MC's Whispers

Whispering Silences

Archive for the tag “poverty”

The sound of gloom

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There was a poor person in the metro the other day playing a famous song on his guitar. He was dressed decently. Wasn’t begging really. His voice was imbued with feeling. He sounded almost professional. He sang from the heart and that was evident. It made you want to give him something. Some change to show your appreciation for the way he was striving to make a living.

Perhaps he could have searched for a ‘regular’ job. But everyone knows these are hard to find in a country where ‘crisis’ has become an everyday term.

At least he was giving melody to a train ride. And you could see the passengers actually stop looking at their phones for a minute and letting their mind wander at his tune.

You were almost mesmerised to give him spare change. Coins whose possession to you may not have made a difference. Perhaps it was the cost of your daily cup of coffee. But to him it was a measure of appreciation. Of the fact that there were people out there who liked what he offered and who were willing to grant a helping hand.

There are many people who leave aside their dignity and in their despair decided to ask strangers for help. There are the ones who feel outcast from society. Whom we look at demeaningly and most often choose simply to ignore. There are the ones who cause controversial discussions of whether they are worth our pity or our ignorance, of whether they are choosing the easy road of begging instead of searching for a ‘real job’.

Everyone we meet carries their own story, their own burdens, their own heavy loads. But it is people like these that make you realise all that you have and how little you appreciate how lucky you in fact are. Because what you perceive as obvious and ‘normal’ is not so for many others.

A World of Shock

disaster_capitalismYou know that old woman who shoved you while hurrying to get off the bus this morning? She was running to get to the hospital, as her husband suffered a heart attack while she was at the market. And remember that young man getting sunburnt on the side of the pavement where he was rooted, who even offered his blessing when you stopped to hand him some change? Two hours later, his cousin dropped by in a fancy car, picked him up and went to the beach.

Things are not always what they seem. Nor can we even imagine what the reality is truly like. In a world marred by constant talk of crisis, sensationalist media reports, and the looming pessimism of disasters – be they natural, financial, political or even moral – we live in a constant state of instability and shock. We are fighting nervous breakdowns by pretending we’re OK, by keeping on moving, by refusing to even consider what would happen if we stopped and breathed it all in.

People all around us seem so different, even though we share common ground. Nonetheless, all we mostly see – or chose to acknowledge – is the extent to which we vary from each other. And this usually always means that “the others” are most often luckier, more privileged, and “have it easy”. Or even that those who have managed to travel beyond the continent, somehow have returned deeming themselves over and above their compatriots, as if now they are somehow better than everyone else, as if they no longer belong to this world. There are people like that. Who managed to rise up from the slums into a life of riches, and all of a sudden, they have become too important to deal with “petty commoners”, or even “locals”. Those who rise from their ashes remembering their past and helping others survive it too are, unfortunately, a rarity in this world.

In one of the most enthralling, shocking, riveting, and illuminating books of modern times, Naomi Klein describes exactly this. How we live in a world of shock. How certain capitalists pursue a “Shock Doctrine” in order to impose Milton Friedman’s Chicago School model of deregulation, privatization, and cut of public spending. It reveals our world as it truly is, one run by capitalism that has no interest for its human impact. She dubs this “Disaster Capitalism”, because it concerns big private companies profiting at the expense of the poorer and lower down on the social scale, whenever disaster (in any form) strikes. It is the implementation of a shock and awe policy. Simply considering the world we live in today – this constant state of “crisis” – it is not hard to see that certain international institutions (the International Monetary Fund, for example) are doing exactly this – demanding that their terms be implemented if money is to be disbursed; terms that include drastic spending cuts, VAT increases, privatisations, cuts in the public sector, no matter what that may mean to the levels of unemployment, poverty and a break in the social chasm. According to this powerful book, the only thing that shines some optimism among us, is the fact that memory is the strongest shock absorber of all, and the only one capable of providing resistance to the repeating of such events.

No matter what you read, or if you don’t read at all, Naomi Klein’s “The Shock Doctrine” is an eye-opening book that everyone – every politician who is not an idiot, every citizen who wants to make a difference, every person who refuses to be a lemming – should read. You will never view the world in the same way ever again.

Help in need and in deed

charity1It is often said that you never truly appreciate something until you no longer have it. And that is true for a range of things: from material possessions to life itself. It is only when you are found at the needy end of the circle of life when you really even begin to understand the importance of having, of giving and of helping each other. Charities understand that well. And acknowledge it for that matter. And it is why people should learn to appreciate them more, to help them and to contribute in whatever way possible. Because they not only need donors but also volunteers. People who have the courage to deal with these situations on a daily basis. And who will assist such operations. To help them help others. Because that is what they do. Usually without bureaucracy or administration. No added burden. Just aid. In some way, it is like something Lincoln said (in a different context but still applicable): help from the people, by the people, for the people.

It is stunning and quite tragic at how countries that for so long projected to the outer world an image of prosperity, affluence and plenty have now resorted to charities, appeals and pleas for help in order to feed and clothe their people. And when you witness the poverty, deprivation and hardships that exist, you consider yourself lucky you have clothes in your closet and food in your fridge. When people go ashamed, with tears in their eyes to ask for help, when they feel their pride being trampled over by a state that doesn’t seem to care, you consider yourself fortunate for all you have.

Help is needed much more than it is given. And those in need greatly outnumber those that offer help. Not those that can, but those that will. For the rich that would donate to the poor are often few and usually for their own selfish gains. But there are some that do go out and buy things simply to give them away to the less fortunate. With no gains and no self-interest in mind. Just the satisfaction of offering a helping hand. It is people like these the world needs. People who will help their fellow citizens no matter what the cost. Who acknowledge what it means to have nothing and to alleviate the suffering caused by factors beyond their control. To see the faces of children light up as they receive a toy, even if it is used. After all, isn’t that what the world should be striving to save? The future? Our children? Our hope?

Τι είναι τα λεφτά;

Το ΔΝΤ, η Ευρωπαϊκή Κεντρική Τράπεζα και το οικονομικό σκέλος της Ευρωπαϊκής Επιτροπής, ασχολούνται όλο με λεφτά. Και απ’ότι φαίνεται, από τα χέρια τους περνάνε πολλά, μα πάρα πολλά λεφτά. Μιλάνε για χρέη δισεκατομμυρίων (μερικές φορές ακόμα και τρισεκατομμυρίων) και απαιτούν μέτρα και περικοπές εκατομμυρίων ευρώ από τη μια μέρα στην άλλη χωρίς καν να λαμβάνουν υπόψη τα εκατομμύρια πολίτες που θα στερούνται τα πεντάρικα, δεκάρικα και εικοσάρικα τους.

 Παράδειγμα η Ελλάδα που βρίσκεται τώρα σε ένα ασφυκτικό κλοιό πιέσεων για να επιβάλει στους πολίτες της επιπρόσθετα και ακόμα πιο επώδυνα μέτρα. Ο κατώτατος μισθός των €500 είναι πλέον «μισθός πείνας», ενώ οι περικοπές από παντού και η αύξηση της φορολογίας ρίχνουν ακόμα πιο βαθιά έναν ταλαιπωρημένο λαό στην απελπισία. Τίποτα πια δεν είναι δεδομένο. Αν έχεις δουλειά σήμερα, δεν σημαίνει πλέον ότι θα την έχεις και αύριο.

Η αβεβαιότητα πλημμυρίζει πλέον τη ζωή και την καθημερινότητα μας και μας γεμίζει με φόβο και αγωνία, στοιχειώνοντας ακόμα και τα όνειρά μας. Ακόμα και οι συντάξεις ατόμων που μια ζωή δούλευαν για να απολαύσουν τους καρπούς των κόπων τους, τώρα κινδυνεύουν να χαθούν. Αν δεν βρεθεί αντίστοιχο μέτρο που θα επιφέρει τα  €300 εκατομμύρια που ζητά η Τρόικα, οι συντάξεις θα κοπούν. Και ο ολοένα αυξανόμενος αριθμός του 27.7% των Ελλήνων που βρίσκονται στα όρια της φτώχιας και του κοινωνικού αποκλεισμού θα ανεβεί στα ύψη. Πως δηλαδή θα πληρώνει φαγητό, ενοίκιο και φόρους ένας πολίτης που δεν θα έχει δουλειά αλλά ούτε κανένα εισόδημα; Τα λεφτά δεν πέφτουν από τον ουρανό, ούτε τα βρίσκουμε στο δρόμο. Για τους περισσότερους εν καιρώ κρίσης τα λεφτά, ακόμη και για βασικές ανάγκες, είναι από δυσκολεύρετα μέχρι ακριβοθώρητα. Η δουλειά από εργασία έχει γίνει πια δουλεία. Εκεί οδηγούν τους πολίτες όλοι αυτοί οι πολιτικοί αρχηγοί που δέχονται και επιβάλλουν μέτρα για εξοικονόμηση εκατομμυρίων ευρώ «για τη σωτηρία του κράτους». Όταν όμως από ένα ξεθωριασμένο σκοινί συνέχεια κόβεις την άκρη για να μη ξεφτίσει, στο τέλος απλά δεν θα υπάρχει άλλο σκοινί. Τα έργα για την ανάπτυξη που θα βοηθήσουν την χώρα να ορθοποδήσει και να ξαναβρεί την αξιοπρέπεια και την αυτοπεποίθηση της γιατί δεν γίνονται; Γιατί δεν επενδύεται και κάτι στην ανάπτυξη, και οι μόνες εξελίξεις πια είναι οι περικοπές μισθών και συντάξεων, και το κλείσιμο και οι χρεοκοπία όλο και περισσότερων καταστημάτων και εταιριών;

Τα εκατομμύρια που ακούγονται να ζητούνται από τη μια χώρα και την άλλη, και τα Ευρωπαϊκά και Διεθνή Ταμεία που δίνουν δισεκατομμύρια για τη σωτηρία τους, γιατί δεν λαμβάνουν υπόψη και τον απλό πολίτη που πιθανόν δεν γνωρίζει αλλά ούτε και θα μπορεί να φανταστεί για τι υπέρογκα ποσά τίθεται θέμα συζήτησης; Πως μπορεί μια χώρα στα όρια της χρεοκοπίας να βρει τόσα εκατομμύρια σε τόσο σύντομο χρονικό διάστημα, τη στιγμή που χρόνια ολόκληρα το σύστημα έκλεβε τα παιδιά της και οι λίγοι καταχράζονταν τα λεφτά των πολλών; Στα μάτια των αστέγων, των ταλαιπωρημένων και των νέων που δεν βλέπουν πια μέλλον στον ορίζοντα, τα λεφτά δεν είναι πετραδάκια διαθέσιμα να μαζευτούν. Είναι κόποι και σκληρή δουλειά. Κι ας βγαίνει ο κάθε πολιτικός να λέει πως η Ευρωζώνη μπορεί και χωρίς την Ελλάδα, και να ζητούν απερίσκεπτα να χρεοκοπήσει ένας ολόκληρος λαός, μιας χώρας που έμαθε στον κόσμο τι εστί δημοκρατία. Πως μπορεί όμως αυτό όλο που βιώνουμε σήμερα να είναι δημοκρατία τι στιγμή που λίγοι κεφαλαιοκράτες – η άρχουσα ελίτ – καθορίζουν και υπαγορεύουν το μέλλον ολόκληρων χωρών, ενώ ταυτόχρονα χιλιάδες πολίτες ξεχύνονται στους δρόμους φωνάζοντας εναντίον των αποφάσεων τους; Ενάντια σε καθεστώτα που παρότι λένε έχουν το συμφέρον της χώρας πάνω από όλα, πάλι κατά κάποιο περίεργο τρόπο διασφαλίζουν και τα συμφέροντα αυτών που ήδη έχουν τα εκατομμύρια. Όχι τα πετραδάκια, αλλά τα ευρώ.

(26 Φεβρουαρίου 2012)

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