To hell with it – or why I will vote no in the #Greferendum

These last few days must be the worst I have had the misfortune to live through since I came into this world forty-one years ago, and that’s not because Greece is heading towards total economic collapse. It’s because the small modicum of democracy we had in this country since six months after I was born has collapsed, with no hope of revival in the immediate future.

There’s a tragic irony to the fact that the nail in the coffin of democracy came from what should have been the ultimate democratic act: a call for a referendum. Of course, a referendum announced at nine days’ notice about an offer that doesn’t stand is a farce in and of itself, and when the deputy prime minister states on public television that the announcement was merely a negotiating tool, it only adds insult to injury. But in the wider context, this is only one aspect of the political tragedy Greece is living through. Every pretence at respecting the role of institutions in this country has flown out of the window since Friday night, both on the ‘yes’ and the ‘no’ side of the argument. The best example of this is obviously Greece’s oligarch-owned media, that have unleashed an unprecedented campaign of fear and hammer their audience with images of angry citizens forming lines at ATMs while ‘yes’ politicians are given a tribune to repeat ad nauseam how the government is seeking to take us out of the Euro and back to the Middle Ages. Meanwhile, in a feeble attempt at countering what can only be described as shameless propaganda from Greece’s socio-economic elites, the government have set up a website to inform the people about the referendum, and that website conveniently ignores any argument in favour of voting ‘yes’. What makes it particularly bitter for me is that I voted for SYRIZA in the belief that they would seek to restore a functioning democracy. Clearly, I was wrong.

And as if this weren’t bad enough, it seems that everyone, inside Greece and abroad, cares solely about who is to blame for all this, and not one little bit about what will actually happen to Greece and its people. And I am not talking about what will happen when the economy collapses – for all practical purposes, it had already collapsed way before the capital controls were put in place. I’m talking about what will happen now that the question put to the Greeks has become, very simply, do you want a quick and violent death, or a slow and painful one. These are the choices the referendum has to offer, these are the choices democracy in Greece in 2015 has to offer. How does a country, a people, a society recover from that? How do you recover, not from the answer, but from the question itself?

To those who are seeking to apportion blame, I have one thing to say: you’re either too early or too late.

You’re too early because, let’s be frank, no one can claim to know with certainty what the real consequences of a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ vote will be. Whatever the result, the least that can be said is that the relationship between Greece and the European Union has been reshaped in ways that will take years to understand. Maybe ‘no’ means a Greek exit from the Eurozone, or maybe it doesn’t; maybe a return to the drachma is a bad thing, or maybe it’s not. At the same time, maybe ‘yes’ means more austerity of the kind we were subjected to for the past five years already, or maybe it means a new brand of austerity; maybe this new brand will be harsher, or maybe it will be more lenient – one can always hope. But if you claim to have straight answers to these questions, one thing is certain: you’re lying. This is uncharted territory, so please show a little humility. You don’t know, and neither do I.

Alternatively, if you’re apportioning blame with regard to the process that led us too this mess, you’re late, far too late. You’re late because this process has been going on for years, and a ten-year-old with half a brain could have told you that it’s a process gone wrong. A ten-year-old with half a brain could have told you that the Greek economy and the political system propping it up were rotten, a ten-year-old with half a brain could have told you that the bailout programmes were a failure, a ten-year-old with half a brain could have told you that the current, SYRIZA-led government was not speaking the same language as its negotiation counterparts, and, most importantly, a ten-year-old with half a brain could have told you that the shit would hit the fan at some point. Since 2010 we’ve been witnessing a slow-motion train wreck. You’re terribly, terribly late if you start apportioning blame the moment the locomotive gathers full speed.

So where does this leave us? What should we vote? Are there good reasons to vote ‘yes’? Are there good reasons to vote ‘no’? Are there even good reasons to vote at all? Here’s the thing: there are no good or bad reasons when you can only choose between bad options. What there is are real reasons, and here’s mine.

There’s a Greek expression I’ve used a lot these past few months: “είναι κακοί, στραβοί, ανάποδοι, αλλά…” which means “they’re evil, crooked, irksome, but…” This is what I have to say about the current Greek government. They may be evil, crooked and irksome, they may have failed spectacularly on the financial/economic as well as the political front, they may be the worst government we ever had, for all it matters – but they’re our government, and in the end they will be accountable to us.

For the past several years, far too many decisions that have affected our lives in dramatic ways were taken by people who are sitting in Brussels, in Frankfurt, in Berlin and in Washington – far too many, because this robs us of our sense of agency as people and as citizens. These people will never be accountable to us because they are so far out of our reach. Well, let someone else deal with them. We can deal with those who are here.

So I want out. I want out of the Eurozone and I want out of the European Union. I’ll be voting ‘no’ because anything that can possibly, maybe, hopefully take us one step closer to Euro-exit is good enough for me under the current circumstances. I’ve had enough of these unnamed high-ranking European officials who tell the Financial Times how they’re taking decisions for me and how they want ‘regime change’ in Greece. At least, if all I have to deal with is my own government, I can take decisions for them too.

If you ever met me, or if you even only read other bits and pieces I’ve posted on this blog or on Twitter, you’ll know that by my standards, this is an intellectual short-circuit. It is. It’s not a good reason to vote no, but I don’t care. To hell with it. That’s my reason. What’s yours?

90 thoughts on “To hell with it – or why I will vote no in the #Greferendum

  1. A heart-felt yet carefully considered piece and I’m pleased to see that despite the horrendous complexity of the situation in the end you’ve decided on “No!”. But do have hope. You’ve said that the choice is between two deaths, a “quick and violent” one or “a slow and painful one”. But neither choice will result in death for Greece will definitely live on, and provided its people unite and are determined then quitting the Eurozone could, eventually, result in an independent and a far happier Greece. It will, though, as you clearly realize, require strong, brave, and stable leadership.

  2. I believe it is best for Greece to stay in the EU but leave the €! If Greece wants to compete with the rest of the EU it has to go back to the Drachma. I also do not really believe in the future of the € or the EU with their expensive expenses, so I believe that in a few years we, all 19 of us will be back to our own currency!

  3. I actually wrote one of these myself and sent it to a bunch of the Canadian Papers and my reasoning sounds similar to yours. Part of my NO vote is simply dignity the other is giving Greece an opportunity to truly build from scratch. Unlikely but better than nothing. Actually I’ll re-post my piece right below.

    Why I’m voting ‘NO’ this Sunday
    By Konstantine Roccas

    This summer I got the wonderful opportunity to do my internship for my graduate program at UBC here in Greece. I was brought on to assist a wonderful journalist and took it as an opportunity to learn what it’s like working as a correspondent in a small part of the world. Little did I know that when I got here, the country would soon throw itself off the fiscal cliff.

    I was born in Greece and have always carefully followed its politics and economy. I have also had the fortune of being born to a Canadian mother and being raised in a country partly in a country that actually functions. Yes we have our problems, but we Canadians work responsibly to fix them. This duality gives me a more impartial view then most that have lived exclusively in Greece and informs my decision to vote ‘NO.’

    Remember, Greece is a country where fascists and communists still run around and collect a significant portion of the vote and where common sense is routinely thrown out the window in order to placate overly vocal portions of both the electorate and certain political parties. Rhetoric trumps logic and bribery and nepotism are important factors in getting anything done.

    Greece’s descent into madness began long ago and I don’t want to go over the same tired arguments again but I do want to explain why I will be voting ‘NO’ in the coming referendum this Sunday. Let me be clear about one thing, this referendum was and is a terrible idea coming at the time that it did. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Finance Minister Yannis Varoufakis came off as inexperienced and amateurish by calling for a referendum at the eleventh hour.

    That being said, the European Union bears much of the blame as well for this tired mess. A strict adherence to austerity economics and a lack of flexibility in dealing with a very unique situation has created havoc and has irrevocably shattered the image of European unity and integration.

    The idea of European integration was and still is a wonderful thing. The idea that a continent wracked by centuries of war, prejudice and conflict could come together filled many with hope at the potential of a united Europe.

    The problem though, was that this Union was a half-measure as the current crisis has proven. It assumes that all European nations are equal when economically they are not. This has led to more powerful member states trying to prescribe economic medicine on countries that have no experience with, and cannot responsibly ingest such ‘medicine.’

    Austerity is a self-defeating economic principle but the reasoning behind it is sound and if done mildly can bear fruit for free market enterprise if prescribed to a country that normally functions. Keyword is functions.

    Greece has never functioned and never will in its current state. It has been irrevocably damaged since the collapse of the military junta and over two generations of Greeks have learned to be profligate clients of a state spending apparatus left, right and center. The opportunity for responsibility after the fall of the Colonels was there but it quickly turned into a pseudo-democratic power struggle for clients between Greece’s dysfunctional political parties.

    This is why a ‘YES’ vote is unfeasible. Yes, European integration is important but in its current form all it offers Greece is more of the same. It will keep them in the Euro while continuing austerity practices that put the onus on Greece’s working class while ignoring the root problem of Greece’s broken political system.

    A ‘NO’ vote on the other hand, at least for someone like me who spends most of his time and eventually career out of the country, means fatal damage to the Greek state in its current form. The European Union can now financially absorb the impact of a ‘Grexit,’ but Greece will eventually be forced to go back to its single currency, the drachma.

    This will undoubtedly hurt everyone who has a stake in the Greek economy and will cause chaos among the Greek people as evidenced this week by the increasing queues at banks nationwide. Many will suffer and the government may not survive but this is what Greece needs.

    The whole country needs to be torn down and rebuilt from the ground up on sane democratic principles. That is why I vote NO to the Greek political system, NO to more Austerity and NO to an agreement that will do nothing to address the failed Greek political and economic system. The Greek people deserve better.

    Konstantine Roccas is a graduate student at the UBC Graduate School of Journalism. He is doing his internship in Greece this summer and has found himself with a ringside seat for the unfolding calamity. He can be followed on twitter @KosteeRoccas

    • Yes the problem is the € is much to expensive for the southern countries , I find it too expensive also for the northern ones. Also the economy is arranged for the comfort of the banks not for the comfort of the people, as long as the people have to support the banks, banks will be a priority.

  4. Reblogged this on carlosFgonzalez and commented:
    Porque Grecia y la situación a la que se enfrentan sus ciudadanos tiene mas parecido con México del que nos imaginamos. Porque hay que buscar aprender de estas dolorosas experiencias ajenas. Por eso vale la pena leer este escrito.

  5. This is the first I read of from an actual Greek person on the matter. I am German, and I have heard and the “German” position far too often. After all, only seeing one side of the truth is at best knowing half-truths, which is dangerous.

    I do not wish to repeat stupendous rhethorics, because you probably know what most Germans read in BILD, I just wish you the best of luck in healing your country. You are at least right in the matter that too many doctors have been trying at the same time, and not a single one was straight with the patient.

  6. Reblogged this on denverqueen: The Blog of Weirdness and commented:
    As I am typing this, a Greek geek could never buy what I’m typing this on. And the Greeks are not watching Family /guy, one of my favorite shows. I dont want to lose the memories of all that /greece, and it is rooted in ancient heritage, but still its economy sucks.

  7. Alexis gets my vote for Time Magazine man of the year – placing democracy firmly where it belongs and in the same breadth calling on the people of Greece to take responsibility for the collaborative mess they find themselves in. I believe voting against the EU proposals will liberate Greece – and the world from slavery – not only slavery of debt but to the unseen slavery that unwitting manifests in almost every aspect of our lives.

    Greece is a fitting place for the first unravelling on the ‘false economy” given Greece was the founder of our civilization. All road lead not to Rome – but from Greece moi thinks. Alexis has seen through the charades of the EU – their interest is not the Greek people. Their interest is in continuing to prop up a money go round that serves everyone but Greece. Countries and people are merley pawns to be played on the chest board – but Alexis may well – with the Greece people support – be able to checkmate the game players.

    The temporary props of 2008 are unravelling of their own accord. It’s interesting ‘control and power” only work when you mesmerise people to believe that others have power and control over you – but they don’t as the Greece PM is clearly demonstrating. Greece is in the KING seat – the debtor can be, for when the stakes are high for they call the shots, not the lender. Pain in the process though with my blessings sent to those who are largely unaware – like most of humanity.

    I have no connections to Greece or any particular party – I only became aware of Alexisi in the last two weeks when I saw him on TV standing for the principles of the constitution of the EU which clearly the EU members run roughshod over. I liked him immediately – and I have a strong radar for authenticity.

    I since note that Alexis has been named by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. Democracy balance point is when the uninformed masses sway the informed few – you are an informed few – informed enough to have a view – and state it.

    Are you aware a person in London has set up crowdfunding to support Greece – $1.5 raised in a few days. The amount is not the point, the acting on personal viewpoints is. And an Austrian has submitted a petition to leave the EU as has Italy. People power has begun. Thanks for this blog.

    La Femina

  8. I feel sorry for you and your countrymen. Here in the States we knew from the get go that the austerity measures rammed down your throats would make things much worse. I blame Merkel for being such a hard core cold heartedm person for insisting on draconic austerity measures. Not sure if she knew this would happen and she didn’t care or she was naive. Keep hope this will end soon. No matter how bad it gets. Greece is MUCH older than most of Europe and definitely older than the United States.

  9. Pingback: Strelnik – Al diavolo – o perché voterò no al #Greferendum

  10. Oops, sorry the HTML tags didn’t work. Please could you delete my previous comment? Trying again…

    it seems that everyone, inside Greece and abroad, cares solely about who is to blame for all this, and not one little bit about what will actually happen to Greece and its people

    Not quite everyone… For what it’s worth (not very much, I know), I feel sad for Greece and its people. You have my sympathy and I hope that the situation will get better in the near future.

  11. I believe it is best for Greece to stay in the EU but leave the €! If Greece wants to compete with the rest of the EU it has to go back to the Drachma

  12. As a Brit, I know very little about the goings on in Greece (you never know how much you can trust the media) but so far, staying in the Eurozone hasn’t worked out too well for it. Britain has always vehemently opposed the Euro and I see no more reasons why leaving the Eurozone couldn’t work out for Greece than reasons why staying would ‘save’ it.

  13. How can you vote if you do not know what you are voting for? The situation sounds awful, and I’m sorry you’re going through it. There’s only limited information in the U.S. about what’s happening in Greece, so all I know is what you’ve written. I do feel for the people of Greece, but there doesn’t appear to be a way to solve the problem. It’s just a matter of making choices, and making more choices, until hopefully one of these days a solution will present itself.

    If there is one thing I would encourage based on reading your article, it would be to try and establish a free press. Even if it’s a bunch of people with cheap cell phones uploading videos to the internet, the citizens of Greece need free flowing information to make these decisions.

  14. Thanks for this piece. At least I understand the issue a little better than I did before, which was not at all. Best wishes for what’s best for Greece!

  15. Not the same situation but similar here in Puerto Rico. Corrupcion has a lot to do. Greed is terrible. The need of virtuosity is critical. If it is happening in Greece, what can we hope for?

  16. Am not Greek neither am I European. Greeks exit from Eurozone and Union is the last laugh for China or that oil giant in Arab world and a big loss for Berlin, UK or Washington. So the later are never going to let Greece slip out of site no matter how much debt Greece got. They would rather go down with Greece than let China come in and play superman

  17. An American who has spent over half his life in France, I understand completely your point of view. The current, largely undemocratic EU needs to be entirely revamped. It’s not good for Greece or France, it’s not good for Europe. Bon courage!

  18. Too many cooks spoil the broth. It makes a lot of sense to bow out and deal with just your own government, even if it means starting from scratch. I really wish Greece good luck in the tough times ahead.

  19. Comes a time when we realize that we all are sitting in the same boat. From space you can see no borders… We have created borders and are affecting the fate of this planet and her inhabitants.
    Democracy was invented to govern by majority decision. I believe, in its current form most democratic governments do not represent the interest and wishes of its people.
    Good luck to all of us.

    • Haven’t you noticed how world leaders everywhere are following their own programs rather than the wishes of their electors. Yet, for me, that is the basis of democracy. There must be a way of ensuring that leaders will follow the wishes of the people — or out with them!

      • Maybe democracy worked in ancient Greece. As you say, it doesn’t seem to work that well nowadays. To me it seems money rules the world. Most of us are willing to sacrifice a lot for some green.

  20. Boy the way I see it, even Jamaica is heading in the same direction. Most people wouldn’t know it, they only see Bob Marley and Bolt. Recently the government has been springing decisions on us, referendum or no, and no one says anything about it 😢

  21. I’m from the USA and feel very bad for the Greek people and two horrible choices before them. Although I do not believe in the concept and construct of the EU, the Greek problem lies mostly on the government’s past economic polices. Not collecting taxes properly from the uber rich and spending much more than their production is not a good recipe for financial stability.

    It might be time to “tear the bandage off” very quickly and take the pain going back to your old currency. Once that is done, the people will need to rally behind this new economic independence and make the country stable again.

    I wish you well and hope for better days.

  22. Pingback: The Irate Greek: To hell with it – or why I will vote no in the #Greferendum | Ultimative Freiheit Online

  23. I understand that you are pissed with the Troika and their meddling, and I fully support and encourage the Greek people wanting to leave EU.

    But let’s not pretend that they were the major influence this country ending up in this situation. We have a culture of people who don’t pay their taxes, economic illiterates that for some reason can’t move on from the socialism of old and rampant corrupt network of high net worth individuals and self-serving politicians.

    I hope that you will leave, and I pray that the people who put you in this situation will be judged and punished for it.

  24. I am a European and I hope Greeks will vote NO and take possession again of their own economy, with the Drachma. Euro membership inevitably requires loss of sovereignty to more financially powerful states and it is clear the Greek people don’t want to loose any more. Euro membership has also sustained the illusion that a country can borrow forever, as Tsipras promised in his campaign (stop austerity, keep the Euro). NO will liberate Greece from it’s addiction to the Euro. Tsipras is a hero. I have no idea why is doesn’t admit that he is the liberator.

  25. I think its a brave piece to write about. I understand that you choose hope for a better future for something like an end to ongoing slow death of your former life. There is although a BUT ( of course there always is a but) you assume and hope for dignity and new chance, while it was your people ( less than politicians) that created this country AND their problems. Everyone has contributed to this desolate financial state ( from “small people” claiming benefits for death relatives to big fish avoiding taxes). I totally understand that your everyday life is hard and no fun at all, but there has been actually in last few years only a word of will to change. People have promised to make amends for their last behavior. They have promised to do better, but at the end they were not willing to pick up the tab. This is not about blame here. Its about to stand up for your actions. I am German. How do you think I feel, when our politicians fight for your country with money and time and all we get back in return is mocking and our past ( just to point out pictures of our representative Merkel in your newspapers), Me too, I do want you to vote for a NO. Not because its sensible or economical ( I believe what is to come for all of us will be far worse what it was) but because you ARE accountable for your mistakes. And I think others should be done fighting your own fight. I hope for the Greek people while making this choice they will have the chance to do it right, this is actually the hope you have. And I doubt this will happen… This is the real tragedy here

  26. I can understand what you are writing. It was a big failure that Greece could join the Eurozone.
    Greece should leave the Zone but stay a partner with the support of the other members and should not blame German politicians as Nazis.

  27. This piece gives us an interesting insight into Greece’s debt problem. We are given the opportunity to become Greeks for a moment, long enough to see things from within Greek society. Analyzing the economic and financial consequences of the EZ’s austerity measures in bland dry terms fails to take into account the toll on the Greek psyche and the country’s institution. We now know that the referendum on acceptance of the most recent EZ bailout out terms has been rejected. On paper the people voted overwhelmingly against the terms. I agree that the government appears to have prepared a voting script for the populace to follow. Is this so bad? Regardless; can Greeks really expect to borrow billions on its own terms? Democracy might be alive and well in Athens; the Syriza government is leading the country as it was elected to do. I too agree that Greece should leave the EZ, though my reasons for this position differ from yours.

  28. Reblogged this on michaelbencik and commented:
    Thanks for sharing on this. As an outsider it has been utterly confusing what is going on there, and where it is going.its nice to hear the insider perspective, even though it seems just as confusing on the inside.

  29. I started following your blog simply because I’m one of those people who really wants to know from the inside, what is happening to the people. I can’t imagine not being able to get money out of my bank, I can’t imagine how scary it would be. I visited Greece in 2013, the people made it one of my favourite destinations. Although many were struggling at the time, so many kept a positive face, still smiling and making jokes. The people we met there told us how much they appreciated is coming to Greece and encouraged us to tell our families and friends to visit. I can’t wait to return, I hope you and the people of Greece survive and come forward stronger, with new found knowledge.

  30. Just coming across your piece now. I have only visited your country once (in 2010… ). It’s beautiful. It’s the most beautiful country I have visited. My heart is with you and your country as you start yet another difficult journey. I believe that Greece does NOT belong in the Euro. I agree with you that it is past the point of blaming anyone. The longer you look for someone to blame the longer it takes to move forward. The people of Greece have spoken. They want change. They want to move forward and they want to start building their country back up. It’s time for the Euro to let it go and start thinking about the best interests of GREECE, not their own! No country should be allowed to beg/borrow/steal as much money as Greece has received, and everyone involved in the IMF and Eurozone should be ashamed of the mess they have led Greece into!

  31. So the greeks are awesome. What the hell would we do without them in history and theatre? Really, ya’ll have loads of contributions. Now we all need you to be majorly innovative and you need to make something new we all wanna buy. Or buy into. You gotta make something and we need to invest in you. You don’t need bail outs, charity, relief, and this EU economy B.S. as an end all. You gotta get past wine and olives… and you don’t have oil and gold, nukes, weapons and bombs to sell… tech stuff is monopolized, but get into man… we need innovation. Like make the solar panels we buy because humans are so stupid they won’t stop warming up the planet… or drilling the oceans to their peril. Make something we need!!!!!!!! I love Greece. You deserve better.

  32. Your vote of no is the correct vote, but I doubt that Greece will exit. I doubt this because of your new finance minister who was educated in London. I suspect that Euclid Tsakalotos is a puppet who will continue to enslave Greece. Actually, Greece has much going for it if it can exit. Greece is strong in many industries.

  33. Honestly coming from SEA (south east asia), I personally dont have much knowledge of the issue with Greece. Either way, i hope Greece could find its way in sorting this out and move on. I have always wanted to see Greece. Hopefully it would be soon! All the best to you and Greece people. Stay united.

  34. I’m a Greek born in South Africa and what can I say! Looks like we are going down the same road. (My escape route to Plomari , my fathers village is no longer and option now) You are correct in saying “they are your government and have to answer to you” but when they turn around and laugh in your face… Heh heh heh! (Zuma’s little chuckle) You realize you’re damned if you don’t and damned if you do! The idea of Mars is sounding more and more interesting.

  35. Thank you for writing this, especially it’s from the perspective of a Greek person living in Greece, suffering under the harsh austerity regime in Greece. And I am very sorry that you and your country are going through this mess. As for ‘blame’, there is plenty to go around and apportioning blame now won’t do anyone any bit of good.

  36. What happened reminds me of 2005, when Holland and France and Ireland voted against the so-called European Constitution. Here in France, the version with minor changes was approved by the government without another vote. The Irish were told to go back and do it right — and did. And you guys voted “no”, so Tsypras is doing “yes”. Democracy — which to me means that our leaders do something which at least remotely resembles what we want them to do — is as dead as a doornail — in all of Europe (and most other places too). So how are we going to take it back?

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