In Greek myth, the Fates, the Moirai, are three sisters – Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos – who spin, measure and cut the thread of life for every person born. Their rule is law; even the gods, so the legend has it, have no power to bargain with the one who cuts the thread and ends the life. Her name, Atropos, means ‘she who cannot be turned’.
In Greece today, others are making the life-or-death decisions. It is not the three sisters of ancient folklore, but a bunch of men in suits now wielding the power to uplift or cast down an entire nation and its millions of citizens. I would like to shine a little light on just two of these groups of (mainly) men who have had the most impact on the recent decisions to bring Greece to the brink of bankruptcy, default and catastrophe.
First we have the ESM, the European Stability Mechanism, which presents itself as a fund to ‘rescue’ EU member states in financial straits. In truth, it imposes crippling loans in exchange for austerity measures, ultimately to facilitate the transfer of public assets – land and resources as well as funds for education, healthcare, infrastructure and pensions – into the hands of private investors. The ESM is an ‘international organisation’ based in Luxembourg, the notorious tax haven, and has many secret ties to private investment funds profiting enormously from the privatisations imposed in line with the so-called ‘rescue’.
Though working closely with European Union leaders, the ESM is not an official EU agency, and is therefore not bound by any of the rules and restrictions which normally apply to EU institutions. Nor is there any public access to information about its actions, which are shrouded in secrecy. Its members are unelected, entirely unaccountable, and enjoy total legal immunity for their actions. Ironically, for these men are the ones heaping tax upon tax on already impoverished and desperate Greeks, members of the ESM are exempt from taxation by any authority (articles 34-36 of the ESM Treaty).
We also have the Eurogroup, which imposed the third Greek bailout earlier this month through a loathsome blast of propaganda, threats, and blackmail, and held the entire country hostage through a terrifying – and unnecessary – shutdown of the banking system. The Eurogroup too is both unelected and unaccountable, with no constitution and no constraints. As one legal expert confirmed to former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, ‘The Eurogroup does not exist in law; there is no treaty which has convened this group.’ Varoufakis concludes:
What we have is a non-existent group that has the greatest power to determine the lives of Europeans. It’s not answerable to anyone, given it doesn’t exist in law; no minutes are kept; and it’s confidential. So no citizen ever knows what is said within… These are decisions of almost life and death, and no member has to answer to anybody.
Ancient Greece had another goddess, known as Diki. She was the bringer of justice, the keeper of order, and the guardian of the gates of heaven. Because Diki brought divine retribution down on wrongdoers, she served as an effective deterrent to those tempted to overstep the boundaries of right action.
Those overstepping now, however, are not being punished. The corrupt Greek politicians who stole public money and indebted the country to the hilt not only got away scot-free, they are continuing to profit from the crisis. Meanwhile, the EU institutions hinder all attempts to bring these culprits to justice, while ferociously attacking the only political party in Greece’s history – the Syriza coalition – which set out seriously to reform the system which allowed the old-school crooked politicians so much power in the first place.
Of course, it was not old Greek politicians alone who got the country into such a mess. From Goldman Sachs, which used credit default swaps to help Greece disguise its original debt levels (doubling it in the process), to Siemens, the German engineering giant who routinely gave massive bribes to key politicians to get huge state contracts in Greece, outside forces were involved from the beginning in Greece’s apparent self-destruction.
In fact, Siemens’ former president, Heinz-Joachim Neubürger, who essentially took the fall for the Greek bribery scandal, committed suicide earlier this year. Or did he? Neubürger’s death came just days after Syriza came to power promising to reopen the Siemens case, investigate further the high-level corruption which helped sink Greece in unsustainable debt, and bring to account all those responsible. As Neubürger knew the most about the bribery and was likely to be subpoenaed to testify in the proceedings, his death was highly convenient for those risking discovery and prison. Although it was ruled a suicide, many found the death suspicious. Who knows who cut the thread of his life? Neubürger’s Greek counterpart, Michalis Christoforakos, the Siemens boss in Greece, was equally implicated in the corruption scandal, but has also escaped trial because Germany refuses to extradite him as Greece has requested.
These are just a few examples. Those of us who have an inbuilt allergy to inequality and injustice are having a hard time these days. Can we not invoke Diki now, the spirit of righteous action, to step in to help her homeland? Can we not stand up to these institutions which have claimed so much power over our lives?
Eight hundred years after the first one, it’s time for a new Magna Carta, to ensure basic economic and human rights, and freedom from enslavement by predatory banks and speculators. To halt the rapacious worldwide exploitation of resources and people, we urgently need a new economic system, based on creativity, connection, cooperation, sustainability, and mutual support – the values of traditional Greece and the ancient Goddess.
Laura Shannon has been researching and teaching traditional women’s ritual dances since 1987. She is considered one of the ‘grandmothers’ of the worldwide Sacred / Circle Dance movement and gives workshops regularly in over twenty countries worldwide. Laura holds an honours degree in Intercultural Studies (1986) and a diploma in Dance Movement Therapy (1990). She has also dedicated much time to primary research in Balkan and Greek villages, learning songs, dances, rituals and textile patterns which have been passed down for many generations, and which embody an age-old worldview of sustainability, community, and reverence for the earth. Laura’s essay ‘Women’s Ritual Dances: An Ancient Source of Healing in Our Times’, was published in Dancing on the Earth. Laura lives partly in Greece and partly in the Findhorn ecological community in Scotland.