Greece is on the brink of financial collapse. Whether the country remains inside the euro or exits the common currency life is becoming increasingly tough under stringent austerity measures. Whilst protesters rally in the Greek capital of Athens it is an error to presume that Athens is representative of the nation as a whole. Digital Journal wanted to find out what local people here in the Southern Peloponnese thought of the current economic situation.
In a small rural area where everyone has olive trees and men tend to socialise with each other in the local tavernas and kafenions, I interviewed three Greek men in a seafront kafenion as the sun went down, as they enjoyed a sociable carafe of wine after a hard days work. Two are self employed and one retired. They each have strong opinions and despite the mess retain their humour.
Greek men live and breath politics and the financial crisis has crossed party political lines and obliterated life time loyalties to political parties. Despite their different political views they all agreed that staying in the euro is a must. They also all agreed that Prime Minister George Papapandreou must go.Equally their contempt for the German leadership was palatable.
Σταβρος, a lifelong supporter of PASOK, said he would never vote for them again. He voiced the opinion that Papandreou was full of giant bullshit. Τακις was the most vocal in his opinions. He said it would have been better if Greece had never joined the euro but now that we are in we have to stay. Τακις is a supporter of New Democracy but was fair enough to say that whoever had been in charge the outcome would have been the same and they would have been confronted with the current crisis. Both men were vehement in the opinion that the politicians had lied to the people.
I asked Τακις how much the current austerity measures are affecting his everyday life and he said not too much, but he was worried about his children and grandchildren, a sentiment echoed by Σταβρος. At this point Τασος joined us and asked about the economy said "We are all swimming in the sea." He described Papandreou as useless trash who should leave the government. We all raised a glass to toast the speedy exit of Papapandreou.
The consensus was the politicians led the Greek people into this mess but better to stick with it than to leave the euro. They were unanimous in their contempt for German Chancellor Angela Merkel though. ΣταΒρος who is retired has bitter memories of the German occupation of this area during World War 11. He told me that during the war "the Germans raped us with their weapons and now they rape us without weapons."
All three men still hold bitter grudges for the murder of Greek citizens in the Peloponnese and the failure of the Germans to repay the $70 million in war reparations. "They stole our gold and murdered women and children" Σταβρος said.The comments about Chancellor Merkel were nothing less than derogatory as the jokes flowed. They said if Italian leader Berscollini saw Merkel naked he would run away, but Papandreou would sleep with her if she paid him enough. Τσσος said she’d never get any man. The inevitable comment was Πολυ μαλακας which does not translate very politely.
Although this area acts as a welcoming host to German holidaymakers the tide of sentiment is changing, influenced by the insults heaped upon the Greek people by the German press. Τακις told me he used to drive a Japanese Nissan but when he changed cars he purchased a German Mercedes. He says he wouldn’t have bought a German car if he’d known how things would turn out.
Next I caught up with local businessman Στρατις and asked him for his opinion on the economy. He actually expressed some support for Papandreou saying “he had done a good job in the circumstances” effectively “steering the economy between two ice-burgs.” He firmly believes that the important thing is that Greece stays in the euro and by doing so we help to prevent Europe and America from descending into further financial crisis.
Put to the vote they would each give a unanimous yes to staying in the euro, affirming that Papandreou would have received a positive response in a referendum. However they each agreed that Papandreou is a total μαλακος and has to go.