Letters from the Streets of Greece: Witness to Breakdown

Greece, the cradle of Western civilisation, is one of the first countries to fall as a result of the financial crisis.

A 48-hour strike is being held and protests on the streets of Athens as parliament prepares to vote on the latest round of austerity measures, including more tax hikes, pay cuts and job losses.

We wanted to share the touching emails we are receiving now daily, from Finance Innovation Lab mentors and core team members Maria Scordialos, Vanessa Reid and Sarah Whiteley direct from the streets of Athens.
Friday 21 October 2011

I am sitting here in my family’s home in Athina – with my sister, Stella – Vanessa and Sarah, drinking wine and tsipouro and smoking and we are listening to stories of what it was like to be in the crowds on Wednesday and Thursday.

She shared a story of an old man of about 75 years old – who asked her for water – specifically he asked “do you have a little water?”.  Stella said “I have a lot of water for you”.  He said to her looking into her eyes, “You are not Pasok, or New Democracy – or KNE (the young group of communist party) – these are all political parties.  Stella told him, “I am not so young”, and he replied, ‘But I can see youth in your eyes”.  Stella said,  “How do you know this” – and he replied “Because of the brightness in your eyes – you are true”.  Stella smiled and took his hands in her hands and kissed them and thanked him for seeing this.  And he said – “I never want to see another civil war” – and again Stella kissed his hands and said “You will not see another civil war” – His eyes filled with tears and said thank you I have to go now.

Both of my sisters spoke of how tear gas fell at their feet and how they had to hold on to each other as there were so many people.  They could not breath and how people came to each others assistance – one women grabbed my sister and sprayed malox (this is a peptic system liquid that counteracts the burning in the throat and skin) onto her face.

I share these little stories to bring out the beauty of the humanity that was taking place in the midst of the violence.  It is a longing for our humanity – these moment of connection that is bringing us out onto our streets.  We are finding one another in the crowds – speaking in our language of caring for one another – having small moments of meaning together. We are yearning for human togetherness – this is what we are really yearning for.

I also want to say that for some of us that have not lived moments in such situations – we might think they are horrible and dark – they are not – they are light and beautiful – through the tear gas, anger and pain – this too is beauty.  We need to reframe what beauty is.

Love

Maria – on behalf of my sister Stella

Thursday 20 October 2011

My sister, Stella called me and I could tell by the sound of her voice that she had witnessed and experienced first hand violence.  She spoke that there were even more people out today – and that it had been such a wonderful atmosphere. However – a large group of young people – came in with great violence – molotov’s, clubs, and even tear gas.  An all out battle happened between these  so called youths and the ones that had been trying to protect the peaceful protesting.  It is difficult to know who they are – some say they are part of the riot police – set up to create the violence.  Others say they are far right/fascist groups.  However, because of the immense amount of people – there were many injuries and one death.

My heart feels so sad that we have this kind of violence in our home.  That this pain has to come out – I know.  But we are a nation that still has deep wounds from our Civil War and this comes up in me as I write.

Our government was voting on the next set of measures tonight – I have not heard if they agreed or not.  One thing is clear – the nation has spoken over these past couple of days – and even with the violence – people are continuing to stand up.

Protesting can only take us so far.  We have to begin to come together – and begin the process of remembering, reclaiming and reimagining ourselves.  So – our response today was to go live with our Systemic Transformation Initiative – Kalaysis (Catalyst) – well someone has to convene it!!  We invite you to participate with us and  offer what you can to support us to make it happen  – see this as a learning investment – be part of learning with us.  And if you cannot offer financial support – then come and join us – offer us your gifts – and pass this website out into your networks far and wide.

And finally – here the words of my sweet sister, Stella….

“I am sad to say that the dance ended with a great fall on the dance floor. It became really bad, panic, fear and anger all mixed up creating great chaos. Many injuries and unfortunately one death of a man 53 years old. Much destruction and violence continued especially after the PAME union left Syntagma. It feels like everything is pre-conditioned. SAD, but we go on with hope, love and beauty in our hearts DETERMINATION!”

Love

Maria

Wednesday 19 October 2011

Just to give you an update. It was peaceful all morning – the atmosphere was really peaceful. Things are getting very difficult – we are having two days of general strikes with mass demonstrations – that are becoming more and more violent.   The riot police began tear gassing – throwing chemicals all over the place – it is now chamos as we say in Greece.  The people are still coming though – they are not leaving.

We are coming on the streets not just because we face poverty – but for our ethos and our own dignity.  One of the sayings is  Please leave us to live!!

Please keep standing with us.

Love

Maria

Tuesday 18 October 2011

 Here in Greece we stand at a precipice – for the next two days the whole country is coming to a stand still – already none of our media is working – tomorrow everything shuts down.  We do not know what the next days will bring us – but we can feel our land and people are shaking.  There is too much pain now to stay in paralysis and shock.

We need your love and holding

Maria

Tuesday 11 October 2011

Hello Friends,

Firstly – deep apologies for not being in touch for some time – much is happening in this part of the world – both within myself and also in the country that has called much of my attention – and takes most of what I have at the moment.

It is amazing how life is asking me to cultivate a practice of being present in movement.  I am in Athens right now – and the disintegration of the old system is really strong – everything is coming to a standstill here – garbage is not being collected, general strikes about two days a week on average, kids are striking and not going to school because books are not available for them, more and more people begging and knocking on doors saying they are hungry, 175,000 households have had their electricity cut off a month ago and 60,000 are still cut off.

We now have a 10 day petrol strike – so movement might just cease all together.  People are just so on the edge – the anger is pouring out everywhere – and yet a beautiful sense of justice is also coming through – a truth that pierces your heart and which you cannot turn away from.  We hosted a circle at my family home on Sunday – 22 people showed up – the piece travels and the pain and possibility poured out.  Maria Bakari is with us from Rhodes – it is sweet to be together in a field of holding deep centre in this incredible time here.  There is a deep need for people to meet and talk – connect – share – unite.  I find myself having moments of panic – deep in my soul – asking if I can hold the ground in me – let anyone else.  Knowing that I am part of fields like this one, with Sarah and Vanessa, etc. is what gives me courage and strength.  So even though I have not connected – we are connected.