Dreams and nightmares in Athens
Joy was it to be alive in Omonia Square in downtown Athens last night. The roar from a thousand bars, the honking of horns, revving of motorbikes, screaming of sirens, bomb-like banging and flaring of fireworks, and above all the unalloyed ecstasy of ordinary Greeks was awesome to behold. They clambered onto any available conveyance to steam through the city and congregate in this Square that has seen more politics than any self respecting human can hope to bear.
It should have been a knife-edge night when in footballing defeat to mighty Russia, Greeks settled back to the ghastly practical uncertainties that beset them.
Instead their team beat Putin’s boys. Uncertainty turned very fast to celebration and then soured to name calling as it dawned upon them that the Euro Championships in Ukraine could contort in such a way that Greece would play who but even mightier Germany. Germany, God of the other Euro – the cash, the curse, the undoing of Greece’s traditional modes of wayward governance and corruption.
The chanting was amongst the most obscene I’ve ever heard. In short, Angela Merkel was being invited to put the entire Euro crisis up her posterior.
Warm dawn announced this day of voting, this day of decision which every one of us here senses will render no decision whose ramifications anyone will be fully able to understand.
This is the petard upon which Europe and that includes us, is hoist. In so many ways Athens is calm and normal despite the unexpected football win and today’s voting.
Scratch the surface and you meet Professor Vassilis Theodoropoulos of the Agia Sophia Children’s’ Hospital who tells me how the vast €58 billion health insurance fund that somehow found its way into the Central bank and quite simply disappeared. His young cancer patients are desperately short of cancer drugs.
Scratch the surface and you meet the unemployed, the hungry and the fearful. This is a catastrophe. This is not what Plato had in mind. The ruins of the Acropolis tower above every vantage point in the city, whilst below the people sweat through a labyrinth of streets where democracy has so far failed.
Plato must be holding his elderly breath against what on earth emerges from today’s busy ballot boxes.
Follow Jon Snow on Twitter: @jonsnowC4