Greece – pale reflections of the financial crisis

Left bin says: “Ballot box”                            Right bin says: “Place your vote here”

On return from our recent holiday in Greece my mother-in-law asked my wife whether we had seen many food queues. My wife had to admit that we hadn’t seen any at all, nor any other outward signs of the financial crisis so vividly illustrated in our media.

Maybe this was because we were in Messinia in the south-west Peloponnese, just south of Kalamata and well away from the hot bed of radical ideas in the capital. Messinia, like much of mainland Greece, is solid New Democracy territory and also happens to be represented in Parliament by the Prime Minister and head of New Democracy, Antonis Samaras. He has been its MP since 1977.

As a visitor to the region it’s hard to get an accurate picture of what life is like below its placid outward appearance, particularly as most of our interactions with the local people were transactional. We noticed that one or two shops and tavernas in the town we stay in had closed and there were certainly fewer visitors that on previous occasions. But people were still incredibly warm and friendly.

The Greek newspapers continued to report on negotiations between the Greek government and the EU, IMF and ECB after the lull of the summer break. There was a lot of coverage of a walkabout that Samaras did in the Plaka district of Athens, meeting the local people and shop and making pledges to clean up the area, now a notorious hangout for drug addicts. A lot of football reporting. Little about the Paralympics.

The only poster I saw left over from he general elections was the following, on the door of a fish shop which had closed down:

“Either us or them – together we can overthrow them. SYRIZA”

I like the low tech style of the poster the woman is holding up, as if to contrast with the slick campaigns of the two main parties, New Democracy and PASOK.

There was the occasional spray painted “Golden Dawn” (the fascist party) on the back of signposts, but I was surprised not to come across evidence of more extreme political views in graffiti. One exception was the following – two leftwing signs spray-painted on a silo:

“Let the Government and the Troika leave now – International Workers of the Left”

and on the other side of silo, this more radical proposal:

“Poverty wants revolution”

Perhaps more reflective of the general attitude in Greece towards politics and politicians were the two rubbish bins I noticed (see picture at the head of this post) in a small car park at the top of the Lousios Gorge in Arcadia, with their despairing comment on the value of voting in the election.