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Friday, 17 June 2011


I went into town yesterday to do errands and offer Lin and our friend Liz some perfunctory help - scrubbing out the space behind the washer - as they painted our vacant flat on the top floor of a tower block off Cambridge Street. I picked up rail tickets bought on-line from a self-service ticket machine in New Street Station - busy as ever amid major rebuilding - then wandered up to the Council House past a fine array of food stalls. I nibbled cheese samples, bought a garlic sausage, treated myself to a rare beefburger and cycled home along the Birmingham Mainline Canal turning onto the Soho Loop where I popped the camera on the ground to catch myself cycling my favourite route between Handsworth and the city centre.
In the post this morning - Téa Obreht's The Tiger's Wife - earlier than I expected. I'm taking my time with Ivo Andrić's long short stories ending with The Damned Yard. This man writes so cleverly; his translators so talented they make genius look easy.
I wander amid narratives, trying to focus. There are big pictures and macros - events as seen by an individual, especially a child; Tolstoy's Malasha, a six-year old perched on the chimney stove shyly watching a Council of War at Fili about whether or not to abandon Moscow to Napoleon, seeing dear dedushka Kutuzov  - left in the picture back from the table - and 'long-cloak' Benningsen, facing him, and other grown-ups arguing about things she doesn't understand, but knowing who she prefers.
Malasha watches the grown-ups
There are so many experts; so many wise analyses; such a range of optimists and pessimists. Some are optimistic things will get better; some that they will get worse. All are presuming the meaning of 'better' or 'worse' and what's included in 'things'. Sometimes I breath a sigh of relief when listening to description. But then I want prescription. There are plenty of differences and debates among describers and prescribers, as many around the table of finance ministers in Brussels as in our kitchen or at Fili; exchanges on twitter and facebook and the op-eds of the world's newspapers, newsak and current affairs broadcasts; such a cacophonous spectrum of voices and images. The last thing many want to or are allowed admit is that they don't understand even though incomprehension can be a quite reasonable, a corollary being the range of feelings involved. No invented character conveys sentient wisdom better than Tolstoy; his paeon to the real General Kutuzov, often regarded as an old fool, who understands, that there is something more powerful and more significant than his will - the unavoidable course of events. He sees them, and understands their significance. Much of the time he waits in silence. Description of events in Greece in any place and any level at least offers so many opportunities to break silence, but I wonder who if any present leader comes closest to Tolstoy's idea of one.
Any historian relying on primary sources knows that what later becomes history, unfolds from day to day and minute to minute in just this way. Poring through the records of a momentous time will restore something of their original messiness. Experts sounding confident are seen to have made absurd predictions while lost in someones private musings may be found some of the most prescient understanding.
As George Papandreou's  shuffled Cabinet is sworn in amid rancourous crowds in great Athens in beloved Greece I find a documentary challenging the dominant narrative without turning old red. Χρεοκρατία, Debtocracy, is 74 minutes long, made by Katerina Kitidi and Aris Hatzistefanou, explaining the causes of the debt crisis in Greece and suggesting solutions not on the agenda of the Hellenic government. The film's been distributed on-line under a Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0 license since 6 April 2011. Kitidi and Hatzistefanou funded the film through crowd-sourcing.

Debtocracy International Version by BitsnBytes
Kitidia and Hatzistefanou: ....It’s clear that Greece cannot repay its debt – whether legally or not, regardless of the interest rate. $350 doesn’t just grow on trees (and ironically, the market was the first to reach that conclusion). The government keeps on saying they will find the money, but the market is not stupid. The bailout plan designed by the European Union and the IMF was not about rescuing Greece – it was about saving the German and French banks which would collapse if Greece went bankrupt.
Kitidi & Hatzistefanou
So our point of view is that we should not expect anything from them. It will be too late if we wait for them to take the necessary measures. We need to find the solutions ourselves and create initiatives.  Considering that, first we have to carry out the debt audit in order to distinguish what is legal or illegal. There are indications that a huge amount of our sovereign debt is pernicious or illegal. But only an audit commission could determine and prove this. This is why we completely support this proposal. However, it should be driven democratically and transparently, and not by parliamentarians. We are more radical than others advancing this proposal, because we think we should stop paying the debt, exit the eurozone, and nationalize the banking system. That is not something easy to get support for as it may seem too radical – but even some politicians and economists from the center are beginning to consider it.
And see Democracy vs Mythology: The battle in Syntagma Square. A eloquent diatribe from someone who left Greece in 1991 and returned in 2006, close to the time we came to have a home in Ano Korakiana, in 2007:
...I do not wish to excuse my compatriots of all blame. We did plenty wrong. I left Greece in 1991 and did not return until 2006. For the first few months I looked around and saw an entirely different country to the one I had left behind. Every billboard, every bus shelter, every magazine page advertised low interest loans. It was a free money give-away. Do you have a loan that you cannot manage? Come and get an even bigger loan from us and we will give you a free lap-dance as a bonus. And the names underwriting those advertisements were not unfamiliar: HSBC, Citibank, Credit Agricole, Eurobank, etc. Regretfully, it must be admitted that we took this bait “hook, line and sinker”. ...That irresponsibility, however, was only a very small part of the problem....

1 comment:

  1. you have an interesting take on things simon, that last long paragraph was great, these giants need to take some responsibility but us as humans can learn to say no


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Simon Baddeley