Tuesday 25 September 2012

The Resistance Manifesto

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;

Wednesday 19 September 2012

Tales from the resistance

Cut out and wear with pride

Greece; you only have to say the word and it conjures up a myriad of images. Sun, sea, ancient civilisation, wonders of the world, economic crisis and moustaches. What doesn't spring to mind is entrepreneurship and business acumen.

Greeks have traditionally fallen into two categories as far as work is concerned; public servant or self-employed. With private-sector employee being very much a consolation prize. A job, any job in the public sector has always been regarded the safe, secure route, not overly taxing with tenure and a reliable pay-cheque. Self-employment, on the other hand hovers around nearly 40% of the workforce, more than twice the UK level and nearly four times the US. Greeks have been running their own businesses for years. From fishing boats to cigarette kiosks, from farming to shipping, Greeks have been doing the business in business. In fact, in spite of the efforts of the country's largest employer, the government, the people of this greatly misunderstood nation have managed to turn a tidy profit and send a fair bit of it to Germany; there are more Mercedes on Greek roads than Fords.

Friday 7 September 2012

Episode 13:...and the cupboards were bare.

from under dark clouds

From Under Dark Clouds

From Under Dark Clouds

After a scandalous legal battle with the Vatican and a very public breakdown, a British media celebrity seeks asylum in a sleepy Greek village. But can he keep his head low? Can he fuck! 

Driven by his own narcissism and under the mentorage of the shady Socrates our anonymous hero goes from paranoia to public office.

I need a dollar
The constituency was broke, the coffers empty. I looked through the various accounts and ledgers then got somebody who knew what they were looking at but even though some had enough for a bloody good night on the sauce, it wasn’t nearly enough to run a small town and a bunch or provincial villages. My staff, including the well-assembled secretary had been labouring on hope for well over six months now and my wife was not going to be best pleased with my own chances of bringing in a good salary. The cupboards were bare, dear Blogees and a bone was most definitely out of the question. 

According to some crackpot quack I once saw if I continued to drink everything under the sink I would eventually have no memory at all. Now, memory had never been one of my strong points but realising that from time to time I would need to remember at least some key facts, kids’ names, wife’s birthday, change my underwear, I had devised a little method of retaining information. I sang. By singing the things I wanted to remember I'd be able to recall them later on with incredible accuracy and it must have been my joy at winning the election but I was singing for Europe the night I had first taken my place in this now spartan office. More importantly, I had sung my way through all the usernames and passcodes. Humming a tune, the well-assembled secretary took my arm as she realised the relevance of the series of secure international banking sites. Site after site I effortlessly gained access to the previous mayor's transactions and my secretary leaned over me to press the PrtSc key to file all the dirt we may need to sling at those who might have objections to our actions.  

By the end we had enough to cover some of the municipal wage arrears and a new coffee percolator but we weren’t nearly out of the woods yet. 

I had a flash! We would go public, appeal to the goodwill of the people. No. Fuck. They would eat us alive, there would be a run on the bank. No, we had to keep this schtum, no-one must know. I swore everyone to complete and utter silence.

the cat is out of the bag
Somehow the cat had got out of the bag
The next day I arrived at the town hall to find the usual nook for the Vespa occupied by a huge van with a dish on the roof and it wasn’t alone there were at least another three, some with unfamiliar, foreign lettering on the side, and the entrance to the town hall was infested with paparazzi. We had a mole. 

“Mr. Mayor, what do you have to say about the bankruptcy of the prefecture,” a microphone was shoved in my face. 

I chose the fifth amendment and told them to fuck off and that by the way we had plenty of money to run the prefecture.

One of the paparazzi shouted a figure, the others scribbled and I went cross-eyed in thought; it was exactly the amount we had in the bank. We had a numerate mole. 

Within the halls of government a cup of instant coffee sat on a pile of IKEA remnants passing itself of as a desk, my desk. 

The rest of the day continued as badly, until it got worse.

There parked in the middle of the main street was a big black Mercedes van. Its back doors were open and three or four men hewn from dubious stone with minimalist haircuts giving out food parcels. They had created quite a stir and an impatient crowd had gathered but did not dare to push or shove. I walked through the crowd up to the most generous chaps. I asked what they were doing and one turned his attention to me.

“S’fer tha pipple,” he belched then paused but it was his collegue that made the distinction.

“Where are you from, eh?” my accent maybe more obvious than I remembered.

I replied that I was from the Town hall.

“You ain’t one of tha pipple!” he pointed out and turned his head looking for recognition from  ‘tha pipple’.

“I’m not getting you, young man,” I raised my self out of a slouch which belied my slightly above average height. 

“You some kinda ponce foreigner then?” his enunciation started to become a spray. “You not like the good pipple of this country,” he flashed a pitbull smile at them and they murmured in response.  

“No, young man, I may not be but they did choose me to represent them around here,” I realised I was sounding more foreign by the moment and I could not expect any support from those around me, who ever defended a politician? “Just finish oiling the good people and get the fuck out of here, you’re blocking the road, if nothing else.”

With that he began raining blows about my head yelling incomprehensible gibberish. 

I was later lucky enough to be able to nurse my wounds in the relative safety of my office, the well-assembled secretary dabbing my head with something that stung like hell.

Beating an elected official in broad daylight, what had we come to?   


close to credits...

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Wednesday 22 August 2012

The Lord of the Flies

Piggy & Ralph 

I have always maintained that Greece is a country of children. A country that despite its thousands of years of history and culture, despite its gift of civilisation and philosophy to the ancient world, despite hundreds of years of austerity and occupation, has a childlike relationship with the today and a flippant mistrust of the tomorrow. I say despite but this could easily be replaced by because of.

You may feel free to be angered by this but personally I am very fond of children.   

Tuesday 8 May 2012

A little spot of gardening

Last week I had a blazing row with my neighbour. The next day I had a highly animated argument with her husband where he threw pot plants around and attempted to pull saplings from the ground in utter exasperation at my audacious interference in matters that I should not have been concerned with. Everyone in the block told me to keep schtum and stop making an issue about it. So what was it all about. 

Sunday 4 December 2011

Cash in on Guilt

There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What's there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted and you create a nation of law-breakers - and then you cash in on guilt. 
Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

Under the enormous pressure of the ECB and IMF and just about anyone who has any kind of stake in Greece at the moment, the powers that be are rolling out the only weapon they ever really knew how to wield, guilt. Over decades of laws and counter laws and the plugging of loopholes and the creation of favours, what Greece is left with is an unholy web of legislation that few understand and is almost inapplicable even by those whose job it is to impose it. Instead we have arbitrary demands based on the understanding that they are quite aware that you have a lot more to lose if they were to rigorously audit you. 

Monday 7 November 2011

If we all stop believing, will it cease to exist?

There has been a lot of talk of contagion during this Euro crisis. Contagion is the domino effect of a falling economy taking its less stable creditors over the edge, which in turn causes larger and larger economies to fall, unable to resist the infectious debt. Such is the incestuous nature of finance that this could feasibly take down the majority of the world economies; starting with one little trip. There is another contagion that worries the Eurozone, however, that is not spoken of, the contagion of faith.

The Euro is a fiat currency, which means that it has no substantial commodity (usually gold) underpinning it. This means that its value is derived from the faith in the issuing nation and the belief of the financial markets. Were Greece to be excommunicated, or worse, walk out during mass it would spend more than 40 days in the wilderness but it may just learn a thing or two, or at least appear to have. This is the most infectious idea that could be spawned. If Greece survived exile, and ultimately but painfully, it would, this would send a clear message to other suffering members to cut the cord.

The world's financial markets are run by some of the most sharp, aggressive and secular intellects on the planet. They form long and short term strategies and know how to make the market move in their favour but a hint of a rumour of an idea from someone who knows the right people and all hell breaks loose. If traders believe something will happen, it happens because they will make it happen. Have you ever noticed how the news that someone is leaving a company or political position sends the markets into turmoil. For the last two years the markets have gone wild every time Steve Jobs looked a bit peaky or adversely when he was looking well. The markets draw conclusions from omens that are interpreted by the high priests to mean up or down.

The markets don't know what to believe about the Euro, their fates are too closely linked to what everyone else believes, but their minds can easily be made up. If Greece and one other Eurozone economy lose the faith it could be more than the central bank can support.

For the time being, the big players in the Eurozone have faith that they can carry the currency and the market is willing to have faith in them. 

So, if we stop believing in the Euro, will it cease to exist?...

...that depends on who we are.    

Thursday 3 November 2011

Why Greece will fall

who will play Captn George
 in the movie

The present problem derives from the fact the EU thinks it is in battle with Greece but it is not. Greece is in a battle with its government and its political classes as a whole, both right and left. It knows that it has played its part in the situation but it will not take responsibility for its self-serving rulers any more. The EU is dealing with the government who has no influence over its people. 

The Papandreou and Karamanlis dynasties have only ever been allowed to govern because they have shared out the sweeties from time to time, the public sector is bloated with the price of favour, crumbling roads are the price of wannabe civil engineers who happened to be cousins. Now, however, the sweeties are all gone and the sweet shop is calling in the debt. The rulers never curried any sustainable favour and definitely never earned any respect. 
The people will vote against its government, not the Euro, not the EU but the government has now made that the same thing. Those who have been managing this country have missed all the lessons on running a tight ship, efficiency is all German to them and working a narrow margin is vaguely sexual. Ultimately, all will lose, the Greeks, the single currency and, once again, the Germans.     

Hopefully, once its all over Greece may get a ringmaster worth his ring and then be remembered as the 300 of Thermopylae. 

From Under Dark Clouds

The Century of DIY