06 Sunday May 2012
This is going to be my last post on Athens, but I wanted to sum up a few things. Several people have expressed interest in going to see the political situation there for themselves and I’d really encourage anyone who wants to to do so. It is amazing. I’m definately going back – although probably not for a while. Flights from Edinburgh in November start at less then £30 one way, and its worth considering whether you want to book your return ticket beforehand.
Its not for the faint of heart. The deployed police stationed on street corners, the ubiquitous graffiti and flyposters, together with lumps out of street furniture and masonry which have been used as missiles give it a feeling of being between wars. Begging, homelessness and open prostitution make you immediately aware of the struggle people are having to survive there. The hustling, daylight skip raiding and people carting their belongings around in shopping carts, together with the boarded up buildings among a densely packed city gives the air of the Third World, yet turn a corner and a smart coffee shop will beckon putting you right back in the middle of a modern European city.
If you go, head for Excharia. The square is the meeting point for the antagonistic movement: friendly, open and welcoming. Its a little intimidating at first, but people are very friendly. Participating in political action in Athens requires a level of confidence which isn’t really required in Glasgow. You are aware that although things may be calm at one moment – the atmosphere can change quickly in response to provocation. Confidence is necessary in all political actions, but never more so when the stakes are high…and in Athens, the stakes are very high.
It is amazing to experience such a politicised country, where ordinary people talk knowledgeably about the IMF, the Euro and international politics. Where everyone has an opinion, if not a solution. This was my first visit, but definitely not my last. I have yet to visit the squats, the community run park and the occupied garden – all of which a testimony to how the people of Athens are making meaning from the austerity being imposed on them and finding alternatives to capitalism that can serve as an example for the rest of us to follow.