There are two kinds of pain declares Frank Underwood, the corrupt US President in the brilliant TV series House of Cards, as he pretends to help a dog struck by a hit-and-run driver.
One is the sort of pain that makes you strong. The other is useless pain, the sort that only brings suffering.
“I have no patience for useless things”, he says as he puts the animal out of its misery with a flick of his wrist.
Here in Greece, useless pain and suffering is what Europe continues to inflict on this troubled country.
Yesterday was the day when everyone hoped there might be a solution to the crisis because, after June 30, Greece has no euros left to keep its house of cards standing — yet the soap opera saga continues.
‘Do as we say or the money dries up’, demand the Germans, the main creditors, who have been bailing Greece out these last five years on the condition that austerity is ruthlessly enforced.
But Greece is on its knees says its left-wing government as it ups the ante following more talks with Putin and the possibility of loans from Russia, a move clearly designed to make Europe think again.
Everyone is shouting at each other on the Greek TV news channel as we await developments but we discover only the most stupid of facts: that the Greek finance minister turned up late for the meeting and that Athens had sent in the wrong documents the night before.
HITTING THE ATM…
At the heart of the debate is the now very strong prospect of Greece leaving the euro, and the EU itself, an unprecedented move that would lead to overnight ruination because of the re-introduction of the drachma, a far weaker currency that no-one wants.
So it seemed a good idea to hit the ATM machine particularly since the Daily Mail and other news outlets have been trying to scare us all stiff by saying that the money in Greek banks was likely to dry up fast.
We decided to attack the Alpha Bank around 2.30, roughly the start of Greek siesta, when most folk would be heading home for a wee sleep. Perhaps the queues would have subsided by then.
If we were lucky, we just might be able to trick the machine into handing out 500 euros without incurring more economic misery.
Of course, there were no queues and for a few moments we feared that our strategy was seriously flawed; everyone else had got there before us and the queues had disappeared because there was nothing left. Oh dear.
But the card slipped in easily and after a few finger manoeuvres – Bingo! The notes slid out.
ATM machines, like so much of the propaganda coming from the EU, appear to be working well.
Our picture, taken yesterday, shows your Scot-Buzz co-editor triumphantly waving his Euros dispensed without a hiccup by the cash machine.
Before we flew out, we were happy to believe the likes of Robert Peston that Europe would not give in to a bunch of amateur and radical Greek politicians who were way out of their depth in trying to negotiate a write-down of their debt.
But here, in the middle of the mess, it all looks different, particularly during these late night sessions in the tavernas where the raki flows easily.
STORIES WORTH REPEATING.
It turns out that previous Greek governments rolled over far too quickly; accepted punishing interest rates without trying to negotiate and even foolishly sold off some nationalised industries for a song.
The common view here is that they were more concerned for themselves and their relatives, whom they’d give jobs to, than for the people they were there to represent.
The poor were vanquished, the middle-classes were punished and the rich were protected.
Former government ministers attempted to keep their Mercedes limousines while one who got stopped going through a red light was found without road tax and insurance despite the fact that he was a millionaire several times over.
It’s the arrogance, you see.
The left-wing Syriza government, which took over five months ago, may well lack experience but at least they’ve been putting up a courageous fight, we’re told, which has included exposing emails which demonstrate how their predecessors were incompetent and greedy.
Their failed policies have resulted in half of all young Greeks being unemployed while whole families are living off granddad’s pension which itself has been halved to just a few hundred euros.
Teachers have been made redundant and hospitals have been paralysed. We heard of one where there were no sticking plasters.
Of course, many Greeks have done nothing to help because of tax avoidance going back generations. But there are also a great many who have done the right thing only to end up paying more tax and earning far less.
Just like Frank Underwood…Greek politicians built power on corruption and selfishness. But for many Greeks the result is useless pain and suffering.
Will someone please put Greece out of its misery?