s, the word « depression » was used. But it would be interesting to check if at that moment, the first ones to use this semantic were thinking of the economical or of the psychological aspect of the situation. Here, there is no doubt : it is the economical side for those already taken apart, and the psychological side for almost all the other.
Chronicles of a European Winter
December, 10th 2011, Athens