On The Eve Of The Strike

Just got out of a meeting with tomorrow’s strike team. For those of you back home who may not realize how bad things are in Greece, let’s break it down in some quick numbers.

  • 23% of the country is still unemployed
  • 52% of young people can’t get a job
  • Greece’s poverty rate jumped 40% between 2008 and 2015

And that’s not even including the refugee crisis. Tomorrow there will be a nation-wide strike and being that we’re in the country’s second largest city, we’ll be there covering it. The strike is a result of a combination of problems in Greece, including the latest austerity measures that the Greek government will be voting upon this Thursday. The following groups are sure to be striking:

  • bus drivers (who have been striking since Monday)
  • hospital staff
  • journalists (who started striking today to ensure there would be no news coverage tomorrow)
  • teachers
  • dock and ferry workers (who are on a 4-day strike)
  • airline staff (although theirs seems to be only 4 hours long)

and likely many, many others. Thankfully the cab drivers will still be working, but we have heard word that some anarchists may show up with molotov cocktails and may try to seize our cameras if we film them. Tear gas is also potentially in my future (although with the number of people I know who have been gassed, I’m not so concerned about it). Honestly, this isn’t worrying to me, maybe because I’ve seen too many instances of violence in the U.S. Of course, I’m not immune to it, but I’ve been to enough protests to know to wear sneakers, to bring milk, to bring a bandana. It will be a bit different this time in front of a camera, but I’m not too worried.

A few things are on my mind as head into tomorrow though. I’ll try to keep this concise but apologies for the nature of this post–I don’t think I’ve got much in the way of answers with this one. Certainly no puns.

Today, our guest lecturer was Georgios Anastasiades, economics professor at the American College of Thessaloniki. His lecture was fascinating and gave me great insight into the finer details of The Crisis here in Greece. But one thing he said has been sticking with me as we prepare for the strike: the people of Greece are disillusioned.

To be honest with you, the big strikes in greece happened in the beginning of the crisis…Literally the country was in a standstill…Now it’s, I mean social protest is very subdued because people have become disillusioned…In the past, people believed they could actually reduce the effects of the Troika…now people have basically given up.

The reality is, I don’t know how accurate this statement is, it is only the words of one man. But to hear that, to know how many people in this country are suffering, it’s disheartening. Despairing.

Three other things today have been weighing on me: I plucked a kitten out of a tree and I read two articles, the first being an Al Jazeera piece Olivia passed along to me on refugees in Greece to prep for our Chios trip this weekend. The second was this gut wrenching essay by the late Alex Tizon, titled My Family’s Slave.

I’ll start with the kitten scenario, as it was sort of humorous. In an attempt to get permission to shoot footage of the port of Thessaloniki, Suma, Alexa and I were seeking to find the port police. Instead, we found a kitten perched in a small potted tree, mewing pathetically. Alexa initially tried to get him out while Suma and I followed a non-port policeman to find the entrance of the port police station. Alexa ended up getting a second policeman to help her get the kitten out of the tree, but neither of them were successful and the poor thing kept climbing higher in this spindly tree. I finally grabbed the little guy–he couldn’t have been more than a few weeks old–and plopped him onto the sidewalk. He promptly clambered away and hopped into another potted tree and hid, where I suppose he’ll be stuck until someone else comes along and pulls him out.

This didn’t really upset me, but then I got home and started reading.

The first article, heartbreaking in it’s own right, brings up the idea of refugee camps being zoos for the media. I’ve touched on this identity of a vulture as a journalist before. But this reminded me again that our work must be done thoughtfully, cautiously, and in the true belief that we are doing this for a greater reason than a by-line or a clip.

The second article brought me to tears on the common room couch. Not the fat drops streaking down my face, but the quiet kind of cry that sneaks up on you. I didn’t realize I was on the verge of sobbing until I inhaled too quickly and choked, flooded by sadness and anger at my own helplessness in the face of such pain and cruelty.

Because, despite being here or maybe because I am here, I feel helpless. I wanted to join this profession because I believed I could do something to help another person. That’s all I ever wanted. I tell myself that these stories matter, that elevating these voices was enough, but how can it be? I can’t get any of these people a job, I can’t make people’s homelands safe enough for them to return to, I can’t even help a kitten out of a damn tree.

For Alex Tizon, was sharing Lola’s story enough? Perhaps it has to be, perhaps there is nothing else we can do but tell these stories and cling to the hope that someone more than us can fix things.

I have some fantastic folks in my life who reminded me that we are doing this for a reason, that what we do is important, so thank you Bridget! Plus I have an amazing girlfriend who sent me several things to restore my faith in humanity, including a picture of her own face. And while I can’t save that kitten in a tree, I do have a cat waiting in Boston for me to return and keep feeding her scraps from the table. So for now, this needs to be enough.

In the words of Yuri Kochiyama: Remember that consciousness is power. 

3 thoughts on “On The Eve Of The Strike”

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