ATHENS: THE SLAUGHTERHOUSE OF DEMOCRACY





The missing demos and cratos
The overall situation in Greece is becoming increasingly worrying. Democracy in Greece has been put in the freezer. Neither the words nor the reactions of the people and the electorate matter in Greece. The Athens administration has killed democracy.
The world used to think that Greeks were the inventors of democracy. The word democracy, it was said, came from Greek. This was what the world thought. Demos and CratosIt was said that the word democracy comes from an amalgamation of the Greek word demos for “people” and cratos for “rule” and thus meant the people’s rule. Democracy meant the form of government based on the sovereignty of the people. To use the phrased introduced by Abraham Lincoln, democracy is the “rule of the people by the people and for the people.” Democracy may also be thought of as an ideal towards which one should constantly strive. The realisation of democracy to the letter is not possible. At a time in which differences multiply, diversity increase and globalisation moves at such speed, democracy cannot be expected to meet all the desires of the entire people. There was never an administration which was perfectly in line with the tendencies of the people and there will perhaps never be such a government.The majority principleThe aim and ideal of implementing and fully running a democracy should nevertheless be preserved. There should be no exceptions to democracy. Efforts should be made to realise it fully. The majority principle in democracy should never be violated.The state should be run according to the will of the majority of the people whatever the circumstances. The decision of the majority is above everything else. This is not open to debate. Any exceptions to this should be taken as a violation of the principles, values and choices of the majority. These principles and values should apply to every demos and in every cratos, even in Greece.The Greek people are desperateCircumstances are very different in Greece. In Athens, which is said to be the cradle of democracy things are being done which could never be in keeping with democracy. A recent development serves well to describe both the situation in Greece and the desperation which has settled within the system.Demonstrators have stormed the offices of a minister. The police used batons and tear gas to drive them away. The offices of Minister for Labour Yiannis Vroutsis were saved from the protestors. In the course of events chairs and doors were broken. The gathered crowd had wanted to demonstrate against the changes to be made to the country’s social security system. The people are fed up with the government not heeding public opinion. In Greece the government is still determined through elections but it does not care for, or more significantly represent, the views, preferences, reactions and anger of the Greek people.Greece was not among those countries where angry crowds stormed ministerial offices. In times when governments and parliamentarians were accountable to the people, public opinion mattered. That came to an end with the economic crisis. Democracy is a regime for people with full bellies. The number of such people in Greece is on the fall. The number of hungry people in Greece may come to exceed the number of full people. Under such circumstances there can be no democracy.In any case, once the people who cannot have the state hear their voice, the society with its falling standards of living, households which cannot entertain any hope for the future and people ashamed of their poverty lose all hope, the offices of every minister in any country may be stormed. Things will be like they were when the last pharaoh Hosnu Mubarak and the undefeatable Gaddafi fell.Things different for Demos and Cratos Since the beginning of the process the people have opposed tax hikes. The people have been refusing austerity measures from the beginning. Public opinion in Greece believes that governments will not be able to solve the problems of the country in this way. The years which have passed in greater misery than under wartime circumstances show that the people were right all along. The Greek people have been vocal in their reactions. Yet, despite all the strikes, protests, demonstrations and even suicides, nothing changes. Politicians listen to Brussels and not to the people. Bureaucrats look in the eyes of the Troika delegation in the VIP hall of the airport, rather than towards the unhappy, poor and angry people on the streets and in the squares.The people have three options in Greece. They can vote, they can go on strike and they can protest. No one cares the least about any of these. The people have lost the belief that things may get better in the future. Nothing gets better in any field. The Greek people have to live with the heavy windfall resulting from the country being pushed into a debt hole. The European Central Bank, the Eurozone and the IMF lend credit to Greece, ostensibly to keep the economy running. But the Greek economy is getting worse, not better. The state has cut expenditure. It has also lowered pay. It has reduced retirement rights. Furthermore it is laying off public personnel. The result of the policies the state has followed the despite the people is 26.8 percent unemployment in Greece.Greek debt stands at 1.8 times its yearly output. If Greece can reduce the proportion of 180 to 100 debt over GDP to 124 to 100 by 2020, it will claim victory and say the crisis is over. Everything is fine with the economyWorst of all, the Greek government pretends that everything is getting better. Speaking to the BBC, Finance Minister Yannis Sturnaras has said “there is definitely a ray of hope, there is light at the end of the tunnel”. Since the onset of the crisis, Greek government have frequently seen the light at the end of the tunnel. But the light was not daylight. It was the headlights of the train coming straight towards them. Whenever the Greek government saw the light at the end of the tunnel there were price hikes, increased taxes and pay cuts. The train which Greek ministers saw the light of, drove straight over the Greek people.In his interview, Sturnaras said “I see the possibility of Greece leaving he Eurozone as very slim.” According to Sturnaras the Greek government managed to reverse the poor course of the Greek economy. Markets have started to have a better opinion of Greece. Savings have started to return to banks. The Greek government has started to carry out belated debt payments to the private sector. The opinion of Greece held by the European public, European institutions and European countries has improved. all relevant data are positive. According to the minister Greece has covered two thirds of the way.If we believe the Greek finance minister, the bad days will soon be over for Greece. Things are almost done. Recovery will definitely begin in the last quarter of 2013. Greece will be growing from 2014 onwards. The Greek minister thinks this will happen one hundred percent. This, despite the certainty that Greece will contract by at least 4.5 percent in 2013. Greek minister had previously been outspoken. They made certain other claims. For example, they said that they would never give in to the Troika. They also said they would pay back every last cent to Europe. They said that they would never demand debt reduction. They would never want an erasure of debt. They would not ask to borrow more. Every time they said it was the last. They said they would not demand debt restructuring and that a bond swap was out of the question. The Greek people find it increasingly difficult to believe their representatives. In his interview with the BBC Sturnaras said “if we implement the recovery programme this year there will be no savings package and no cuts to pay, social payments and retirement pensions.”It is all so simple. In Greece which is on the verge of economic growth, the Greek people are cutting trees in forests and parks for heating, right before their economic move forward. Those pensioners with enough strength chop the logs while those who are weaker collect twigs off the ground. Running the news, the BBC has said that the elderly who cannot afford fuel on reduced pensions are cutting trees so that their grandchildren will not get sick.If old men are having to drag logs from parks in order not to freeze, democracy is either absent or faulty. If protestors have to storm ministries in order to get their voices heard, democracy has died or has been murdered. In democracies the desires of the people are met. The people elect the parliament and the ruling party. They in turn strive for the happiness of the people.In Greece democracy has died, it has been murdered. The Greek people have no weight or significance in the running of Greece. The only function of the people in Greece is to go to the polls when called for and to vote for PASOK or New Democracy, depending which party’s turn it is. The people have no other role to play. Yet in the land where democracy was born and developed, it should mean something more. Greece continues to be the weak link in Europe. This position is not limited to the economy or financial balances. Greece has always been problematic with regard to human rights and minority rights. Greece was not very successful by the Copenhagen Criteria. Everyone knew that Athens was good at adopting the law but was unsuccessful in its implementation. Therefore Greece had to be accepted with its disadvantaged structure in the European Union and by European institutions. Yet, Greece had never lagged so behind in terms of democracy. What would have happened had a German government acted the way the Papandreou government did or the French government imitated Samaras?

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