Friday, 4 September 2009

Snarling shouty people

The volume levels in Greece are rising - and they're not going to get any quieter for at least a month.

As announced by the PM this week, there'll be a General Election here on 4 October. And that means that our TV screens will be EVEN MORE dominated by politicos and pundits - all competing fiercely for a share of the voting public's consciousness.

Let the shouting begin.

Greeks are generally not known for their low-key nature. They're a demonstrative lot, given to fast and furious speech littered with expansive hand gestures. When I first arrived 20 years ago, I found them a little intimidating. It probably didn’t help that I got off the plane to find myself in the midst of a strike - all around me people were waving their arms and shouting.

I quickly learned that passions run high here. Voices are raised, moustaches quiver, faces turn red. Any minute, you expect to see daggers drawn and blood spilt. But then, they roar with laughter and embrace like brothers. It was a powerful incentive to learn Greek. Once I started to understand the Greek language and character I realised that they’re not at each others’ throats – well, at least, not all the time.

But the standard hub-bub of Greek life reaches a pandemonic fever pitch when politics is under discussion - so you can imagine the volume levels in the run-up to an election.

Campaign vans tour the streets of quiet neighbourhoods at all hours shattering the peace with strident calls to the polls, letter boxes are crammed with tons of election literature destined to never be read, every day brings a new party rallies to disrupt downtown traffic, office gossip switches from the trials of Toula to the flaws and failings of the would-be leaders of the country, and the TV simply becomes unwatchable.

Wall-to-wall coverage of the various parties' campaign trails, cheek-by-jowl with the inevitable innane Party Political Broadcasts (covering the full range from Seemingly Sensible to the Daft & Deluded), are just part of the telly-menu as we approach Election Sunday.

And perhaps worse from my point of view, a feature peculiar to Greek news shows goes into hyperactive overdrive. I'm talking about the so-called "windows" in which up to six guests are shown in little boxes on the screen to debate an issue of the day - a debate which consists of everyone yelling at once in a bid to convert the hapless electorate to their point of view. We, the viewers, are supposed to come away more informed and aware, but the philosophy seems to be "He who yells, wins".

I should be used to it by now, but I'm not. I grew up in a country where it's considered "bad form" to discuss politics, a nation which seems to have raised political indifference to an art form in recent years.

In some ways, I admire the Greek passion for politics - I just wish we could bypass the snarling shouty people...

1 comment:

  1. I can not STAND those idiot windows with six people all talking (and yelling) over each other, making it completely impossible for someone who is not super-proficient in the language to have a clue as to what the point might possibly be!

    I presume they are all politicians and eventually nothing will change very much after the elections. Meanwhile I am reading a lot more books!