The outcry is deafening, even if it’s only the eyes doing the screaming. Stoic eyes, angry eyes, fearful eyes, defiant eyes. You see them everywhere. You see them in the endless queues in front of the ATMs, where people, patiently and anxiously at the same time, are waiting to withdraw those few precious banknotes that will ensure basic survival for themselves and their loved ones for one more day. You see them in the supermarkets, where those precious banknotes are exchanged, often with slightly trembling hands, for groceries, maybe even at a gas station that still has some fuel to offer, cash only of course, filling up their cars.
And this is about it. Then you see them no more. Empty streets and silence. Only that haunting whisper remains: What is to become of us?
Summer of 2015. Welcome to Greece, the perfect holiday resort. Great weather, beautiful beaches, glorious mountains. But where did all the Greeks go? To the pits of Hell.
Ever since last Sunday, the storm clouds that had been gathering for so long now, finally broke out into one perfect storm. Financial lockdown. The final strangulation of an entire nation that is being brought to its knees.
I will not concern myself here with the reasons for all of this, the debate would be endless and pointless. Sure, pointing the finger is easy, but do you really believe that you know the entire truth, when you feel compelled to put the blame on someone?
I can only describe what I see, and try very hard not to lose heart.
Old people, old, frail and often sick people are being driven like cattle under close police watch into a few selected bank branches to collect all in all 120 Euros from their pensions or savings for the entire week, just because they don’t possess an ATM card out of fear or mistrust for the use of ATMs. In some cases their pensions have not even been paid yet into their accounts and they return home empty-handed. The rest of us are allowed to withdraw 60 Euros per day, oops, I’m sorry, I meant 50 Euros, as 20 Euro bills have already become a rare sight in most ATMs. If, of course, we have any savings left, if our employer has been able to pay us our salary, if we even have a job.
Money transfers to and from other countries have ceased completely, leaving thousands of Greeks, students, travellers, patients undergoing treatment in foreign hospitals stranded abroad without any access to cash or even the use of credit and debit cards issued by Greek banks. Those in Greece who are totally dependent on money transfers from relatives living and working abroad or foreign pension funds are also left to fend for themselves, as Greek banks don’t have enough cash reserves to satisfy demand, even with those tight withdrawal limits. According to various statements off the record, cash flow from the ATMs will most probably stop by Monday, sending even more shockwaves to the system. Money is just being recycled within the borders of our country, creating a false sense of normality, while banks announced on Thursday that they will be now accepting cash deposits for tax payments and the like only! Sure, we all are supposed to be hiding billions of cash under our mattresses, our personal “Stroma Bank” which Greeks are bitterly joking about, “stroma” being the Greek word for mattress.
Commercial and financial activity has broken down to a total deadlock. Greater and smaller business are unable to keep up their work cycles without access to their bank accounts and with their materials running out fast, employees are asked to stay at home without any pay, suppliers cannot be paid anymore, imports and exports have stopped and it is only a matter of days before shortages in food and other commodities starts getting more noticeable with subsequent price increases. Pharmacies have already begun rationing pharmaceutical drugs, life-saving treatments are being broken off, the national healthcare system that has been crumbling for so long, is now collapsing. Remote regions of the country are facing serious fuel shortage as gas stations just cannot refill their tanks. A supplementary economy such as that of Greece cannot survive in a globalized environment without the necessary imports for almost every aspect of everyday life, as the productive basis of the country was destroyed decades ago, and even food production, in an otherwise blessed-with-an-almost-perfect-climate-and-rich-soil-to-grow-literally-anything country cannot cover the needs of the entire population. Hellas, the country of eternal light, is in immediate danger of going hungry on a large scale.
And today, on July 5th, we are being asked to choose. The referendum is underway, and millions of seriously traumatised and disturbed people are asked to act rationally, to demonstrate sound judgment, when all the while a divisive wedge has been driven deeply into the very core of an innately peaceful nation. For five years now, the Greeks have been collectively bashed, ridiculed, insulted, humiliated. This has resulted in mutual feelings of being exploited and threatened with the rest of Europe. We are being perceived as crooks and blackmailers, they are being perceived as cold-blooded assassins. No common ground anymore. In certain parts of Greek society the initial sense of despair and indignation has mutated into an all-devouring rage and the tormented ones are about to turn into tormentors. All this has been witnessed again before, with devastating results, when another nation, another people, to whom I am also deeply connected by blood, was pushed over the edge, bringing forth from its ranks a dictator that drenched the entire world in blood. Size and military strength don’t always play such a crucial role, sometimes all it takes is just a tiny spark.
In times such as these, when everyone feels darkness and madness prevailing, I am greatly blessed to be engulfed in my very own ray of hope.
Leon, light of my life, song of my soul, you are the one reason that I do not falter, that I keep on fighting, that I keep on believing. The warm embrace of your arms, the tender touch of your lips, the loving blaze in your eyes, those very same eyes that so powerfully compelled me to call you my Brighteyes when our young hearts connected for the first time, the whole of you sustains me, warms me, empowers me. We have been through so much together, side by side we have fought and won uncountable wars and still the sensation of my hand inside yours thrills me like the very first time. So many times they tried to break us up. They failed. So many times the world came tumbling down on us. We managed to go on. With you on my side, I know that we will also weather this storm out. We will prevail. In this lifetime or the next. You have my love, purely, absolutely. Always and forever.
Plutonia of SolitaryThinkers, July 2015