Thursday, April 19, 2012

great expectations

I stood in the churchyard shivering in the cool night air, holding an unlit candle, surrounded by hundreds of people – all waiting expectantly for the priest to appear with the ‘holy light’ – the annual ritual…  I observed the scene with a detached weariness as the flame was passed from one candle to the next and a soft glow slowly spread throughout the churchyard. I felt like a bored spectator watching a play I’d already seen too many times… observing the next familiar act… The church bells started clanging, the priest’s voice crackled over the loudspeaker proclaiming ‘christos anesti’ (Christ has Risen), people kissed one another shouting ‘chronia polla’(well wishes) and then everyone rushed home to enjoy the traditional meal (soup, red eggs, sweet Easter bread)… In a few short minutes the churchyard was practically empty - perhaps only the people who really understood the true meaning of the religious celebration remained inside the church, following the service until the end.

But most of us are just ordinary people after all, and perhaps expecting great things of ordinary people is just expecting too much.

Many are already talking about what we can expect next. Recently, a prominent Chief Investment Officer who oversees an equity and bond fund with nearly €1 billion in assets, expects that Greece will leave the Eurozone in 12 months’ time.

According to a recent report from the European Commission, EC president José Manuel Barroso expects that Greece can transform itself if it adheres to reforms. He also stated that he expects Greece can generate growth and jobs and we can even expect changes by this year.

But what we expect and what actually happens are sometimes two very different things.

Former Defense Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos probably never expected that someday he’d be arrested and accused of corruption and money laundering. But on Wednesday, April 11, we watched as the drama unfolded live on Greek TV as Tsochadzopoulos was led from his home (in one of the most prestigious neighborhoods in Athens) to police headquarters. He remained in custody until after the Easter break and on April 17 we all watched the drama continue live on TV as he was led by police to Korydallos prison. He is a founding member of the socialist PASOK party and held key ministerial posts throughout his career which spanned over 20 years. Perhaps this is a 'lamb' which some never expected to see being led to slaughter.

Many people hope the arrest isn’t just a pre-election attempt to convince the public that the government is serious about cracking down on corruption – even at the highest of levels. Who might be next on the list? Are certain politicians starting to get nervous? Is this the beginning of a new Greece where real justice can be expected? Or is this just too much to expect?

Other experts write articles stating that they expect European leaders will eventually rally to our aid and provide a great, new Marshall Plan which will guarantee our rescue.

I returned to Athens after the break and finally realized why Easter was so important this year. In this unstable, uncertain time, where we don’t know what to expect of Greece’s future, we found comfort in ritual. Even if for a brief few days, we had a great need to know what to anticipate. We found great comfort in knowing exactly what to expect – we knew how this story would play out and had a great need to believe in a crucifixion, a resurrection, a salvation, a sacrificial lamb, a celebration.

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