Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May Day, mayday…


It is my favorite hour of the day when the late afternoon sun emits a wondrous glow on everything. The light is slowly fading, casting a soft gleam on the apartment buildings across the way, transforming their dinginess into brightness. A wandering musician on the street passes, he plays ‘Bésame Mucho’on his accordion. Today is May Day in Greece. I sit in my living room, the balcony doors open, the sounds of the neighborhood wafting past the fluttering curtains… The spring breeze feels good.

May Day…

It’s a public holiday – a day off for mostly everyone and many of those who have to work strike in protest anyway. Today the two main unions held rallies in downtown Athens which were mostly peaceful with only minor scuffles. The ferry workers are on strike, much to the dismay of weary Athenians who were looking forward to a short getaway to nearby islands. The national railway is on strike, so those hoping to leave Athens by train were grounded too. Workers in the food service and in the tourist sector are on strike, possibly effecting services at airports, hotels and tourist-related businesses. I stayed home today. Even if I wanted to go somewhere, I wondered if it was worth the hassle of either being stuck in traffic or stuck in a crowded taverna or a noisy café. So here I sit instead, listening to a young family on the street outside, the wheels of the stroller clacking over the bumpy sidewalk as the mother sings a popular kiddie song…

May Day…
Everything is rather quiet in my neighborhood today. Those who managed to leave Athens for a brief trip to the countryside or seaside must still be gone. It’s unusually quiet; the traffic noise is noticeably reduced. I can even hear birds chirping as the sun fades and my TV produces a faint glow in the dimming room.

The news is on and the faces of the men and women representing all of the major political parties parade across the screen. They are all touring the country, trying to win over the voters, getting out their May Day messages: Pasok’s Evangelos Venizelos ensures that “The country is becoming reliable again. Greek and foreign investors can trust us”… I wonder if Mr. Venizelos would choose to say this at, for example, an international event, with European leaders and bankers sitting in the audience.

New Democracy’s Antonis Samaras states that only ND can move the country past this crisis and that “illegal immigration in Greece threatens the Schengen Treaty itself and if we don’t stop them, if we don’t expel them ourselves, Greece will soon become isolated from the rest of Europe”… In other recent statements, Mr. Samaras has condemned far-right party Chrisi Avgi (Golden Dawn), as neo-Nazis and “enemies of the country” – how is this possible when Mr. Samaras shares the same view as Chrisi Avgi, which also says they want to expel immigrants?
mayday…


The sun has gone down and the room is dark. It’s so quiet outside. All I can hear is the footsteps of the occasional passer-by on the sidewalk. The glow from the TV casts flickering shadows on the wall as the political face parade continues…
KKE’s Aleka Papariga (communist party) warns that “(after elections) the only thing that any newly-formed government will succeed in, is to spread disappointment and anger among the people”… Syriza’s Alexis Tsipras (Coalition of the Radical Left)  reminds us that today is a day of remembering past conflicts and battles, “it is a day which reminds us that the path of humankind and history was written by workers’ struggles - civil disobedience… by those executed by Nazis… etc… With struggles, with blood and sacrifice the people managed to change history”…. Is Mr. Tsipras suggesting that using violence is the only way to achieve change?

LAOS’ Giorgos Karatzaferis (Popular Orthodox Rally) reminded voters that today is not only a worker’s day, but an opportunity to offer a gesture of love, “a rose to all the women, to those who are here today in this honorable and good struggle, and to women all over the world. Without women, we wouldn’t be able to do anything in this world. Women were always protagonists, everywhere.” He went on to say that just moving immigrants from inner-city Athens to outer-lying detention centers only moves the problem from one area to another. “There is only one solution: For them to leave. And they will leave the day after we win the election and are in power”….
What about the female immigrants, then? Will Mr. Karatzaferis hand them a rose before he kicks them out of Greece?

mayday… mayday…

The TV screen is showing the central train station in Athens, with its motionless trains and empty platforms. The picture changes and shows the port of Piraeus, giant white ships lined up around the harbor, immobile.

I turn off the TV and the room is plunged into darkness, the only light coming from my laptop. Outside it’s black and still. I can hear a dog barking in the distance, like a faraway distress signal.


mayday…


mayday…


mayday…






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