Why I would vote No in Greece's referendum

A vote against austerity is a vote for dignity, democracy and self-determination
Photo: Sheila

You would have to be living under a rock not to have at least a rudimentary idea of what is unfolding in Greece.

After talks between the the Syriza-led Greek government and the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission, and the European Central Bank — collectively known as the Troika — broke down this past week, Alexis Tsipras, Greece’s prime minister, called for a referendum. Greeks will vote this Sunday: yes to continued austerity measures with no foreseeable debt relief for the country, or no in the hope of renewed and fairer negotiations.

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The months-long convoluted and frustrating situation has divided Greeks, both those living there and abroad.

I have watched the demonstrations in Athens, the long line-ups in front of the now-closed banks, the fear and fatigue in people’s eyes. My heart aches for a place I called home for 10 years.

We can argue about how Greece ended up in crisis. I can try to explain that the average Greek had as much to do with the corruption and the greed that took the country down as the average American did with the crooks on Wall Street and the schemers at Merrill Lynch and J.P. Morgan. But who’s listening?

It’s easy to point fingers at the Greeks who some claim are too busy throwing parties, breaking dishes, and yelling “Opa!” to care about debt restructuring. The blame can be conveniently placed on the tax-evading Greeks who must now take accountability.

To peek behind the curtain and see the facts would mean admitting that the EU has been anything but the beneficial political and economic partnership it purported to be, and is instead a greedy, inhumane mechanism of financial profit and political opportunism.

How else to explain that five years of brutal austerity measures have produced no noticeable results for a country that is buckling under insurmountable debt? That according to NSA-tapped WikiLeaks, Germany’s Angela Merkel viewed Greek debt as unsustainable back in 2011, yet kept insisting Greece take the poison? That the IMF has made a $2.5 billion profit from the Greek loans?

But instead opponents point out that Tsipras doesn’t wear a tie, a sign he’s too inexperienced to run a country. Let’s ignore that the people robbing us blind are the ones wearing the suits.

Let’s question the Greek government for calling a referendum, because asking the people to decide on a question of such magnitude is highly suspicious. Have we veered that far from real democracy that watching it unfold before our eyes alarms us? Syriza was voted in on a promise to champion anti-austerity measures. How in good conscience can it agree to a deal that goes against its electoral mandate? A referendum was the only way to go after talks broke down.

Financial document after financial document has proven that 90 per cent of Greek bailout money was spent on French and German banks that imprudently extended the loans, while only a measly 10 per cent of loans ever reached the average Greek.

To have a chance of rebounding financially and paying back its debt, the country must grow its economy. How to do that when everything has been slashed? The numbers are staggering. Unemployment for the under-30 crowd is a devastating 50 per cent, salaries have shrunk by 25 per cent, suicides have increased by 35 per cent and the brain drain has decimated the country’s future. The austerity measures imposed by the Troika have not helped the people; they have devastated a country now in a full-blown depression.

Come talk about European solidarity with the pensioners digging through trash cans for scraps, or waiting in line for a handout. Talk to the young kids growing up under the knowledge they will have to leave to make a living. Talk to hard-working Greeks who have seen their quality of life plummet as high-ranking European officials tell them how they should slash more fat, when they’re already down to the bone.

The EU has even publicly admitted it wants “regime change” in Greece. Since when does it openly decide on the fate of a democratically elected government? If that’s not financial terrorism, then what is?

Greeks have been put in an impossible position. There is no quick solution to be found on Sunday, regardless of how they vote. I understand why some will vote yes — uncertainty fuels fear and a desire for the devil you know — but I know how I would vote.

I would vote no, because I’d be voting yes to dignity, to democracy, and to self-determination. I’d be voting for hope and the possibility of renewed negotiations where Greece isn’t on its knees, but has some bargaining power. I’d vote for a country willing to walk away from a bad deal and show others the way to do so as well.

We’ve seen where several years of austerity has taken us. This charade, which benefits a select few while punishing the many, needs to stop. Either the EU seeks a mutually beneficial agreement with Greece that recognizes that interdependence necessitates compromise and a collective conscience, or it reveals itself to be an ill-designed and market-driven organization bent on making an example of Greece and profiting from the country’s misery.

You can’t blackmail someone who has nothing left to lose. Greeks want to stay in the Eurozone, but no longer at any cost. By standing up and saying so, they have revealed the EU’s true colours. And they are all shades of ugly.

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