Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Dread and Uncertainty Pervade Life in a Diminished Greece

New York Times
June 13, 2012

Anyplace else, they might be signs of progress: Traffic moves faster on once clogged streets. Cigarette smoking has dropped sharply. Far less garbage heads for landfills each day.

But this is Athens, and the statistics are grim reminders of a middle-class society in rapid decline. Many fear that elections, including voting scheduled for Sunday, offer no clear route out of a deepening political and economic crisis. From its wealthy northern suburbs to the concrete blocks of downtown, there is a sense of an endgame in Athens.

“It’s the last days of Pompeii,” said Aris Chatzistefanou, a co-director of Debtocracy, a provocative 2011 documentary about the Greek crisis, as he stood, drink in hand, outside a cafe in Exarchia, a thrumming graffiti-filled neighborhood whose night life remains a rare pocket of defiant joy amid the unremitting gloom.

For many Greeks, the question is not which party will win. The next months and years will be difficult no matter which government is in charge. Increasingly, they wonder whether they themselves — and their country — will emerge from the crisis with a secure future. Giorgos, a 27-year-old economics major who did not want to reveal his last name, said the sense of uncertainty was oppressive.


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