Iason Athanasiadis: The result of 20 years of corruption, tax evasion and ignoring reality

Related Topics

As school children in Athens, every year we practised an alarming custom. At the end of the school year, we gathered our textbooks into a pile and burnt them in an act of rebellion against the rigidity of the educational system. Today, there is a parallel to that self-destructive behaviour in the blame-game unfolding on Constitution Square as Greeks curse their democratically elected politicians for "lulling" them into two decades of easy credit, soft corruption, tax evasion and overspending.

But they selectively ignore that they consented to an unwritten social pact whereby demonstrably corrupt politicians conjured up a higher level of living in return for no questions asked. But if people didn't know that Greece fiddled statistics to get into the European Union, then over-borrowed to fund the exaggerated lifestyles of corrupt politicians, many knew, perhaps only subconsciously, that foul play was afoot.

Now that the cat's out of the bag, many Greeks have opted for blaming the West for their travails instead of shouldering the blame. Global banks, the International Monetary Fund, Zionism and assorted scarecrows are infinitely preferable targets than facing up to our silent, corroding collusion. To kalo to palikari xerei allo monopati (the smart lad knows a better path) goes the Greek folk saying, and for years we fancied ourselves cutting fine figures as we negotiated our own special path.

But in dealing with Brussels we were falling foul of another saying: Logareiazei xoris ton xenodoho (acting without taking the innkeeper into account). Today, although some blame must be apportioned to international institutions for encouraging Greece's addiction to debt, almost no voices ask why Greeks knowingly lived beyond their means.

This refusal to deal with our past but rush to the soothing shelter of collective amnesia reminded me of the slightly bizarre experience of my Greek childhood. I grew up in Eighties Athens. I took for granted the embedded racism, clientilism and absence of meritocracy.

At sports events, the hooligans setting fires to the stadium, exploding fireworks into basket-ball arenas and pelting players with coins were described with quiet pride and a dash of admiration as "fanatics". Criminals often organised escapes from supposedly high-security jails. Demonstrators rioted in the streets on political anniversaries while the police stood by impassively. Only later did I learn that the authorities viewed the rioting as an important pressure valve on society necessary for manipulating the political agenda.

Then it got even better. Entry into the EU was interpreted as a signal to become "Western", ergo degenerate. Magazines featured scantily clad girls in suggestive poses as swaths of society plunged into a consumerist lifestyle unprecedented in Greek history.

When I moved to a school in London, I thought that all this and more was typical of every Western country and that Greek reality was normality. After all, raising your voice in protest at this paradigm resulted in getting shouted down as a xenerotos (pathetic) or floros (a dweeb). Now I spend some of my time in Kabul. In this failed state, with its massive corruption and a resurgent Taliban, it quite reminds me of home.

Iason Athanasiadis is a writer and photographer based in Istanbul and Kabul

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A luxury beauty house with a nu...

Recruitment Genius: Housekeepers - Immediate Start

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This company are currently recruiting new exp...

Recruitment Genius: Head Concierge

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning Property Man...

Recruitment Genius: Content, SEO and PPC Executive

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Clean energy should be our mission to the moon

Martin Rees
Angela Merkel and David Cameron say goodbye in the Bundeskanzleramt after their meeting in Berlin, Germany, 29 May 2015  

The complacency of Europhiles could lose them the referendum

Steve Richards
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral