Saturday, 19 May 2012

A flame from Athens to London

The flame lit in Athens will burn in London. That's the fear; that the Eurozone fires creating economic and social chaos in Greece will lick across Europe and bring banking woes to Britain's 'double dip' recession economy.  
'Conflagration' and 'contagion' are the chief metaphors at play. Often with contagious diseases, worry focuses solely on who will catch the disease next. The originally infected poor sod is rarely considered - and only then as a source of blame and fear. So what happens when an average-sized Greek town runs out of money - and should we care?
Lavrio's mayor Nikolas Antoniou has watched aghast at millions of Euros being withdrawn in panic from banks. Antoniou is wondering how long he can pay the salaries of his 360 council staff. Shops in Lavrio are letting long-serving staff go as sales have dropped 30%. Bankruptcy looms after redundancy. 
More and more younger people are leaving, not just the town but the country. Hope seems to evaporate very quickly in such circumstances.
Many Londoners used to holiday in Greece, Athens, Crete, the islands and visit towns like Lavrio. Crassly, now on UK TV news shows, you'll hear windbag commentators saying the only significant consequence of Greece abandoning the Euro and returning to a much-devalued Drachma will be 'cheaper Greek holidays for Brits'. 
So, Londoners can look forward to holidaying for a bit of sunshine in a country on its knees. We can bask our backsides in Greece, a fledgling democracy not long out of dictatorship, now descending into chaos, internecine conflict and possibly on the verge of a resurgent fascism. it'll be Clacton-on-Sea for me again.
And as I head off to the Essex coast, I'll wonder what would happen in London, in say, Hampstead, Brixton, Mayfair and Canning Town, if the schools closed, rubbish wasn't collected and working people's salaries went unpaid.  Athens and London are closer than most politicians and commentators would have us believe.
Of course, I could always forget the whole thing, dim my brain and immerse myself in celebrating the Queen's Jubilee. 
Let's not forget too the London 2012 Olympics.  But the flaming Olympic torch and the Olympics Games themselves remind us that many good things originated in Greece, a good country with good people that we should help and not fear.

Paul Coleman, London, May 2012.

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