The Greek Elections and the 1% by Carol P. Christ


Alexis Tsipras of Greece & Pablo Iglesias of Spain hope to change Europe for the 99%

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.

Green Party of LesbosYesterday 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.

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Categories: Activism, environment, Feminism, General, Justice, Politics

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

10 replies

  1. Fantastic post, Carol. Congratulations on naming the real issues at stake here as well as debunking the ‘naughty, lazy teenager’ stereotype which European media have been so keen to apply to Greeks.

    In my observation, living mostly in Greece through the last ten years, things are much worse here than anyone outside the country realises: not just the salaries and pensions cut to a half or a third and the collapse of health care and other government services, but also the suicide epidemic, especially among older men; the brain drain forcing 200,000 educated Greeks to emigrate since the start of the crisis; schools with no school buses, no school lunches, no heating, and teachers like my husband waiting months for their meagre pay; youth unemployment closer to 60% – and people count as ‘youth’ up to age 35! My stepdaughter is in her twenties and when we hear these statistics, we often joke (with the black humour which is the only way to survive times like these) that we want to know who the 40% of young people are who supposedly have jobs, since she doesn’t know of anyone in her age group who is working.

    Did you see the recent, heartbreaking BBC report on married Greek women seeking jobs in brothels to feed their kids? [http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-30914039] In our local town in Attica, I routinely see ordinary middle-aged women, who previously had incomes, going through trash looking for bread or food for their families. I am certain that the prostitution demographic has changed locally also.

    On my frequent trips to Germany I have come to understand that even self-professed ‘Grecophile’ Germans have NO IDEA what people are going through here, and also no awareness of the key point you mention, Carol, namely that the ‘bailout’ loans are not helping Greece but are merely a way of putting more taxpayers’ money in the hands of the vulture capitalists. For this reason alone it should be illegal to invest in sovereign debt.

    And according to Jacob Soll, the Greek debt hasn’t been calculated properly or fairly in the first place. Should this surprise us? [http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/21/opinion/greeces-accounting-problem.html?_r=0]

    Let us hope Syriza’s election victory yesterday can bring world attention to the brutality of our current world economic system, which encourages the few to profit from the ever-increasing misery and desperation of millions. There simply has to be a moral line drawn somewhere, at which the human and environmental cost of these obscene profits is finally understood to be too high.

    Fingers crossed…

    xx, Laura

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  2. It is outrageous, scandalous and insupportable that all the ‘austerity’ loans to Greece have not paid down the country’s debt by one drachma, but have been used only to pay interest owed to banks and bondholders — and increased the country’s debt burden in the process. I hope this election in Greece is the first in a “revolution” throughout the Western world that makes us reign in unbridled capitalism which has led to such terrible inequalities and environmental degradation.

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  3. Since this blog was published, Syriza made an agreement with the Independent Greeks, a right center patriotic party. Syriza and Independent Greeks agree on being against the enforced Austerity Program, but on little else. Apparently Independent Greeks hope to take control of Defense, not a good sign to those of us who believe in the Green principle of “no violence” and hope to see the military budget (the highest per capita in Europe) slashed. We shall see…

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  4. Naomi Klein’s book “the Shock Doctrine” is a real eye-opener. It documents how “disaster Capitalists” take advantage of disasters to make profits. Thank you for being in there fighting for justice, Carol.

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  5. There is an amazingly interesting and important organization called — 1% For the Planet

    onepercentfortheplanet.org — is “an alliance of businesses that understand the necessity of protecting the natural environment. They understand that profit and loss are directly linked to its health, and are concerned with the social and environmental impacts of industry.” There are now more than 1,200 member companies in 48 countries giving 1% of their sales directly to more than 3,300 nonprofits supporting and protecting the environment.

    The website has a complete Directory of the environmental organizations receiving the contributions, along with the businesses who are donating the funds. The only environmental group I saw listed in Greece (Athens) was MOM / Hellenic Society for the Protection of the Monk Seal, and who support the “natural environment and the biodiversity of Greek seas.” Interesting that there were so many corporations in Japan donating the 1% — makes sense though because their indigenous religion, Shinto, is nature-based.

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  6. As usual, my friend, brava! Excellent post, but also majorly depressing. Do any of us even know those one percent?? I only know people in the 99 percent. Well, Greece was a sort of leader 2500 years ago, maybe Greece can be a leader today. Blessings to us all. And strength!

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  7. This sounds like the housing loan crisis of 2009. Both schemes took advantage of those who could not afford the loans, then stole their homes and their money, leaving the entire 99% pretty well devastated. They seem to have perfected their gruesome techniques even more for Greece. I am so sorry. Maybe one day there will be no more “small” in the world and the vultures’ insatiable appetites will be directed toward each other. When all of that is over, we can rebuild a loving world. Very thought provoking post, Carol. Thank you.

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  8. Pretty much the same analysis I heard today on the Thom Hartman show. I remember how sad I was when Greece decided to join the EU and even more when the country gave up its sovereignty for the Euro. The “lazy” argument is the same one the elite uses here to belittle the hard working people whose full-time salaries don’t provided a living wage and thus they go on food stamps, medicaid, etc. Plus I just heard on the Hartman show that in Europe the country that works the least number of hours is Germany – go figure.

    Thanks for putting this info out there to our FAR community.

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  9. Yes, thank you!

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