Friday, 11 December 2015

Episode 38: If you Tolerate this...

You know me. You followed me around the country. You loved me on the TV when I had you in stitches with jokes about my penis. You followed me in the tabloids, you supported my charitable works. Then you didn't. I don't know why. You just stopped. Now, I have people who love me again. So much that they made me their mayor. This is my new story, From Under Dark Clouds.


You’ve been in the playground when the school bully walks in with his goons. We all know what that feels like, unless you were the school bully. Everyone tries to continue playing, maintain the nonchalant appearance of normality while being desperately aware of every skip, every jump, every word. Movement in the studio became stepped, metered. Trakas, the New Democracy Finmin played the denial card.
“Here come the goon squad.” He said just low enough to believe he couldn’t be heard.
But the studio had gone churchly quiet. “Traka! Show some respect. You’ll be begging at my table soon enough.” Ares answered, not loud but with entitlement.
There is a reason that teachers cannot combat bullying. It doesn’t start in schools and it definitely doesn’t end there. People who need recognition force people who need to follow to victimise people who need protection. If the meek ever do inherit the earth it will be after many more heads are flushed down toilets and a lot more lunch money is taken.
The entourage made its way through the middle of the room and everyone found jobs to do on the peripheries.
This wasn’t the first time I had met Ares, first time I was the fat kid of the class and he made me piss myself. I strode over to introduce myself. One of the shaved gorillas stood in my way. I smiled and Ares waved him aside. He looked down at my outstretched palm. ”I know you, mongrel. I read your file. Your own people don’t want you, you think my people do?”
“You have a file on me? What an accolade.” He looked straight through me, I doubted that he could pass the Turing test. I implored him to be nice, after all this was just a bit of telly.
“Enjoy your little skit, comedian.” He turned and continued through the studio. Needless to say he was the only one who did not address me in English. The host walked with him onto the set. Only there did his entourage break, positioning themselves behind their leader on three sides, just out of shot.
“Ladies and gentlemen, to your places.” A production assistant gently lead me by the arm to the set and placed me at a low coffee table opposite my new friend from the Golden Dawn. I crossed my legs and relaxed in my chair. My pissing days were long over.
A jingle played and the host began his introduction.
“With the elections upon us we give the spotlight to some of the minor candidates and ask if they have a new perspective to offer.” He introduced Ares who wished the viewers a stoic good-evening. “And a self-professed New Greek from England who surprised everyone by winning the mayoral elections.”
I smiled and added that I was not the least surprised at that one.
“The minister of finance, Manolis Trakas, to outline the government’s strategy, should it get re-elected.”
“We also have the renowned economist, Panayiotis Karaletsos who will give us his views on the causes and possible remedies of the crisis that grips our economy.”
He nodded.
“And it is with you, Mr. Karaletsos, that I’d like to begin. What do you think is the root cause of the present situation?”
He began with the European central bank’s incompetent appraisal of Greece’s qualification to join the single currency then accelerated to the austerity and bail-out plans that have only managed to get the country in more debt. I followed it quite well and found myself nodding, more in comprehension than agreement. He seemed to have omitted any mention of Greece’s role.
The host then opened the question to each of us to offer our manifesto to a viable solution. According to Trakas, New Democracy proposed more of the same, we were on the road to mend, we just needed more time and cooperation with the European union and the good will of the creditors. Ares proposed freeing the country from its immigrant burden. Then to me.
“Well, Stelios. I think we need to get businesses doing business. We need to build a business environment unencumbered by bureaucracy with clear, consistent taxation so that they can plan ahead and compete in the world market. This would provide jobs and stability.” Sounded like a plan.
“How would you go about addressing the huge problem of tax avoidance?” Karaletsos countered.
“Yeah, well people and businesses fiddle their taxes all over the world,. You only need to look to Starbucks, Amazon and Apple with their funnelling of money through Holland, Lichtenstein and Ireland. And, they’re only the big names. I think a fair stable tax system, staffed by understanding public employees who would be more empathetic to local industry would make businessmen and women more willing to give their fair share, right?”
The economist sipped his water and coughed into his fist. “So you propose that a nice fair tax system would turn round an economy that has shrunk by almost thirty percent in four years. With a debt to GDP that has gone from seventy eight percent to a hundred and ninety four in the same period.”
“I’m sure everyone would be more willing to contribute if they could see the sense in it.” Surely he could see the wisdom in that.
He smirked at me. “Capital is leaving the economy faster than we have seen since the junta period and your strategy is empathetic taxmen? May I ask if you actually have an economic strategy in your manifesto?”
I chuckled at this. “If we didn’t, would I be here now?”
“I haven’t managed to find it!”
“I’m sure you can understand that we need a stable tax environment to attract outside investment and let’s be honest, when we go to the tax office we feel loathed to give our signatures let alone twenty three percent of our earnings.” I checked the cheeky step. Done. Now in lieu of flirting with the host I turned to the Golden Dawn representative. “Now your people, Ares. I hear you do a lot in the community to help the old and needy.”
“The Greek people know that we are their true supporters—” he said slowly building pace. But I cut him short.
“Yeah, all well and good. I’m sure you are aware that this is one area where we agree. We have worked hard to give our citizens their dignity back. But we need to work with the international community, not against it.”
The finmin nodded in agreement.
“We don’t need your foreign money and your foreign laws!” Ares sneered.
“As far as the Euro is concerned, I think we are agreeing again.” I leaned over and touched his knee. ”The UK did not adopt the single European currency for just that reason. But the world is a family that must work together. We must embrace our neighbours.”
“We have been taking care of our people in the community with food and protection. The old and the children look to us for help. We are strong because we don’t look to others for charity.” His fists were tightening.
“Yes, and once again we find ourselves agreeing, Ares.” I leaned over again but he was just out of reach. “He’s not so bad after all,” I said looking at the host. “I have implemented initiatives in my town to help local businesses thrive and provide jobs and welfare for local people. Where we do disagree is—”
“We don’t need foreigners to dilute our Greek blood.”
“Now that is an interesting point there, young man. And, were my wife here, I’m sure she have have a lot to say on the matter.” I smiled at the camera. “You have a particular problem with people from other countries, don’t you?” I gave him time to answer but his eyes just went blacker. “I couldn’t help noticing the tattoo on your man’s neck here.” I invited the camera to pan to the bodyguard standing behind his master. “It’s a swastika, right?” The camera didn’t move. “An Indian religious symbol adopted by the German Nazis when they tried to subjugate Greece, with help from the Bulgarians and the Italians.” I didn’t see it coming but it came nonetheless, first the splash then the smash of a glass impacting with my cheekbone.
He was across the table and on me “MONGREL. FAG. FOREIGNER!”
His knee went into my balls, my hands sprung to defend my face but his taught abdomen got in the way. All I could do was scream to get this madman off me but it was he that rose above me, drool running from his lips. I scowled as defiantly as I could, trying not to flinch too cowardly. He spat and landed one across my jaw before swinging his head at the goons and walking out.
The studio security were still planted by the door.
The production crew fell on me with cloths and tissues, they came away blooded.
I pushed them away, stood and looked the camera square on. “If you tolerate this, then your children will be next!”

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