When there is a debt crisis, it is usually economists who are called in to sort it out. However, the really big debt crises, like the one currently facing Greece and the rest of the European periphery, cannot be resolved by economists alone. These crises constitute a direct threat to national sovereignty, to democracy and social peace. They tear apart the social fabric, and tear apart any notion of a social contract. In an instant, they can turn an “EU partner” into a third world country.
A financial analyst could never explain why the demonstrators in Athens now shout the same slogans as their parents did during the Greek dictatorship. An economist would find it hard to understand why the officials of the governing party now cannot show themselves in public in any part of Greece without being attacked by citizens. Foreign correspondents are left speechless when they hear hundreds of thousands swearing at the broadcasters of the biggest private news programme.
The Greek crisis is no longer financial. It is deeply political and social. The institutions created after the fall of the colonels’ regime in 1974 are clinically dead. Of course, the country is not threatened again by a junta. Nonetheless, government policy is starting to borrow more and more elements from authoritarian regimes.
Some of the most respected jurists in the country claim that the financial policy is anti-constitutional. During the last big demonstration, police emptied more than 2,800 teargas grenades, containing a chemical substance whose use is prohibited during war by the Geneva conventions. Amnesty International and the most important Greek medical associations felt obliged to intervene, asking the government to put an end to police animosity. Authoritarianism is growing day by day. Slowly but steadily, democracy is giving way to debtocracy. The power of the people (demos) is handed over to foreign and local lenders, who ask from the Greek government solely one thing: some more time in order to transfer the Greek debt to the European Central Bank; that is to European taxpayers.
It is exactly this transformation of democracy to debtocracy that we tried to describe in our documentary, which was first shown in Greece a few months ago. The viewers’ response surpassed even our wildest expectations. Half a million people viewed the documentary in the first week and approximately one million in the first month.
Debtocracy was shown at the central square of most Greek cities and in many events in Greece and abroad.
Some foreign newspaper claimed it played a determining role in creating the movement of the Greek “indignados” who have occupied the squares of the whole country. Even though we are honoured by this, the reality is different. Documentaries don’t change the world; they simply depict stories that permit history to fasten its pace. The documentary’s huge acceptance in Greece was a sign of the accumulated indignation that had been searching for a way to express itself. It was a response to all those who portray Greeks as lazy, and disclosed the fact that the same debt crisis has hit most nations of the European periphery.
Simultaneously, the public’s acceptance of Debtocracy illustrated the disregard in which both the political system and the media were held.
In Greece, journalists are now the third most hated profession after politicians and bankers. The mainstream media, owned by a small group of entrepreneurs, presented the government’s proposals as the only solution, even after it was made clear that these measures would increase the debt rather than decrease it.
Greece is now passing one of the most decisive periods of its contemporary history. The political system put itself in the service of the financial elites by abolishing workers’ rights acquired since the 19th century. What it didn’t foresee was the demos’s reaction to the debt – a public outcry against an outrageous theft.