You may not have heard of Voula Papachristou but, until last week, she was one of Greece’s few hopes of an Olympic medal. She is not that hard on the eye either. But then the triple jumper tweeted the following “with so many Africans in Greece at least the West Nile mosquitoes will eat homemade food.” Uh oh. There is not actually any guide relating to twitter policy for the Greek Olympic team so she has not actually broken any rules at all but some folks felt it was racist and so she is not going to the Olympics.
Before my place in the UK squad is also withdrawn I should say that her remark was crass and unfunny and it is arguably racist although I am not sure about that – Voula merely expresses the view that there are a lot of Africans in Greece – too many – by implication she would like to see fewer. Logically, therefore does that mean that anyone who feels that there should be any limit at all on the number of foreigners allowed to settle in any country and expresses that view is a racist?
Unless you agree in absolutely unlimited immigration you are a racist? Really. Perhaps this might be clarified to help the rest of us – are we allowed to believe in any limit at all without being racist? Just for the record, as I explain below, I believe in no limits at all. Back to lovely Voula. The reaction and remark says a lot about Greece and our world and it all makes me feel uncomfortable.
Before you judge Voula, or for that matter me, I would urge you to read the piece above this, Petra’s friends to try to understand quite how what you might regard as the normal rules of society have broken down here. That is the context in which you need to understand Voula.
Let us start with why she made that remark. Immigration is an issue here. As in the rest of Europe the establishment won’t allow the matter to be discussed openly because anyone who believes in limits is a racist so must be no platformed. But with unemployment at 27% and rising there is an issue which ordinary Greeks regard as serious about folks who are obviously not Greeks working here.
So the lovely Voula said, albeit in a way that was meant to be funny but sounded crass in a way that so many twitter jokes do what a large number of ordinary Greeks feel to be true and regard as a serious issue. Personally I would have absolutely no barriers to immigration at all on the condition that an immigrant cannot have access to any form of welfare at all (including housing) until he or she has paid taxes for 5 years. Those way welfare scroungers can scrounge of someone else but those who wish to work should always be welcome. And (assuming you had no minimum wage) would thus make your country more competitive by their presence. So Voula and I disagree on the economics of this matter but, make no mistake, it is economics that is driving Voula and many Greeks to feel this way.
Now the thing about Voula is that she has a bit of form. She is an open supporter of Golden Dawn the racist and fascist whackjob party that got 7% in the recent election. Golden Dawn really is a very nasty party indeed.
And so, even though the lovely Voula, has not broken one single rule the Hellenic Olympic Committee has de-selected her from the Games. She is not banned, you understand, because she has not actually transgressed any code or law, she is just made a non-competitor in an extra judicial process. There is no right of appeal. That is it.
The Olympics are meant to be above politics. Of course they never are but I shall humour the Hellenic Olympic Committee on this one. What I wonder would have happened had Voula been an open supporter of one of the two established parties, the crooked pie eaters Pasok and New Democracy. What, I wonder, would have happened had she been a supporter of the deranged communists of Kappa Kappa? Would her card have been marked? I doubt it and she could have opined on more or less anything. Except this issue. She is not allowed to express her view that there are too many immigrants in Greece.
I rather think that this is one of the lesser problems facing Hellas. But the way to lance the boil is to take on Voula head on and point out that there are not really that many Africans here. Frigging hell, you’d have to be a pretty thick economic migrant to go to Greece in search of work – anyone bright enough to travel thousands of miles in search of work, is probably bright enough to go the extra few miles and go somewhere where there actually is some work. The way things are going, Greeks are soon going to be skipping off to Chad and Upper Volta in search of a better life.
And you should take on Voula and point out that the reason that unemployment is 27% and rising is that Greece is corrupt as hell and needs a big dose of Thatcherism and a floating currency (the drachma) to sort out its economy. Argue the point do not try to suppress discussion as that only gives credibility to evil men at a time when society is breaking down and folks look for those who claim to have definite solutions.
The sad truth is that banning the lovely Voula has given the racists who cannot debate on facts a glamorous pin-up girl who will attract sympathy and allow the evil men of Golden Dawn to argue that the pie-eaters of the establishment are covering up the truth.
And one of the reasons that will have so much traction is the austerity programme. To misquote Leona Helmsley on the subject of tax “We don’t do austerity. Only the little people suffer austerity.” There may be less Euros for the political elite and the sort of establishment fellows who sit on the Hellenic Olympic Committee to steal these days but they are still eating plenty of pies. And as such they are increasingly detached from ordinary Greeks. And that is why what was a 2 party state (Pasok and ND) is one where freaks like Golden Dawn and the, almost as mad but not racist, SYRIZA are now attracting so much support.
That support will grow as either austerity measures bite ever deeper or Greece is chucked out of the Euro and goes bust. Many folks despised ND/Pasok but regarded Euro exit as a humiliation only the 2 old parties could avoid. When the exit does happen there will be no reason to support the old pie eaters any more. Heaven knows what happens next, but the brutal treatment of Voula for expressing a concern which the pie eaters will not discuss or address will only convince more folks that maybe Golden Dawn has a point.
This is a frightened place. The people are scared and uncertain. Read about Petra’s friends and understand why anything can happen. Who knows they might bring back the Monarchy (Phil the Greek for King). They won’t but it would be a hell of a lot less damaging than some of the alternatives on offer. As for Voula. I am with Voltaire. I disagree with everything she has said and stands for and the fact that she supports Golden Dawn means that she is probably pretty thick or a racist or both, but I defend to the death her right to say it. And she should have gone to the games where I would have hoped that she would have come fourth. Behind three athletes from Africa.