Thursday, February 24, 2011

Beware Greeks Bearing Grudges

Europe is not a happy place, lately. Austerity measures are no more popular there than anywhere else in the world. There have been protests against belt-tightening everywhere in the world; strikes and protests and union demands, from Israel to the United States, Europe to the Middle East. People are angry as they see food and energy prices rise while their incomes do not.

And they don't want to take it anymore.

There's a big difference, however, between angry strikes and anarchic protests. Between civil disobedience and violent disorder. Once again Greeks have gone on a rampage to let their government know they have no intention of quietly submitting to the austerity measures it wishes to impose upon them at the demand of the International Monetary Fund.

The European Union and the IMF have extended a $150-billion rescue loan to Greece, after all, and understandably they would appreciate the assurance that Greece is serious about undertaking financial reforms, for they would like to be repaid eventually, thank you very much. The IMF is pressing George Papandreou to speed up structural reforms.

And the Greek populace is responding by raging against the recession and the imposition being placed on the normalcy of their lives and their expectations. Tens of thousands of workers, pensioners and students marched in protests, the hell with the debt crisis. Riot police were out in force at Athens' central Syntagma Square letting loose tear gas.

Bahrain has its Pearl Square, Libya its Green Square, Tunisia its Mohammad Bouazizi Square, Egypt its Tahrir Square, and Greece has its Syntagma Square. Where protesters marched to express their disgust over the prices of food and goods not matching their ability to purchase, and where they expressed their unwillingness to be governed by those who ignored their fundamental needs.

In Wisconsin, the Democrats in the Indiana House of Representatives fled the state to deprive the Republican majority from a quorum required to pass a bill restricting worker's rights to collective bargaining, in an effort to bring the state's finances under control. In Greece protesters are out in force flinging stones and firebombs, vandalizing transit stops, and setting fire to trash bins.

A wholesale rejection of the government's economic policies in the wake of the country's near bankruptcy. In attempting to reduce its debt of over $400-billion, the government thought to lease state assets: "We want the government to drop all these measures, to abandon plans to sell property!"

The union-led strikes paralyzed maritime traffic and train services, disrupted the capital's urban transport and flights and resulted in a news black-out. Hospitals and schools were affected, and public administration offices and banks shut down. The population generously assisting its government in coming to grips with the country's debt crisis.

Very civilized.

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