Wednesday, July 4, 2012

life goes on...

Trying to stay positive is becoming increasingly difficult in a world that is collapsing, bit by bit, every day. Life in Greece is like observing a condemned building after an earthquake. It is unstable and can implode into a pile of dust in an instant; each day the cracks seem a bit wider, pieces of broken cement fall off; it becomes more rickety but somehow remains standing as curious on-lookers walk past shaking their heads in disbelief.

Struggling with pessimism has become a daily battle. Everything is on the rise – crime, attacks against immigrants, unemployment, homelessness, the suicide rate. The new government already resembles a sick man (literally) - the newly-elected Prime Minister was hospitalized for an eye operation and was incapacitated and unable to attend significant, urgent meetings... The Finance Minister passed out and was also hospitalized. He resigned before he even had a chance to be sworn in….
Avoidance acts as a form of escapism. We go about our daily lives superficially – not discussing the (shocking, upsetting) events which are occurring around us. We desperately search for new narratives but they don’t exist. No political party can offer a promising, new hope. There is no magic wand, no fairy tale ending. Yet people hang on to the old narratives and keep telling themselves that everything will be alright.

Escapism offers a brief respite and I find myself wanting to withdraw into my own little cocoon. I don’t want to watch the news; I go offline, trying to avoid reading the headlines, trying to shut out reality. I put on my headphones and listen to a mix of international club songs that were popular in the 1990’s when I was a student. I imagine myself (circa 1992) on the dance floor surrounded by my friends – fellow students from all over the world – happy and carefree.  Then I imagine myself dancing in the streets of Athens, the music creating a sort of Pied Piper effect, people joining in, laughing and dancing, traffic coming to a halt as the street party grows… Eventually I snap out of my daydreaming and come back to reality and to the sound of wailing police sirens...

Recently I found myself at a maternity hospital waiting for the arrival of a new family member. The private maternity hospital is new, modern and lacks nothing. It actually resembled a 5-star resort. But for me, it symbolizes the growing rift between the haves and the have-nots in Greece; those who can afford private healthcare and those who can’t…

Last month the Pharmacists Association was no longer able to extend credit to the National Organization of Health Service Providers (EOPYY), which means that the pharmacists were not receiving payment from the government (which has no money) for prescriptions. Pharmacies were no longer accepting prescriptions from patients. If you had the cash, (and the drugs you needed were actually available) you could buy the drugs at full cost. The result was people who desperately needed drugs for life-threatening conditions (cancer patients, for example) were not able to get the drugs they need. A dire situation – if you had the money for these expensive drugs (and could actually find them) then you could get them. If you are like most people, you don’t have the money so you don’t receive the drugs you need. This is the new reality in Greece. By the end of June, the government began to pay off the 127 million euro it owes pharmacists for April prescriptions, and thus pharmacies have resumed supplying drugs on credit to those covered by state health insurance (EOPYY). So if you are still alive, you can now get your prescriptions filled.

Many people outside of Greece believe that we are kicking back, receiving “free” socialized healthcare and enjoying the benefits of this wonderful system. The reality is that the services offered by socialized medicine are sub-par. State-run hospitals and medical care are severely lacking. Those who can afford it, buy (usually expensive) private medical insurance which offers treatment and medical care at private hospitals and clinics (which are modern, state-of-the-art facilities).
So, there I was, waiting anxiously at the private maternity hospital with the rest of the extended family to see the new addition… When they finally brought him out, I looked at that tiny, precious life and realized how lucky he is indeed – and hoped that his future will be bright.

Despite everything going on around us, life continues – people are getting married, having babies, planning their summer vacations… and telling themselves that “everything will be alright”…. I hope they are right.


Anonymous said...

Doom and Gloom everywhere, two of my fiance's employers are returning to there own countries, another is moving to Dubai as more prospects of business there....!

What are we to do, abandon Greece entirely, well why not? Greece doesn't look after us, it holds no prospects for us, no medical access, no jobs, no income.

So why not abandon ship while we still can? Why do you really stay?

In-spite of it all I am still getting married here in Athens in 2 weeks.

After that I might start looking at my Home Country (UK) or another country that holds out better opportunities for a Traveller like myself.

Anonymous said...

I love your writing. You should seriously compile these into a book. Good luck out there...

Anonymous said...

You capture the conditions in Athens beautifully. My heart goes out to you all, and hope that things turn for a more optimistic future. Keep writing, we're we're all watching (and reading) with our sights and intentions towards hope and optimism.

Helivesandstillrules said...

I found your site from the NYtimes comment you posted.
I am also like you born in the US to Greek Parents and i lived in Greeece and then moved back to the US.
Do not despair Greece has been through much much worse and will get thru this as well. Help whoever and as much as you can your fellow person.
As far as change it is coming there is a movement and the younger generation is learning of it day by day it is called Epanellinismos.
It is the only way!

Anonymous said...

A wonderful blog. I came across it from a post in Huffpost. I was born in Greece but live in the US for 38 years now. My family and relatives-whoever is still alive-are in Greece, and my heart goes out to them. I've been going back almost every couple of years, and I hope to be able to go again this summer. I miss the countryside so much it hurts. Keep on writing.