For around three decades Greeks got to live the European dream, which combines high living standards with high standards of social welfare. But it seems that this dream is expensive and it’s helping to bankrupt governments, with Greece’s government being the first to go down. In order to keep the dream, Greeks are asked to make endless sacrifices. They got their wages and pensions butchered, excessive taxes levied on them, even cuts in heating and food. But it looks like it’s a lose-lose situation. Just like Pheidippides, Greeks do all the work, but in the end, instead of enjoying the results of their efforts, they collapse out of exhaustion.
Legend has it that when the ancient Athenians crushed the Persians in Marathon in 490 BC, a messenger named Pheidippides ran over 25 miles of bumpy grasslands to announce the victory in Athens. In the end he managed to arrive in Athens and deliver the good news.
“We have won!” he screamed. But then, five minutes later, exhausted, he dropped dead.
Contemporary Greeks fear a similar fate. It’s not because they haven’t held up their end of the bargain, enduring a punishing course of austerity measures to fix the country’s disastrous economy. It’s because the austerity measures haven’t worked. The Greek people are exhausted, depressed, and feel that Europe is being mismanaged, and even if Greece does everything right, it doesn’t mean it’s not going to drop dead just like Pheidippides.
And as they watch politicians and economists lurch from one emergency summit to another, like another Pheidippides who has lost his way, Greeks are answering by taking to the streets with anti-austerity marches almost every day and splashes of graffiti reading “Help,” “No more pain” and ” Stop “saving” us!” on walls across the country.
No light at the end of the tunnel
The mood in Athens has shifted from anger at the vicious budget cuts to terror and anxiety: When will there be good news? Will there ever be light at the end of the tunnel?
For the past two years the “policies” implemented by the IMF and the EU “technocrats” are basically boiling down to changing tax policies every five minutes, panicking everyone, alternating recommendations, and in the end, ditching previous demands to replace them with something even more barbaric.
Even now, the government shamelessly argues that the measures are needed to restore economic stability and pave the way for Greece’s recovery. It is the same pseudo-socialists, along with the Conservatives, who for years and years spent and spent, but now just cut everything — and the workers are the ones who take the burden.
But even with all these brutal measures the facts in Greece are clear: Greeks did achieve a primary budget, but the impact of these measures and the requirement to pay off their creditors are overwhelming, and literally strangle any prospect of economic growth.
(Sources: LA Times, the Times)