Here a series of photographs I did make in Athens this year – as a preview for my upcoming book on the economic crisis in Greece. These ones here are a selection from the black and white series and do depict the negative aspects of the current state of affairs. It’s raw and unpleasant.
A selection of these photographs are published within the GR€€CIS book, which you buy at the webshop.
Please read the “Unfollow” essay below as well.
“Unfollow” Essay. A preview from the GR€€CI$ book.
Taken from “The Athenian Constitution” by Aristotle [384 bce – 322 bce]
[…] 2. “After this event there was contention for a long time between the upper classes and the populace. Not only was the constitution at this time oligarchical in every respect, but the poorer classes, men, women, and children, were the serfs of the rich. They were known as Pelatae and also as Hectemori, because they cultivated the lands of the rich at the rent thus indicated. The whole country was in the hands of a few persons, and if the tenants failed to pay their rent they were liable to be haled into slavery, and their children with them. All loans secured upon the debtor’s person, a custom which prevailed until the time of Solon, who was the first to appear as the champion of the people. But the hardest and bitterest part of the constitution in the eyes of the masses was their state of serfdom. Not but what they were also discontented with every other feature of their lot; for, to speak generally, they had no part nor share in anything.” […]
Some, but not much has changed since the days of Aristotle.
Introduction to Greecis – Unfollow
As you already have seen, almost all of the photographs in this book are made in the city of Athens, Greece, in the heydays of it’s economic crisis in 2013. This is work mostly in stark black and white. These photographs bathe in contrast and show an unfortunate city, after a period of rapid growth. I wanted to experiment in my photographic approach and capture for the first time in my life a photographic documentary with an unpretty sight. The “Unfollow” part has no beautiful photographs which are well composed, the colorful flowers, models, a laugh, pretty architecture, the abstract. You will be served photographs which are not much seen in the mainstream media and which cannot be seen as a lightning example of a glorious society. To be short: “Unfollow”, for I wish wholeheartedly that these perilous times are over soon and that it will not be the road for the peoples of Athens to follow any longer.
Some friends asked me: “Why this series of photographs?” The answer is simple. I have friends and family living in Athens for many years already and I heard stories about the poverty in town, the demonstrations, the deplorable financial state of the city and Greece. I had been in Greece many times already and made the upside life photographs only, like I did in the book “Volcano’s View”. Now I had to see more myself and roam the streets, explore the city I thought I knew so well. Found out I did not know the city so well, got connected with many Athenians, day in day out, and see, hear, talk about their personal lives and life situations.
In The Netherlands we laugh about the lazy Greeks; we act as if they deserve it and we, the Dutch people, live in a far superior society than theirs. Northern Europe is the place to be! When you say this to the people of Greece they laugh about us. “Ah the grey lowlands, the brownstone country. Yes, we are going through bad times these days, but life in general is much better here. Our country is very, very beautiful. We have the sun in our hearts.” Actually no-one is is right, but in spite of these silly remarks more and more Greek men, women and immigrants leave the country and choose for a different and new life in an environment with better economic prospects, like, eh, The Netherlands.
Crisis? What crisis? [Greecis? What Greecis?]
As a former bank employee [I got sacked at the bank I worked in 2006], I saw this economic crisis coming up years before it happened. If they had known my viewpoints and background as a well informed researcher in economy and politics, the bank I worked for would have saved billions of Euros. If I am correct they received €10 billion bailout money from the Dutch government in 2008. Of course they didn’t listen to me, just for the simple reason that I did not tell my views to the directors on top, and they never asked me. These people never listen to employees way down the pipeline anyway. Never met them. Why should they? They are far too important, very busy all the time and too successful for a man like me. [Up until 2014 this bank paid back almost all of that €10 billion plus interest, so you know how easy they earn their money year in year out.]
The high priced director of the Nederlandsche Bank [the Dutch Bank], Nout Wellink always said he did not see it coming. He was taken by surprise. Not that I know this most influential banker personally [also director of the Bank of International Settlements from 1997 – 2012 [and and and…]], so I did not tell him beforehand. But if I, as a simple middle management bank employee, knew which games are and were played in the money world and what was coming up… What was mister Wellink doing? Did he know, but not react? Was he ignorant and, just as most people, didn’t he understand the money making calculations, which are invented by the financial institutions? All knew there was a lot of air blown into the [housing] market, he pretends it isn’t so and actually the business is still full blown with laughing gas for the rich and happy few. It became a crying game for the majority of the Greeks; for the already poor it even became a tragedy.
Back to Athens
During my visits in more than 30 years I have seen the city change rapidly and dramatically up until 2007 for the better and afterwards for the worse. Athens: house of democracy they say. City of Socrates, Pericles and of the beautiful majestic Acropolis. Almost 4 million people live in this most ancient of European capitals. If you can imagine this city to inhabit only 4.000 people in the 1830’s, then you also can imagine how rapidly it grew and how modern the cityscape must look like, although not in a futuristic utopian way.
At many places these days the city downtown looks like a war zone. Buildings are plastered with bitter graffiti. Shops and office buildings are shut down, burned, torn apart. Windows are barricaded. Things look nasty and gross. They say that 50% of the people who work at the Greek police force and the army is at hand of the right wing fascist party Golden Dawn [which name should be changed into Black Prawn, if you ask me]. They won 7% of the populations vote at the last held elections in 2012. In their dark uniforms you can see the policemen all around town: the guards of the Status Quo for the happy few. They look at you like piss off. Don’t you fucjking look at me! It is better to dive, hide and cover.
One guy begging at Athinas street misses his left lower leg, there’s an old woman begging in a wheelchair, a young man prays in despair. There are East-European drunkards and there are drug runners close to Monastiraki station and this one wears a T-shirt with a magic mushroom printed upfront. His face however stays invisible [how did you do that, you funky hip slinging photographer? Answer: no idea, pure coincidence]. An Asian pimp looks cool and his hookers go high heeled to work. Shops and offices are shut down near Omonia square and a closed door shouts out loud “Kill the Cops”. “Anarchism is Freedom” it writes on the marble walls of Athens’ 19th century Academia building. “Wake the Fuck Up” graffiti tells some Athenians next to an office of the recently deceased First Business Bank and a woman passes by a beggar at an office of the National Bank of Greece, ignoring him completely. The city of Athens and it’s people are torn. In summertime the city is burning hot as always, but the atmosphere is chilly and stoic.
How to make an end to this? These photographs are of little help, that’s for sure. They only confirm which already is, and show us how it should not be. I do not believe that photographs like these end things. My photographs can only raise more awareness, if you are open for it. To become more conscious of the despair of so many people in Athens. We have to find ways to change the system we are all part of, for this one doesn’t work out for the good of the people and our environment.
The State of Greece [and the world]
Now you have scrolled through the pictures I made, and found time to start reading my essays, you know that the city looks like, eh, fucjked these days. It’s people too. Democracy – this political invention the Greek people are so proud of – turns out to be a a mix of oligarchy and plutocracy. Nothing did really change since Socrates’ [self-chosen?] poisoning. It still is the upper class who rule. They will never mend their rotten ways, because such is their way to stay in power and in control of the working class after all. The only thing left for the normal people is the illusion of living in freedom in an open democratic society. People who are a bit smarter and well educated know that this so called democratic society is not only a oligarchic plutocracy, but a corporatocracy as well and these ruling corporations behave like kleptocrats.
Greece scores place 94 in the world corruption index, together with India, Moldova, Djibouti, Benin, Columbia and Mongolia. That’s not a pretty score for the founders of democracy. You might think they had more than 2.500 years to make their democratic society function like smooth and perfect. Well, unfortunately, something must have gotten in it’s way. People with other interests perhaps? States as the Netherlands are far less corrupt, but it might be that this is because what is seen as corruption has been legalized in a shady way. Our accountancy is notorious for finding ways within the mazes of the law. The Dutch have a verb for this, namely “to tolerate”.
And yes, Greece is a democracy. They have a central, democratic chosen government, elections, freedom of expression, freedom of union, but in spite of that the people hardly have any influence on the policies of the government. This is only for the big companies and the few rich people. Such it is in most democratic counties, so Greece is not an exception at all.
Here some statistics. The Greeks work more hours per year than most of the other Europeans do [+ 40% more than Germans]. Per year they earn €6.400,00 less than the Germans, and if you add the extra hours the Greeks work, this makes almost €9.000 per year less, compared to the German average year income of €22.000. The fact that the Germans earn more in one year with less time, means that they work more efficiently, more cost-income aware and make more profit within the gross price of their product or service. The average Greek retires later than the Dutch do. Their average salary has been cut by almost 35% and one third of all the Greeks do live in poverty these days. The €U defines poverty as having an income under €7.178 per year for an individual, and €15.073 euros for a family of four. The unemployment rate in 2014 is 28%. For the young under 25 years the unemployment rate is 67%!!! The gross [!] minimum wage is lower than €600,- and ’round €500,- for the young.
It’s people are being exploited by the rich; nothing new off course, because such it is for ages already and this counts for the rest of the world as well. It’s every oligarch’s dream that poverty is at such a high, that people want to work for practically nothing. The 100 richest families; industrialists, shipowners and bankers in Greece own 70% of the seats in the parliament and functions in the boards of the big companies and ministries. Billions and billions of their money is put in bank accounts in so called tax paradises like, eh, The Netherlands. The Dutch tax department receives every big company with great delight; they even tailor make your taxes for you, as low as you like. These same families earn more and more during this crisis; their power is growing faster and stronger. You can see their representatives laugh in Parliament when they won the votes for firing another 20-30.000 civil servants. The former fishermen, the – construction workers, the – one-man business owners, the – civil servants are or will become the new beggars in this 21st century city state. That’s so funny when you are getting fired!
There is something rotten in the State of Greece. Such could be a line of a twisted character in a movie by the Greek film director Yorgos Lanthimos. But it is not. Actually I want to say there is not really a Greek State, or at least a state that is functioning to serve it’s peoples. Yes there are borders to define the country, but the borders are like Swiss cheese, except for the smell, with many holes in it, so any illegal immigrant can come in if he or she wants to. As said before the state is corrupt. 22% Of the working population works as a civil servant. They all have a contract up until their state pension, so that makes an easy vote at the elections, thanks to the socialists. Such a thing is called clientelism. In Greece there are 4 times more people working for the education system than in Finland. The quality of education in Greece is the lowest in the whole of the €U. Finland serves the highest level of education. There is hardly any industry left in Greece; the ships are build in the Far East these days.
The state spends much more money than it receives. Despite the crisis, Greece imports still lots and lots of military equipment; the country was number 10 importer of arms in the world from 2007 up until 2011.
From 1988 to 2013 Greece bought over $108 billion on weapons, and most probably it was a lot more, because of the shady public administration. Since the start of the Cyprus crisis in 1974 up until the year 2011 they spend €216 billion on defense. 15% [!] percent of Germany’s arms export goes to […]. Guess what? Worldwide military expenditure in 2012 was an estimated $1.756.000 billion. To end extreme poverty in the world we need $175 billion per year, so if we would stop one year of military expenditure, poverty would cease to exist for the next 10 years. But please don’t think fascists will be kind for the poor and the needy. Luckily most military are not like that, but some they are.
The tax department is a mess and still functioning as if it were living in the 19th century. The Greek debt is 160% of their Gross Domestic Product; or €307 billion in 2012 [in 2014 this has become 174% of their GDP]. Greece makes up for 0,4% of the worlds’ economy, so more or less nothing. If it would go bankrupt, it would hardly make a difference for the world, so what’s the fuzz all about? Why are they receiving loans after loans from the IMF and the ECB, when the state of the country is deplorable; when the money lenders already know the Greeks will not be able to pay back their debts? Ever. It will only evaporate through inflation through the years.
In the beginning of 2014 the total debt in the Eurozone was more than €9.000 billion. In the USA it is more than $17.000 billion. Hip hip hurray!! That’s a new world record! Let’s call the Guinness Book of Records now for these new entries!
To sum this up: if the [Greek] military wouldn’t have wasted so much money on their so called defensive, but violent and destructive toys, the people [of Greece] wouldn’t be living in this horrendous situation. Greece defaulted when it couldn’t meet payments on $160 billion of it’s debt. If you compare that with their place in the world’s economic hegemony [nr. 47], then you ask yourself: “What the heck is going on there?” Answer A: “We need this to defend us against the Turks, although we are partners in the NATO.” Answer B: “We received a lot of money from the €U in that period, and we were obliged to use a huge part of these loans to buy weaponry as submarines and planes […] from the Germans and the French, otherwise we couldn’t get a loan.” Answer C: “We bought too much [of that stuff] on credit and couldn’t pay it back anymore.” Answer A, B and C are correct.
How Capitalism Works and the End of National Identity
Answer: the players in the money game scheme give their puppets the order to change the laws. Money is created out of thin air, is made for free by the American Federal Reserve, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank. They just type the amount of [bailout] money in their computer programs, et voila: there’s the money! The receiver [here the state of Greece] has to pay, pay and pay and reform until the lenders got what they want, need, demand. Doing thus the whole country will be sold to mostly foreign corporations and the Greek people may serve them for a penny; have become pay slip carriers for the wealthy few business owners. Remember the headquarters of the European Central Bank is located in Frankfurt, Germany, and that real power is in the hands of [non democratic] multinationals, [non democratic] big banks and that power is not for and with the people.
In Europe the national governments are put aside and their budgets have to be accorded by the European Commission [with a back-up of the ECB, the IMF, the World Bank […], so say bye bye to your sovereignty Greece. In other words: the crisis is created to make up for one Europe under one capitalist-non-democratic Flag and will be ruled by the corpocracies, who have the judicial system, the tax system, the mass media […] under their control. Money demands and the European Parliament provides. You know the names of these corporations and institutions already and if you don’t, please wake the fucjk up. This means the end of sovereign national economic governance. A new kind of governance is implemented in Europe, which of course is already clear for decades, if you ask me. All is privatized, you – the people – are sold off as a commodity, the government is servicing the money machine and makes you pay huge taxes to please their appetite for bad management and making their public services far more complex than needed, if they haven’t sold it already for almost nothing to private companies. In other words: this is no coincidental crisis at all.
As I once said in the beginning of the 1990’s, after the fall of communism: “Now capitalism has won and it will thrive worldwide, implemented in a communist way [one model for all] upon the peoples of the world.” And that’s exactly what is happening. One system of universal greed. Internationally all is intertwined; money, government, companies and as such the economy and in it’s slipstream the people of the world get driven by their powers, for we all need money to buy that book, food like Frankfurter Wurst mit Sauerkraut and Greek salad, going underground by tube etc.
In the past you were conquered by many different nations, but now you are welcomed in a new world where the neoliberal borderless free trade market economy will terrorize humanity and nature with it’s regulations for the few. The common people may wave farewell to democratic control, law and justice for all. Nation states are so 19th century and here and now we live in the 21st.