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The two faces of hunger #3 The two faces of hunger #3
by Katerina Charisi
2020-03-06 09:18:00
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Greece has always been a country of contrasts and inequalities. This is not a surprise, though; every country in the world deals with social contrasts and inequalities. But in times of crisis, contrasts expand to the opposite directions until the two edges do not see each other anymore. Inequalities grow bigger; they get huge. And after a while, it is true, both deny that the others exist.

ptoxia01_400September, 2017. Less than a week before schools opened, and we are totally unprepared for it. My husband and I keep staring at each other, like we always do the last years when faced with expenses that don’t have to do with our direct survival: food.

When we moved from Thessaloniki to Athens a year and something ago, we didn’t have an electric cooker. We had only a small appliance with a single large hotplate that I got when I was still a student. If you are alone, it is convenient. But in a family of four, a single hotplate that doesn’t even has enough strength to cook a whole pack of pasta, is a nightmare.  It can take cooking for hours for just one meal.

A friend gave me a little round electric oven that had enough space only for five cookies. That’s true! I never used it. Our food options were too limited. The kids constantly complained about the food I cooked for them. I couldn’t blame them. I cooked mainly soups or pasta, or potatoes with tomato sauce, beans, pot stuff. They started eating less food, more bread, to fill their stomachs.

We had managed to save 200 euro to buy the school bags, the clothes, the shoes, the notebooks and pencils and everything the kids would need for their first school year. But I had to make sure that they wouldn’t spend eight hours at school without food. Now, our schools don’t have a cafeteria to feed the students. Some schools don’t even have a microwave or a fridge. We decided to sacrifice that money for an electric cooker.

Why Greeks don’t pay attention to the country’s contrasts?

It is well known by now that Greece never had a reliable and functioning social state. To some point that was because of the laws and terms, but the biggest responsibility is to those who were to apply those laws and terms. Why did we never care enough about this dysfunction of our country?

Because the social state’s gaps were filled by the families.

Think about all the elders, the unemployed, the students; who was there for them when the state was absent?

It was the family. Adult children living with their elder parents, parents supporting their unemployed children, grandparents raising kids, students still living with their parents until they find a job. The pension that pays the bills, the rent, the car, the loan, the studies, the clothes, the shoes. The Greek family was always our safety net. The gaps were filled, the job done, no one cared more than that.

But now something has changed.

Something has changed and is terrifying: The family can’t take it anymore. When more and more parents lose their jobs or watch their pensions plundered, the families driven to poverty and can’t support their members. The economic crisis did not create the gaps in the state’s safety mechanisms; those were always there. They just finally came up on the surface like massive icebergs. And kept growing, feeding by the state’s weakness.

Another major problem about the economic crisis in Greece is not only that the young people don’t have a job - not that is fair to say that the youngsters need a job more than the others - but as time goes by, people lose their abilities to work on their subject. I studied design via PC, for example. In my school I learned to make cuts and facades; I learned electrical design, electromechanical design, piping, roof reinforcement and stairs, even a sound and thermal insulation design. I never worked as a designer, though. I did what almost everybody does when they can’t find a job on their subject straight after graduation: I worked as a waitress or similar occasional jobs, until my dream job would come. The Greeks say “nothing more permanent than the temporary”.  Fifteen years went on like this. If someone comes to me right now and asks me to work for them, I can’t. Not anymore. I forgot how to design that stuff. Fifteen years away from an activity are too many.

So, here’s what happened: I invested time, money and effort to something that proved useless. You might never forget how to ride a bike, but you do forget how to design a staircase.

Even if I wanted to refresh my studies, I can’t. How am I supposed to do that? I don’t have money to sign up on a school. I don’t even have time for this, now. My kids are 4 and 6 years old. I cannot chase chimaeras. It’s not accidental that those who chase their old dreams are pensioners. That’s when people have the time to do something like that. I don’t.

My world shrinks. There’s no space for nothing anymore.


 The two faces of hunger #1 #2 #3


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