Τρίτη, 4 Ιουνίου 2013

This was not accepted for publication on mainstream media: democracy deficit in Greece



Conscription and Suicide in the Land of European Citizens

2013 has been dubbed the "European Year of Citizens". But can a European Citizen turn his head the other way, when the government of an EU member-state is enforcing civil mobilisation orders against teachers merely because they considered going on strike? With unemployment and suicide rates on the rise, Greeks have yet another woe to tackle: the deployment of totalitarian tactics. Here’s a look at the situation today.

Suicide in the cradle of democracy

Suicide memorial photo, April 2012, Syntagma Square (Athens): the bottom poster reads “THE LAMB THEY’RE ROASTING THIS EASTER IS US! WAKE UP! DON’T BE A SHEEP!”
On the morning of 4 April 2012 a shot rings out in the Athens sky: Dimitris Christoulas, a 77-year-old pensioner, put an end to his life with a bullet to his head in the middle of Syntagma (“Constitution”) Square. The note he left compared the then Lucas Papadimos government to the “Tsolakoglou” government that collaborated with the Germans in occupation of Greece during WWII. The suicide was the only such tragic death to make headlines in Greece and all over the world, merely because it occurred in such a central location in broad daylight: many more preceded and followed. Carefully concealed by the government and their media puppets, the suicide rate has risen threefold since 23 April 2010, when the then Prime Minister Georgios Papandreou made a public address to the people of Greece from the isolated island of Kastelorizo in the Aegean Sea. Three years later, the “support mechanism” and its string of memoranda has pulled the citizens of Greece into dark despair. Many have cracked under the pressure to their dignity: no longer capable of supporting themselves and their families, numerous Greeks have performed the modern-day “Zaloggos dance”, reminding us of the incident in the Greek Revolution when the women of Zaloggo preferred to fall from the cliff rather than become the subjects of Turkish occupation. 


The statistics and the politicians

Pensioners, journalists, mothers, fathers, workers, businessmen, University professors… the list is endless.  People who left notes behind to their loved ones and took their own lives, people who could no longer withstand the humiliation and torment to which their own state had led them.

Partial screenshot of suicide list compiled by tweeter @VaskoDeGamata
But what about the politicians’ reaction to such tragic statistics? Needless to say, Greek politicians from left to right deemed it their duty to express remorse at Christoulas’s tragic death. With no haste, they put on their sad faces, grabbed the microphones and spoke meaningless nonsense: none of their words or supposed actions has managed to curtail the constantly rising suicide rate.
“Tweetshot” of Adonis Georgiadis’s callous tweet
Some went even further: Adonis Georgiadis’s 
(MP with the “New Democracy” party) sarcastic remark on Twitter is a characteristic example. The “prolific” tweeter – many wonder if he actually does anything else other than tweet and appear on TV and radio shows – tweeted about suicide on 28 July 2012. In reply to a tweet by @tvxs (“TV Without Frontiers”, a news portal run by reporter Stelios Kouloglou) that reported a new suicide in Israel accounted to the financial crisis, @AdonisGeorgiadi wrote: “A suicide due to the crisis without a Memorandum? But I thought life without a Memorandum was heavenly…” The tweet was received with resent by the Greek people who have been led to despair and even starvation from the ruthless austerity measures attached to the three Memoranda of Understanding that have been signed between the Troika and the Greek government to this date. But then again, civilians have grown accustomed to the state of fear the coalition government of New Democracy, PASOK and Democratic Left is trying to impose on the Greek people, unfortunately with ever-growing success. 


Civil mobilisation order for a hopeless future

How ironic, that the totalitarian predictions of Christoulas would surface one by one less than a year after his death; how ironic also that his death place is also the headquarters of those imposing anti-constitutional measures one by one, in the Greek Parliament building on… Constitution Square. 

The last straw was the civil mobilisation order issued by virtue of a Prime Minister decision and  followed-up by a decision of the Minister of Education and Religious Affairs, Culture and Sport on Saturday 11th May.

Secondary Education teachers throughout the country are being threatened with relocation or even suspension if they fail to cover the newly-augmented working hours prescribed in a law bill that was recently passed. Practically, this means that on top of the drastic cutbacks to their wages over the past three years - averaging at around 40% of their annual income – teachers now face the possibility of having their lives and families torn apart either from being fired or relocated to anywhere in Greece.

In view of the grim prospect, union meetings were held all over the country and the consensus was to go on strike starting the first day of the National University Entry Exams. The government’s reaction? Starting Monday 13th May all secondary education teachers – some 88,000 – are being served a civil mobilisation order by their local police forces. The media did its part in shaping the public’s negative sentiments by interviewing stressed students and distressed parents, whose “dreams of a University education were being held hostage by the insensitive and selfish” teachers. Not a word was uttered of the reality the teachers are experiencing, or of the fact that a University education is far from a passport to a promising future in the country of soaring unemployment.

The government’s decision was without precedent in all the history of Greece: never before had conscription been ordered before a strike had even started. Imagine the humiliation experienced by teachers who were summoned to sign and accept the paper, without having done anything wrong. Many Greek teachers’ service is kilometers away from their hometown; imagine the agony of unaware parents when the doorbell rings and a policeman appears to inform them that their son/daughter has been conscripted. Anti-constitutional? You bet… but the government found a way around this “hitch”. With the help of the media of course, they elevated the Exams to an issue of vital national importance; according to Article 23 of the Constitution The right to strike shall be subject to the specific limitations of the law regulating this right in the case of public servants and employees of local government agencies… the operation of which is of vital importance in serving the basic needs of the society as a whole.”


The conscription order (all names have been blacked out for obvious reasons)



Conscription notes are currently being served to all secondary education teachers in the country. The civil mobilisation order reads:”… starting 12 noon on Wednesday 15 May 2013 [personal details of recipient] is hereby conscripted to offer his/her personal services as a secondary education teacher at his/her place of employment, in accordance with the working hours pertaining to his/her appointed duties.  Refusal to accept or omission to fulfil the said obligations shall be punished with at least three (3) months imprisonment.

Afterword

The Orwellian tactics being employed by the Greek government are no less than penalising the act of THINKING.  If you think such insensitive, arrogant and totalitarian practices are far from your own sphere of life, think again: it’s happening right now in the cradle of democracy. Coming soon to a “democracy” near you.


Extra reading:
A letter in support of the strike depicts the truth that Greek citizens are experiencing and has circulated widely on social media networks. It was written by a student from a working-class neighbourhood, who posted his school report with excellent grades to prove that he was not looking for an excuse to “slack”. Read the shocking truth about the crisis here (use automatic tools for a rough translation; I would be happy to provide an “on-demand” translation if requested)

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