Report #4 from Athens
Today I had the longest conversation I've had so far with a Greek - an 18 year-old bartender at my hotel. At least he claimed to be 18. I told him he looked 16 and then asked him to guess my age. He said 14. He told me I looked young, with a broad smile on his face. I remarked that half of all Greeks his age can't find a job. He replied, "things are getting hard for us." I told him that I didn't notice any anxiety among the Greeks I've seen, and he replied "Greeks only care about themselves," as though that answered the question. It is true that there is a pronounced strain of individualism in Greece. There never was a sizable factory proletariat like those of other European countries. Many Greeks own or work in small family businesses. Recently that's kept a good number of people going who have lost their jobs. Still, like individualistic Americans, the Greeks are capable of great acts of collective heroism. The Greek Resistance fought the Germans to a standstill during World War II, only to be betrayed by the British who installed the fascist military junta. Years later, courageous students acting collectively, some the age of the bartender, succeeded in overthrowing the junta. But I understand his cynicism. Today is the day he was betrayed by his "radical left" government.
I asked him what he thought about the 50 billion euros the government has pledged to pay to the creditors by privatizing state property. He replied "That money isn't going to me, it's going to the banks." I asked him if he was disappointed in Syriza. He said "of course!" Then he said, "Right now we are doing OK because of the tourists. But come back in five months. People will be starving."
That is the worst thing about Tsipris' betrayal. Syriza gave the young people of Greece some hope for a better future. Now they feel hopeless again.
Longtime Open Media Boston contributor Gary Zabel is a professor of philosophy at UMass Boston - and most recently, the director of the division of political economy of the new online international graduate college The Global Center for Advanced Studies. He is visiting Greece for the college's founding conference, Democracy Rising, and will be sending a series of reports about his trip in his role as Our Man in Athens.