I was running through the Greek news today looking for something funny to write about.
I’d have had a better shot at finding cheery news in weather reports for the South and Northeast United States.
Can you believe it? Their coldest, snowiest winter in decades with more than a month of official winter yet to come!
I really shouldn’t complain, what with my being in southern California and Arizona for another week, but hey, then it’s back to the Big Frozen Apple (formerly known as New York City) and efforts at digging out my farm from beneath the new polar icecap. That’s when I officially begin my countdown toward returning to Greece in time for Easter (everyone’s Easter falls on April 20 this year).
Anyway, whatever my reason for looking for cheery news in the Greek media, it was a bad mistake. A single headline told it all, “Greek Jobless Rate Swells to a New Record High.” It’s now 28% percent of the workforce. Five years ago the rate was 7.8%. America’s Great Depression reached 25%. And Greek youth employment (between ages 15 and 24) is now at 61.4%.
Those are mind-numbing figures. But then I saw another story, and realized that some of the most mind-numbed figures in Greece are members of Parliament. To my way of thinking the Greek Parliament just won the “Let Them Eat Cake” prize awarded to governments under siege who best exemplify the startling, out of touch quality represented by Marie Antoinette in allegedly uttering that famous phrase upon being told that French peasants had no bread to eat.
It seems every time a Greek blinks these days taxes are going up. The people are suffocating and many fear the loss of their homes…perhaps the single most important indicator of true independence to virtually every Greek.
We’re not talking abstract concepts of “fiscal surplus” and “entering international markets,” these are the real hand-to-mouth personal sufferings and anxieties of millions of people—in a land of eleven million. Yet, in its wisdom the Greek government this week decided to drop another painful in-your-face, straight-out-of-your-pocket surprise on its citizens: a significant increase in highway tolls. That’s led to protests and the torching of at least one tollbooth. Business as usual some might say.
But what makes this particular straw piled upon the Greek taxpayer’s back an award winner is that Parliament decided to exempt its members from much of its application! In other words, what we do is important enough to justify an exemption, but for those of you who need to use the roads to keep the poor paying job you still have in order to support your family, TOUGH.
Hard to imagine that’s the message the government intended to deliver, but even harder to imagine a better way to deliver it!
When is Guy Fawkes Day?