Friday, 8 March 2013

Down with this sort of thing

Not entirely sure what this says, but it's not 'Let's have more cuts'.
Today I have been on strike, so far as it is possible for someone who doesn't work for money to go on strike.

Growing anger on Skopelos at the way government-backed austerity measures are hitting local people's living standards prompted a strike in which most businesses shut for at least two hours.

Islanders, including a small group of the expat community, gathered on the road along the harbour front, and listened to a succession of what were, I think, angry speeches. I won't pretend my Greek is anywhere near good enough to understand what was said but some words sank in and I could put them together to come up with a sort of "We're fed up" message.

Particular points of concern on Skopelos include closure of some offices for government bodies including tax and what is roughly the Greek equivalent of the Department for Work and Pensions. People are also angry at the way the work of the island's secondary school is hamstrung by lack of funding (maths teaching is particularly affected) and the rising cost of ferry travel. In a country which has so many islands, ferries are an essential lifeline. People are also finding it difficult to meet the demands of property taxes.

Some people have, no doubt with tongue in cheek, suggested that not having a local tax office is a cause for celebration, but if you wish to take up a tax matter face to face and your nearest tax office is several hours expensive boat ride away, the joke begins to wear thin.

The effect this morning's protest will have is not entirely clear, but at least it showed those who took part that they are not alone in feeling fed up, downtrodden and marginalised by a crisis that many ordinary Greeks justifiably feel is not of their making.

As for people like me taking part, well, I wanted so far as I was able, to express whatever solidarity I could muster with the people of the island where I live. I recognise that a vibrant, thriving community has to be better for everyone. And if it were not so funny, bearing in mind who said it in British politics, I'd be tempted to say to my Greek neighbours "We're in this together".

A fed up crowd.

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