If you use taxis in Athens, it is impossible not to get at least one taxi driver who will strike a conversation with you that will lead to the standard phrase, “What this country needs is a Papadopoulos.”
Papadopoulos is the most common Greek surname; it is also the last name of dictator Georgios Papadopoulos, a Greek Army colonel who, on April 21, 1967, along with a few others staged a coup d’ etat and took over Greece for seven long years. A dictator who envisioned a proud homeland where the values of God, Family and Country were the absolute truth.
The fact that the junta stole away Greek people’s liberties and tortured many citizens who opposed the regime was not exactly a Christian thing to do, but what dictator practiced what he preached? As a matter of fact, how many politicians practice what they preach?
But let’s go back to the colorful characters, the Greek taxi drivers who know everything, and most of all, know what Greece needs to get out of the economic and social chaos.
Greek taxi drivers will tell you that the economy was great during the junta and there were no poor. They will argue that there was law and order in the streets, no hooliganism, no vandalism, no protest rallies every day that block the streets and don’t let people get to their workplace (and lose fares themselves).
In essence, what these people say is that Greeks are disobedient, intractable people who can only be tamed by the whip. “Greeks learn by the whip only,” you will hear some taxi drivers say. Many of them were not even a glimmer in their father’s eye during the 1967-1974 junta period. Yet, they will tell you that Greece prospered only under the Papadopoulos dictatorship.
When you hear a taxi driver say things like that and praise the junta, you want to tell them how wrong they are. How Greece missed out on social movements like the French May of ’68, the swinging sixties, Woodstock, the anti-Vietnam war demonstrations in the U.S., the music, the movies and all the things of the restless, fabulous late 60s.
But then you tell yourself, “let him babble, he’s funny, he needs to decompress from the long hours behind the wheel.” After all, you need to be reminded of bad things so you do your part to not allow them to be repeated.