Time is running out for Greece.
Or perhaps it has run out already. Capital controls – measures to keep money in the financial system – have been imposed. As of today the banks are shut – and who knows for how long. We’ve been told we can only take out 60 euros per person per day. That is, if your local ATM still has any to distribute. People have been queuing up for hours, and tempers are running short. When interviewed by journalists, some are defiant, some are worried, some admit to being scared. Some blame the government, some blame ‘Europe’, most both. It’s clear that the whole affair has been grossly mismanaged on all sides. And everyone’s exhausted – by years of austerity, and uncertainty, and general misery.
As was to be expected, there are various conspiracy theories making the rounds. Some say Mr. Tsipras and his government are executing a scheme to lead Greece to a Chavez-style situation (possible??) others that ‘Europe has never wanted us and planned to get us out’ (hardly likely).
SO: what happens next? On a daily basis, we might need to preserve petrol – no driving to the beach – and, of course, no retail therapy possible. The supermarkets are full of people who have been stocking up on the basics. Does this feel a bit like being in a war zone? Well, at least no bombs are raining on our heads yet – it still beats being in Syria, by a long shot. But… we are supposed to be in Europe, right? That’s what we’ve always voted for – safety, progress, civilization. But no, just as the rest of Europe is coming out of the crisis (we thought we also were – slowly – doing that, only a short while ago) we’re heading for years of poverty. One way or the other.
Having dismally failed in his negotiations, and being unable to fulfill the promises he made to voters, it seems to me the PM is now hedging his bets. He can’t deliver, so he’s declared a referendum: he’s asking the Greek people to choose – but it’s no choice really. The question put to us is a non-question: Do you accept the measures imposed on Greece by its creditors? – YES or NO.
Do we accept more austerity, or else – what? The alternative is not made clear by Mr. Tsipras or anyone else. No one knows what the repercussions will be. So, damned if you will, and damned if you won’t. If the people vote for the measures, the PM can sit back (figuratively speaking) and say, what are you complaining about, you asked me to sign the deal. If they vote against, he can say, well, you knew we have no money, you didn’t want me to sign, Europe’s not paying any more. Way to go, Mr. Tsipras!
Meanwhile, we have to decide – by Sunday – what to vote for. We have been told we are to vote ‘proudly’ for our children’s future. In fact we need to decide (proudly) whether we prefer to be waterboarded or flogged. Yes to the measures? Greece is on its knees already… Out of the Euro? Maybe it’s a solution, but do we trust the government to do the right thing? (Set up a new currency, stop corruption and tax evasion, boost productivity, etc.) Trust has been eroded already. This, and previous, governments, have gambled Greece’s future away.
However, the great idea of European unity and solidarity has also taken a big hit. A Grexit will be bad for everyone. We are not to be saved but we are not to be allowed to determine our fate as an independent country, either. What’s more, the proposal on the table is to be withdrawn before the results of the referendum. So we might be voting for nothing…
Everyone’s still playing chicken – but nobody’s blinking. Yet. Our finance minister, Mr. Varoufakis, still insists that we will stay in the euro. He does not quite explain how. Perhaps one needs to understand Game Theory, at which he is an expert (he does have his own blog, http://yanisvaroufakis.eu, which one can peruse in search of clues). Are we going towards a (very) bad deal – what can be described as EXTEND AND PRETEND – or uncontrollable disaster? That seems to be the choice.
Meanwhile, instead of exclusively working towards a solution, our politicians are wasting time assigning blame to each other and quarreling, as is their habit, mostly over ridiculous issues that no one cares about. What to do? Go off to a café, for a bitter cup of consolation (καφές της παρηγοριάς / kafés tis parigorias)? Greeks are by nature optimistic. They always hope for the best and rely on the Virgin Mary to lend a hand when all else fails. They are survivors, as proven by the fact this ancient land still exists. Let’s see what happens. Watch this space.
On afterthought, I’m interested: what do you think will happen?