Thursday, May 20, 2010

Greek general strike: Is the Gaza flotilla caught in the middle?

Several friends of mine just left for Greece in order to join an eight-ship flotilla that plans to sail from Athens to Gaza at the end of May. The eight ships will be carrying humanitarian supplies designed to help break a four-year siege of the Gaza strip -- or at least that was the plan. But when my friends got to Greece, they suddenly found themselves right in the middle of a huge Greek general strike!

"The area where we are staying is right next to strike headquarters," one friend e-mailed me today. Oh crap! I could have been there, reporting my little heart out on one of the hottest stories in the world with the exception of the BP oil spill -- and instead I chose to go off to New York to hear Barbra Streisand. And now I'm missing all this freaking hot news! How disheartening.

Actually my bank account made my choice for me. Due to limited funds, I figured that going to see Barbra Streisand taut her new book, "A Passion for Design," at the 2010 Book Expo on May 25 and me staying at the Gershwin Hotel's youth hostel would be more in keeping with my budgetary requirements. Had I but known that such hot news was gonna be afoot in the land of Socrates, I would have run right out and got a freaking travel loan! Or hitchhiked to Athens.

"Jane," wrote another friend, "Greece is up in arms about the austerity measures the government is wanting to impose so that they can be bailed out by the EU. Recently a good left-wing government was elected but they have little choice, having inherited a disaster of an economy. How long the strike will last? It's anybody's best guess."

"Yes but," replied another flotilla-bound friend now in Greece, "does the Greek government really need 2,000 additional police, typically with ten or twenty of them stationed at main intersections, all throughout Athens? Seeing this up close, I can really appreciate how chilling an effect this has on the people."

Then another correspondent from Greece added her two cents. "If I could gently weigh in here, might I suggest that it’s not just Greece that is feeling the pain. It’s most of the other EU countries, too -- Italy, Portugal and Spain to name the more crucial ones. But the others are also coming to the entry gate -- bigtime. Thus, I think, in order to save its American-dominated economic structure based on military adventurism and profit at any cost, Greece has no alternative but to resort to 2,000 additional police. After all, the Greek people are really angry right now. And it doesn’t matter if their elected government is Left or Right -- both are based on the same American-model economic structure, and they both fundamentally base their existence on production for profit, not people. They both will thus do whatever it takes to protect that economic base. And if we in the U.S. ever get 'Greek Fever' too and start protesting too loudly, the same thing will happen in America as well -- only probably worse. And those 20-30 cops at each intersection will all be in place in America too, just in case we also get out of order."

But let's get back to the Shipping News. How is the Greek general strike going to effect the flotilla to Gaza? Hmmm. Here's a report from another flotilla member: "We are now in an apartment here and anxiously awaiting word on what to do next. Meanwhile, we can't get euros, since all the banks seem to be closed, and we can't contact anyone -- except through the internet which, thank God, we have in the apartment now -- since we can't get out to buy any cell phones! We have 10 euros, which is just enough to cover food for the next few hours. Otherwise, we are trapped."

I coulda been there! I coulda been trapped too! That could have been ME running out of food in Athens! Rats.

Not only that, but the Book Expo people in New York have just sent me an e-mailed stating that there are only a limited number of Barbra Streisand tickets available and they now are being handed out on a first-come-first-served basis. What? Now I'm going to miss the Greek general strike, a huge international flotilla going to Gaza that may or may not be blown to bits by the Israeli navy, AND I'm also going to miss Barbra Streisand as well?

That just sucks eggs.