‘Barmen know everyone’ Aleksander said as he walked towards the bar at an anarchist pub we had found, it turns out he was right. He talk the barmen, who talked to a woman at the bar, who asked a man next to her, who then went to speak to a group of young people nearby, it felt like Chinese-Greek whispers. We were hustled over towards a group of young Greek people who immediately put out their hands to shake ours.
It turned out this was a group of young activists who worked together at a radio station. They were part of the Real Democracy! movement and had been on the square since the beginning, they had seen the numbers swell and then depreciate. One of them was a French teacher, but I kid you not, her English was better than mine. She spoke about her anarchist beliefs with a slightly posh English accent which sounded so strange to me, these are not the kind of things which my posh English friends say. She spoke with conviction and passion about her beliefs, her hands gestured around her as she spoke.
‘The people did not want change.’ This was one of the most interesting points which we discussed. It was odd to think of people using mass protest as a way to STOP change rather than start it. Her story was that the Greek people had received a lot from the system over last ten years and they wanted to keep it all. Every Government had used funds from the EU to blow up the budget and distribute it to whoever they thought would vote for them. It gave the Greeks a sense of status, they had ‘made it.’ But once the banks crashed and the Sovereign Debt Crisis kicked in, it was a case of the Emperors New Clothes. The game was up and the ‘Olympic Years’ were over. There was no money, no industry, no statuses, just debt. Now everyone was going to have the pay, and no one really wanted to. Now everything had to change, and no one really wanted it to.
There was no money, no industry, no statuses, just debt.
So when the memorandum was passed, when Papandreou went to beg the EU for money, when the IMF suggested a bailout, the people started to realise that the fat days were over and that there was nothing that they or the Government could do about it. She described the ‘hey day’ of the protests as a social event. ‘Girls who had just come from the hairdressers and had their sunglasses on,’ looking out for the attractive men. But as the Real Democracy organisation started to bring more left wing ideas to the square such using a trade of services, rather than using money the ‘normal’ people didn’t like it. That was when the numbers started to wane.
Now they were the ones left, with their slogans and websites. Still trying to organise, still trying to attend the square meetings, still trying to convince everyone that change is the only possible solution for the crisis they were in. We spoke to a lot of people in Greece, and the answer was always the same ‘It was not us, it was our Government and the system,’ followed by as sigh. This group was the only one who had the enthusiasm and the will to actually change the Government and change the system. They managed to inspire the Greek people for a few months in the Summer. But now when they looked behind them, the Greek people were no longer there. They just wanted their old lives back.