Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Syntagma: flow of ideas and of people (June 2011)

Sunday 26th of June 2011

On that evening - two days prior to the General strike to take place on Tuesday and Wednesday, June 27 and 28, 2011 - there were several things to be observed as to what was going on at Syntagma (Greek for 'Constitution') around that time, i.e. approx. 22.00



In today's English edition of Kathimerini of the International Herald Tribune, there can be found an article with the title:
"On Syntagma Square, some see the dawn of a new politics" 
(for the full story you can go to www.ekathimerini.com) When I was there on Sunday evening, I saw one man looking at a video clip of what is taking place in Egypt. They have started a kind of art festival in Cairo. It is repeated every month. The aim is to keep alife the spirit which brought about this amazing gathering of people all acting together to oust Mubarak. It included even people ready to do street cleaning. Likewise during the Sunday assembly, there were preparations under way for Tuesday and Wednesday when the General Strike shall take place. The last time the General Strike took place, a violent confrontation with the police erupted. To me it seemed back then trade unions and other official organisations wished to wrest back the influence this free movement of people on Syntagma Square has been having on the media. It does attract everyone who is interested in a bottom-up process. For it allows that all citizens give shape to the agenda and not only those at the top.

There is an urgent need for citizens to take matters into their hands. Hence one slogan was 'united we stand, divided we fall'. The future is there, if you are ready and willing to take matters into your own hands.

The last general strike did damage the non violent protest movement on Syntagma Square. The police overran the central part and even hit people in the tents.

Thus this time the resolution of the assembly on Sunday evening was to call for a removal of the tents out of safety reasons i.e. to make more space for the many people expected to come. During a careful reading of the article published today by Kathimerini, one can pick up the remark, that there is not one movement assembled but already the left and the right in the making. Accordingly the left is comprised of those people who sit down to attend in a most orderly fashion the daily assembly. The right is comprised of those who hurl words like 'thieves' at Parliament. They twist their their hands back and forth like spectators of a basketball game and who wish to put a bad spell on the one stepping up for a foul throw from hitting the basket. Often there is mixed into these rally cries ultra nationalist slogans. A common position seems to be 'we owe nothing, we pay nothing, we shall not give in to anything'. At the same time, it seems clear that the real problem is unknown since no one knows how to get out of such a huge debt. Since much has been written and said about both the situation Greece finds itself in and about this movement on Syntagma, it should be acknowledged that the people who meet at Syntagma circulate freely and allow even small business ventures to make money. Countless booths exist to sell if not corn, then drinks or even other types of food. This circulation of ideas and people conjoins with the need to understand the circulation of money needed to ensure goods and services. People have yet to understand how to oppose the exclusion mechanisms which begin to work immediately once you have 'no money'.

I would thus propose to the Syntagma group first of all to create an economic committee which does an open book keeping. For where all the money has gone to, that needs to be understood. Moreover, it would help if everyone remembers how they contributed in a small or larger way to the making of this financial crisis. For instance, the way prices have been going up ever since the Euro was introduced, that is a financial scam in which many participated by converting drachmen into Euro on a nearly one to one basis. To blame now the Euro for the inflation of prices is no way to explain why in Brussels airport a cappuccino is cheaper than in many cafes in Athens? Greece shows as well a kind of conspicuous consumption which does reflect corruption was made possible by a lot of money being spend freely and widely as long as it lasted.

It is possible to ask what happened to the good 'Greek' habit of paying everything in cash up front rather than purchase something on credit? Too much artificial money was created with the illusion of being able to pay it back one day. Now many are trapped with horrific loans burdening them. It is not only the state which is in debt. How many paid with dated cheques to delay real payments? There is the story about a daughter taking her father to the dentist after he had assured her that he has the money to pay. He was in much pain. A tooth ache is not pleasant. After the doctor had repaired his teeth, he expected payment. The father gave him a dated cheque. The dentist was astonished and said, look, I fixed your teeth now since you were very much in pain, so why delay your payment to me? However, the father insisted and finally the dentist gave in. He had no other choice.

Also the crisis is only beginning. At Benaki museum 40 people out of 260 employees shall be most likely fired while the rest has to take a salary cut of 20%. This is all the more surprising since till now it was considered to be one of the most successful museums. Once reality of the deficit kicks in, then people will have only few ways out. But certainly one good way for them is to keep up the flow of people and ideas. The aim should be to keep everyone connected. For once excluded from society, that is the worst what could happen to anyone.

In that sense what the people are doing on Syntagma is not merely keeping the democratic spirit alive, but they help improving upon the notion of democratic will being expressed by everyone having two minutes to speak, and this in front of 2000 listeners. And it is always better to talk about the problem rather than saying nothing can be done or to resort to acts of violence, in order to express 'rage'.

Once such a resoluteness can be expressed by many people, I am sure solutions can be found. The most crucial task will be to find a just solution for everyone! This requires clear communication and in future no tax evasion by anyone, in particular by the rich. But it will also have to mean the spending of the government has to be accountable not merely to privileged classes, but to all people.

What is most disturbing is that the rich and powerful have not been taken to task so far. This contradicts the democratic spirit. We know from Ancient Greece, progress in matter of democracy was only made, when those who were getting richer and more powerful were cut down in size before it was too late to challenge the powers they were acquiring.

So far the Greek government has not taken on this task. All the more interesting is to hear that Ragousis has made now the proposal that all those who have held public office since 1974 and managed to enrich themselves due to their contacts with public services, should pay a tax. That would be a step in the right direction and should be taken up. Touched by the spirit of Syntagma, I would recommend to re-examine the constitution since the compromise made in 1974 after the fall of the Junta was not enough to ensure progress in the direction of social justice. Hence the movement of the people should give everything to ensure a new social contract is in the making. Such a social contract is needed so that public opinion and reason have a definite role to play in future Greek politics.

Hatto Fischer

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