On January 1, 2016, 1% of the world’s population will own 50% of the world’s wealth, according to Oxfam.
On January 26, 2015 Alexis Tsipras will be in the process of forming a new anti-austerity government in Greece. Some believe this will be a new beginning not only for Greece, but for the world–if others follow the Greeks in resisting the domination of their economies by the international monetary interests that represent the 1%.
The bondholders and the international press tend to portray the Greek economic crisis as a morality play in which foolish Greeks borrowed too much and must suffer the consequences to pay back their loans. If Greece were a lazy teenager appearing on Judge Judy, tough love might be the answer.
But this simplistic equation cannot be made to work for a country of 10 million people, only some of whom colluded in taking out loans they could not pay back. Greece is suffering nearly 30% unemployment, close to 50% among young people. Public sector salaries and pensions on which old people rely have been slashed, small businesses are failing, and young people with education are leaving the country to find employment.
The program of enforced austerity has caused human suffering, but it has not paid off a single penny of the Greek debt. The money offered to the country by the International Monetary Fund has been used to pay the interest on the loans. Many of those who hold the bonds for the national debt are self-described “vulture capitalists.”
The 1% who made loans to successive Greek governments are not friendly neighborhood bankers. Rather they are high stakes gamblers for whom the paper on which loans are written are bought, sold, and traded like chips in a high stakes poker game. Many of those who now hold the paper on the Greek debt bought it for less than 10% of its face value, but are demanding that Greece must pay back the full amount. Those who made the loans to Greece (much of the money for the Olympics or for weapons) in many cases made loans they knew Greece would not be able to pay back–gambling that they could make a short-term profit by selling bad loans to the highest bidder and writing off the loss.
In the 2012 elections, a deeply divided Greece elected a conservative government in the wake of fear-mongering by the 1%–in the hope that the crisis could be resolved if Greece did as it was told. The people I speak with these days have lost faith in the traditional parties, and they are not certain that Tsipras and his new party will be able to do any better. But, they are saying, “things cannot get any worse.”
Greece’s situation is worse than that of the United States in the great depression. Tsipras has said that his first act will be to restore electricity to 300,000 homes and to provide food for families that cannot afford to pay for it. Things really are this bad.
Democracy is precarious in Greece. The country had a dictator before World War II, a Civil War after it (backed by the Allies in order to protect Greece from the fall of the Iron Curtain), and a fascist dictatorship (secretly supported by cold war interests) from 1967-1974. In the 2012 elections the criminal, fascist, anti-immigrant, Neo-Nazi party known as the Golden Dawn entered into the Parliament, and if things keep going from bad to worse they will continue to appeal to those who are frustrated and angry.
I have not yet mentioned the environment. Greece has never had a government that actively protected its natural resources. The government just voted out had been on the verge of selling the forests and the seacoasts to highest bidder, with environmental and other building restrictions rescinded. As one of the Green Party theorists said, no other center right party in Europe would ever consider such a step.
Yesterday Greece voted against the 1%. The future of the country is unknown. Maybe, just maybe, we will see better days ahead. Maybe we will lead the way toward a peaceful revolution in Europe, one in which the people and the environment come first. In this hope and after Syriza asked for our help in finding solutions to the crisis that would not come at the expense of people or the environment, I voted with the vast majority of the Green Party Greece to support Syriza, the party of Tsipras, in the elections that were held yesterday.
No matter what happens, “θα ειμαστε παρωντες αυριο,” “we will be here tomorrow.” And I will be here too, continuing to try to make a difference for people and the environment.
Update: Green Party member Giannis Tsironis will become the new Minister for the Environment and Green Party member Giorgos Dimaras was elected on the Syriza ticket in Athens. Two strong voices for the environment in the new government–and I know them both!!! What an amazing day this is.
Carol Christ (Καρολινα Κριστ) is a member of the Green Party Greece and ran in the national elections of 2012 and the local elections of 2010 and 2014. Carol leads the life-transforming Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete (facebook and twitter)–early bird discount available now on the 2015 tours. Her books include She Who Changes and and Rebirth of the Goddess and with Judith Plaskow, the widely-used anthologies Womanspirit Rising and Weaving the Visions and the forthcoming Goddess and God in the World: Journeys in Embodied Theology. Photo of Carol by Michael Bakas.