With the polls open and the first exit poll expected at 7pm, one would expect voting to be the main topic of discussion, but actually there are so many things going on… many of which are more pressing to the average person.
A lot of people will not even be voting today. More may have voted had the elections been last week. Some say no political party has the best interests of the people of Hellas at heart. Others are just generally apathetic and would rather go to the beach than the polling station on such a glorious sunny day. Then there are those affected by the 30 fires that are raging in Greece at present.
Forest and brush fires are common in summer, and are especially dangerous during high winds. A spokesman near Athens today says that the strong winds are actually rekindling the fires that were put out earlier in certain places.
Late yesterday afternoon on television I watched a trail of fire burn its way towards clusters of houses. We got to watch burning cars and buses, heard of a library burning and were shown the smouldering remains of the houses the fire had already claimed, and all I could think of was how losing a home and one’s possessions was the last thing anyone needed at a time like this. Crippled by an economic crisis and then finished off by a fire… More homeless people. More businesses lost. More unemployment. And today it continues burning…
A real shame, and often a real crime considering that many of these fires are the work of arsonists who burn the forests that are protected from development by conservation laws. Once burnt, the developers move in. Needless to say, voting and the outcome of these elections is a secondary concern for those who have lost the last of what they had or are fighting to save their homes and towns from the fires.
And of course everyone has been moaning for years that Greece does not have enough water-dropping planes to cope with the amount of fires it has. What a bad time to have to ask the European Union for help…so far only Italy has sent planes. France and Croatia were ‘looking into the request’ at the time I wrote this. Maybe they will send…maybe they won’t. France was usually the first to help but I guess that is a part of the price to be paid…
Power has had to be cut to the affected regions to enable the planes that are available to drop their water safely. These people are thus, for all intents and purposes, cut off from the outside world until power is restored.
Mind you, we have all been plagued with power failures as of late. Another price to be paid… Our electricity producers are broke, of course. Over half a million households can no longer afford to pay their electricity bills, and the providers now need emergency funds to purchase fuel. In Mytilene we had four power failures on Friday alone. Thankfully they did not last very long. 30 minutes at the most, and were no inconvenience at all.
Capital controls is another problem we face, or may already be facing. There are all kinds of reports, some confirmed and some denied, that the European Commission is planning on using the Article 65 loophole in the European Treaty of Unity to impose capital controls on Greece in the name of ‘public order’ and ‘public security’. These controls in effect hinder the transfer of money across borders…which makes me wonder….
Yesterday I tried to use my PayPal account (which is verified and attached to a verified credit card) to purchase online gaming for my son. I have not ever had any problems using it in the past, and I order various things from the US every few weeks or so. Yesterday however it would not verify my payment for some reason.
I saw a report this morning stating that it was getting more difficult to transfer money outside of Greece but it was not exactly clear as to how or why…and there is absolutely no problem with our PayPal account. It may just be a glitch in the online billing and I sent an email to the service provider querying the problem. Unfortunately their customer service dept. operates during business hours only so I will have to wait and see whether ‘unofficial’ capital controls have already been placed on Greece as a temporary emergency means by which to prevent a possible run on the banks.
The joys… I understand why such things may be necessary but my teenage son who has already had all this election drama happen in the middle of his final exams is not so open to understanding why yet again the crisis has thwarted him.
The effects of the crisis on the youth is immense. They face a future of no employment, limited funds for university expenses, and having to deal with the cuts to education that the austerity measures demanded. At the beginning of this school year they did not have books for the first few weeks, and now re-elections changed their exam schedules to allow for the schools to be used as polling stations. Most of my son’s friends have unemployed parents and the lack of cash has had an enormous impact on the social life that teenagers should enjoy. At least they are not among the kids who faint at school from hunger or like the kid from Crete who collapsed at school on Thursday and had to be rushed to hospital to be treated for malnutrition.
The younger kids can be protected from the harsh reality of this crisis in whatever ways it does not directly affect them, but its different with teenagers. They watch the news. They talk with their friends. They can see what it is going on, and they feel hopeless and talk of leaving the country. What they have witnessed has radicalised them politically. They are afraid of what the future holds for them.
Yet last night, for a brief moment, they got to forget all about the troubles of day to day life as they watched the Greek National football team beat Russia 1-0 to get through to the next stage of the European Cup.
It was exactly what everyone here needed, and it was glorious to listen to them roar with joy. And that joy has lifted everyone’s spirits; despite elections, fire, power-failures and possible capital controls…