Sunday, February 12, 2012

In the eye of the storm...

Even though I posted just yesterday, I felt that I had to write more on the state of Athens as at this very moment there are 284 members of Parliament in the midst of a great debate inside the Parliament building in Syntagma Square.  The vote is set for midnight and the square has been filled with protesting Greeks all afternoon. While I was out at the base of the Acropolis today going to the metro station, I ran into an assembly which escalated into a full-scale march; the main street towards Syntagma was closed and motorcycles were zooming by as people of all ages and demographic drifted toward the square.  The air was smoky and filled with the boom of what were either stun guns by police or homemade fire bombs by anarchists.  As I was riding the metro away from the city center around 3:30, it was eerily silent even though completely filled with people.  I've already heard of a few students from my program who were tear gassed later in the afternoon as they went too close to the action in Syntagma.  The news reports indicate that roughly 6,000 police have been stationed in the center of Athens for the purposes of holding back the anarchists' bombs and blocking the chunks of marble being hurled at the Parliament building.  What is so fascinating to me is how strong the national unity and pride is in Greece. It is so different from in the USA where patriotism is associated with specific stereotypes and political stances.  In Greece, everyone marches, everyone participates, and everyone is affected.  As we wait for the verdict from Parliament, I'm torn.  I don't have enough of a background in economics to truly understand the entire scenario, but from the limited news reports I've been following since in Athens, it seems that either way, Greece is in for a world of pain.  I think a consensus is that they need new political leaders, and I wonder if the austerity measures do pass tonight whether the EU advisers will encourage Greece's next Prime Minister to be a non-Greek, as their first President was when Greece was liberated with the help of France, Russia, and Britain in 1833.  This could be a long shot, but it seems to me that if Greece is going to stay in the euro zone, they need a leader who is objective and who will see the big picture with Greece as a member of a larger body of countries.  Every day Greek culture fascinates me more and more, and today was a terrifying, surreal, and very touching experience.  One thing can be said for the Greeks, they know how to assemble and they are very passionate.  You have to admire that. 

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