Thursday, 13 May 2010

Athens Portraits: Conspiracy Theorists

As he drives his cab through the city streets, Mitsos will tell you who’s behind the crisis Greece is struggling to come to terms with. It’s THEM.

His friend, Kostas, agrees as he puffs furiously on his cigarette (so much more expensive since recent tax hikes). It’s “the others”, he says, that want to bring a proud people to their knees.

A gaggle of students in brand-name trainers and jeans shout in agreement, and a worried looking housewife nods grimly as she tries to work out if anything will be left of her shrinking civil service salary after the bills are paid.

As for Yiayia (Grandma), she blames the Turks – and the Germans.

You hear it everywhere: in cafeterias, on trains, droning out of radios perched on workshop shelves, buzzing through Greek cyber-space: “They’re out to get us!”

Greeks love a good conspiracy theory. Perhaps it’s only natural for a nation with resistance running through its veins, after 400 years of Ottoman Rule and - more recently - a military dictatorship that squashed resistance with a heavy fist. But since Greece has started being portrayed in international headlines as the wild child of Europe, recklessly spending money it doesn’t have then asking others to bail it out, the conspiracy mill has gone into overdrive.

Though many Greeks accept that the root of the problem lies within, there are plenty who condemn outside forces who want to bring their proud nation down. Maybe it’s Wall Street trying to undermine the Euro? Or Corporate America determined to bash people into more obedient consumerism? Or perhaps Greece is the first stage in the imposition of a New World Order?

Greeks hate being told what to do, so the conditions that come with the EU/IMF rescue package are an anathema to them. They deeply resent being under someone else’s supervision.

Perhaps the biggest conspiracy is the one no-one is talking about. The conspiracy of silence that turned a blind eye to the abuses of the system while society fed on the fruits of capitalism, wearing American sports shoes, driving German cars, and cooled by Japanese air conditioning units.

But Mitsos will certainly tell you: “Den ftaio ego” (“It’s not my fault”).

1 comment:

  1. What an elegant summary of the situation. Am no expert on Greece but last time I island hopped can remember thinking that there was a great deal of pride shown about the past. Perhaps time for a bit more attention to be paid to the present & the future?