Posted by: tabliope | June 28, 2011

Indignant of Athens

Today sees the start of a 48-hour-strike which coincides with the politicians debating the future for Greece and the bail-out.  I don’t know what will happen in Syntagma Square later today or tomorrow but I wanted to describe what it was like last Friday on a normal day.  I’d been reading all the British and US press which told me that I was living in a city that was crumbling and burning, subjected to daily rioting and that Syntagma Square was a no-go area having been taken over by rioters and anarchists.

I’ve never written to a newspaper before but I came pretty close when I read Helena Smith’s article and how she described Athens here , ‘reduced Athens to a smouldering mess of shattered windows and shuttered storefronts, furious during daytime riots, derelict and desolate by night.‘   This is nonsense.   In any capital city there are areas where it’s wiser, as a tourist, to avoid but Athens is not derelict and desolate by night.  Apart from anything else no one goes out before 10.00pm.

On Friday I decided to go and visit Syntagma Square for myself and saw the ‘indignant‘ who have been camping out since May.  To be honest it’s a bit like Glastonbury without the mud.  Tourists wandered through the square photographing the protesters and their banners while the press photographed the tourists and then asked them just how terrified they were wandering through the streets of Athens.  Tour buses were filled with travellers who watched the changing of the guard and then photographed the posters.  There was a very low key police presence.  It was fun, the sun was shining, people were laughing and I sat there for a couple of hours drinking coffee and cursing the flat battery in my camera.

Most of the protests are peaceful but they’re not reported because they’re not interesting.  How dull would it be to read, ‘not much happened downtown today’ or ‘tourists enjoyed sunshine on Greek holiday’?   It is true that there have been  outbreaks of violence and I certainly don’t suggest that you  plan to go downtown today or tomorrow.  But Athens isn’t burning, she isn’t  finished, she isn’t even tired.  And so, after today, whatever piece of footage gets rolled over your screens time and time again remember that it is but one snapshot of one day.

(I will admit to becoming tired of the electricity strikes).





  1. I’m such a cynic that I wonder if this approach to (mis)reporting what is going on in Athens is a subtle way of warning us Brits what could happen if, as the headlines sometimes say, WE COULD BE THE NEXT GREECE! i.e. to keep a lid on the protesting/strikes in England and suck up the benefit cuts/tax rises/pension meddling/unemployment otherwise your city will be next.

    I’m deeply mistrustful of the relationships between senior politicians and the Murdochs of this world. It wouldn’t surprise me if you’ve got Call Me Dave saying, yes we’re clobbering the poor and vulnerable, but if you make it look as though the streets could be too dangerous, then they’ll stay in more, watching your channel and boosting your advertising revenue – win win!

    Sorry, this was a bit long and rambley. I feel that Athens will be fine. I was struck by how modest Athenians were of their heritage, but that doesn’t mean to say they’re not proud of their city and would deliberately sabotage it.

    I’ll shut up now.

  2. I think you’re right – I heard that ‘nice bloke Dave’ comparing the UK to Greece when he was fiddling with pensions the other week.

  3. The same spin is going on vis a vis the forthcoming teachers’ strike, with various smug politicians on tv wanging on about the inconvenience to hundreds of thousands of parents (which of course is likely to be true) – and insisting that their offers of teachers paying more and working longer for their pensions is entirely fair and that they are just being unreasonable. And returning to the inconvenience to blah blah blah. With smug disregard to said teachers insistence that nobody is listening to them. Which of course is entirely likely to be true. I don’t believe that the vast majority of the teachers would be striking except as a desperate last resort. Clearly the politicos just want them to shut up and do as they’re told. So much for democracy!

  4. My mother was saying that when she was on holidays in Greece in the 60s, the papers were full of news of some protest, giving her mother palpitations but the only sign my mother ever saw of it was one broken window. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

    Think a big factor might be that it’s summer and you know the way news dries up and the media get a bit desperate…

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