Thursday, May 17, 2012

Living on the Cusp: 2012, the year of Global Revolution

There has been much speculation and debate over what has come to be known as the 2012 phenomenon. Many theories center on the end of the Mayan Calendar and a looming cataclysmic event. Others prefer to subscribe to the belief that the year will mark the beginning of a physical or perhaps spiritual ‘transformation’ of the earth and its inhabitants [1]. For those that tend to think in the latter, there is no imminent doom, but rather a ‘transformation of consciousness’ that is somehow connected to the coming Galactic alignment in 2012 and the end of the astrological Age of Pisces.

For those unfamiliar with Astrological Ages, they are astrological time periods. That match with significant developments and changes in human civilization: particularly related to culture, society, and politics. Their beginnings do not coincide with any specific year, century or millennium. Instead, it is a slow process, referred to by many astrologers as ‘the cusp’. It is at this point that many believe we currently stand, between the ages of Pisces and Aquarius, on the brink of a new epoch in human civilization. For anyone who has been watching world events over the past few years, it seems clear that something certainly is on the horizon.


In 2008, the world was rocked by a financial crisis, which led to the collapse of large financial institutions, government bailouts of banks, and downturns in stock markets around the global. It was triggered by problems in the American banking system [2] [3] and was fueled by the collapse of the US housing bubble and the subprime mortgage market [4]

For Europe, this has led to the Eurozone crisis, which has spread economic crisis and political turmoil across the European Union, specifically in member states such as Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Ireland [5].  As the crisis worsened, 2011 turned out to be a year of immense political upheaval across the global and for Europe it led to rating agency Standard & Poor placing 15 eurozone countries on ‘negative credit watch’, while both Greece and Italy would have their governments removed and replaced by ‘technocrats’ [4].

All in all, 2011, was certainly a year full of protests across North America, Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa as people took to the streets to protest against corporate greed, political oppression, and social injustice. In every instance, demonstrators harnessed the Internet and Social Media to mobilize thousands in innovative ways, which unsurprisingly led to Time magazine choosing the ‘Protestor’ as its Person of the Year [6] [7].

“In short, 2011 was unlike any year since 1989-but more extraordinary, more global, more democratic, since in ’89 the regime disintegrations were all the result of a single disintegration at headquarters, one big switch pulled in Moscow that cut off the power throughout the system. So 2011 was unlike any year since 1968-but more consequential because more protesters have more skin in the game. Their protests weren’t part of a countercultural pageant, as in ’68 and rapidly morphed into full-fledged rebellions, bring down regimes and immediately changing the course of history. It was, in other words, unlike anything in any of our lifetimes, probably unlike any year since 1848…” [6].

For those living in the United States, it was the birth of the 99%.  Like in other countries, the Occupy Movement came together, not by way of a common ideology, but rather by means of a common disgust at the establishment. It was a national, non-partisan, protest against social and economic inequality. Inspired by student protests in the U.K., the anti-austerity protests in Greece and Spain, as well as the Arab Spring[8], it was met with police violence in an effort to stop it from gaining momentum [9] [10] [11].

Of all the movements that have sprung up throughout the West, two alone have the potential to be true catalysts for a global transformation of consciousness.  These two movements are Occupy Wall Street and the Indignant Citizens Movement. Why, you may ask do these two movements in the United States and Greece standout from others that shook the world establishment in 2011. The answer is remarkably straightforward; both have the symbolic potential to transform Western thought, due to their locations. The United States is a world power and the most influential country in the world. If, OWS spreads and leads to a revolution inside the United States, it would send shock waves across the global. The same can be said for Greece, the birth place of Democracy and Western Civilization. A Revolution, in this small Mediterranean country, would have a tremendous symbolic significance across the international community and especially inside Europe itself.

The Return of Palaiokommatismos and the path towards Crisis

Once a land of heroes and philosophers, today Greece is nothing more than a dying patient from an over dosage in neoliberal social engineering [12]. A country only in name, it resembles more an occupied nation, but instead of soldiers dealing the death blows, its bankers, Bureaucrats, and CEOs committing war crimes. How did this once free country become a test site for the elite, who plan to reconstruct an ancient land into an extensive Special Economic Zone for investors [12]? The story of the current Greek Crisis begins with the return of Palaiokommatismos (Old Partyism). The so-called restoration of ‘Democracy’ after the fall of the Junta in 1974, brought with it the return of the Palaiokommastistes (Old Party system men), who began running large public deficits in order to finance new public sector jobs, pensions, and other social benefits [13], to reward those loyal to their political parties [14].  In other words, instead of Democracy, Greece became a Plutarchy infested by crony capitalism, nepotism, and clientelism.

For decades, successive Greek governments obtained numerous loans in order to sustain trade deficits, high expenditures and loan repayments [15]. This all resulted in the accumulation of what some see as an enormous odious debt. During the years preceding the introduction of the euro, things like currency devaluation were used to help finance their habitual borrowing; however after the introduction of the euro this tool disappeared. Over the next 8 years, the country would continue borrowing, due largely thanks to the lower interest rates that government bonds could command, in combination with a series of strong GDP growth rates, as a result of years of misreporting the country’s official economic statistics [16] [17].

The corrupt system that the Palaiokommastistes had created made Greece particularly vulnerable. A perfect target, for the economic hit-men that would soon be at the country’s steps once the Global Financial Crisis hit. The illusion that had so painstakingly been crafted for generations soon came crumbling down. In 2009, the nation’s largest two industries, tourism and shipping [18], were affected by the Global Financial Crisis, which also had a negative impact on GDP growth, impacting Greece’s ability to continue borrowing. This combined with growing issues with tax evasion and a massive shift in market confidence fuelled by the newly elected government’s announcement that its estimated budget deficit was wrong [15], brought the country into economic crisis.

By 2010, it was estimated that nearly 70% of the Greek Government's bonds were held by foreign banks [19], who did not want to see the country default on its debts, which were accumulated, due to corrupt and incompetent practices under Palaiokommastismos. Therefore, in order to protect their interests, many began to argue that a Greek default would destabilize the euro zone. The solution proposed by international lenders was a combination of neoliberal economic policies and full scale privatizations to be carried out by the Palaiokommastistes, at the expense of the Greek people, thus ushering in an age of austerity.

The loan agreements that were to follow between Greece, the IMF, and the European Central Bank have been deemed by many legal analysts and academics, including the Athens Bar Association, to be illegal and an unconstitutional violation of Greek Law. This is due in part to Article 28 of the Greek Constitution, which states that a 3/5 parliamentary majority vote and presidency approval are needed for all laws, treaties and agreements that deal with the international status and sovereignty of the country. Since such approval was never obtained, proponents have argued that the loan agreements are thus unconstitutional [15].

The Age of Austerity and the rise of Troika

The first round of austerity came in February of 2010 with the signing of the unconstitutional memorandums [20] between Greece, the IMF, and the ECB, which resulted in the freezing of the salaries of government employees, cuts in bonuses and overtime workers, as well as public employees [21]. The next round came in March, with the passing of the ‘Economy Protection Bill’, by Parliament [22], cutting Holiday bonuses, salaries of both public and private employees, and an increase in taxes.

A month later, the government would seek the EU/IMF bailout be activated [23], resulting in the European Commission, the IMF, and the ECB setting up a tripartite committee to prepare the program of economic policies underlined in the massive loan. This committee is commonly referred to as Troika. With the Troika now firmly in place, a new round of austerity measures were announced the following month by then Prime Minister George Papandreou. These ‘unprecedented’ [24] cuts represented the biggest government overhaul in a generation [25] and sparked a nationwide strike and massive protests, resulting in three deaths, dozens of injures, and 107 arrests [25].

The following month, a bilateral EU-IMF audit, called for even further austerity, which resulted in Standard & Poor’s downgrading of Greece’s sovereign debt rating to the lowest in the world [26]. An internal struggle soon arose between Palaiokommastistes, amidst growing riots and strikes, which forced Papandreou to propose a reshuffling of his cabinet and a vote of confidence with parliament [27] [28]. In the back drop, of all the chaos, the United Nations officially warned that a new package of austerity measures would constitute a violation of human rights [29]; nevertheless, a new dose of austerity was approved.

To guarantee its implementation, Troika reached an agreement between PASOK, New Democracy, and Popular Orthodox Rally to create a ‘caretaker government’ under an unconstitutional appointed [20] [30] technocrat Prime Minister. The man chosen to replace Papandreou was the former Governor of the Bank of Greece and Former Vice President of the European Central Bank, Lucas Papademos. This newly installed puppet Government, approved yet another austerity package; amidst the most violent riots since 2010 [31] [32], to engulf Athens and other cities, leaving more than 120 people injured.

Greece: The battleground of a new “French Revolution”

Greece finds itself in a position, which in many ways mirrors 18th century France just before the French Revolution. It is effectively a bankrupt country, due to the mismanagement and corruption of an unpopular and indifferent ruling elite. Its society, in some ways mimics Feudalism’s Estates of the Realm. Also, just like 18th century France [33], the Church is the largest land owner. All these similarities put Greece in a unique position. It was the French Revolution that marked the end of Feudalism and the birth of the modern era, and it is a Hellenic Revolution that could mark the end of our current dysfunctional system and give rise to a new era for humanity. However, to understand this one must break down the events and similarities that are leading to the destabilization of 21st century Greece and examine how they correlate with 18th century France.

The Church: A Black-Robbed Mafia

A business worth a billion euros [34], with shares in the National Bank of Greece [34] [35] [36], the Greek Orthodox Church, owns more land than anyone else except, of course, the Greek state [34] [35] [37]. Land, which oh so conveniently is not being taxed under new austerity measures [34]. While the Greek people suffer and watch their pensions and salaries become reduce to nothing, its business as usual for the Church and its thousands of employs on the public payroll [35]. In fact, not only does this billion euro business have the nerve to continue making the bankrupt state pay the pensions and salaries of its employees, they have the audacity to refuse pension cuts, which have been forced on the average Greek due to austerity.

At a time when its congregation is starving to death, the true colors of this judge bribing, drug dealing, illegal antiquities dealing [38] [39] Corrupt Church are becoming more apparent. It is nothing more than cleverly disguised legal offshore business scheme, with thousands of legal entities, which manages its wealth and invests in business opportunities, all while receiving a tax free status. The majority of its income comes from renting out properties throughout Greece, such as Government Ministry buildings, Hospitals, farm land, and even prime real estate in seafront millionaire neighborhoods [35] [36].

The Greek Orthodox emulates the Catholic Church of 18th century France, in power, wealth, and corruption. Just as the throne and altar were close allies in France. So are the political elite and the altar in Greece; both architects of the current crisis engulfing Greek society, as best witnessed by the various scandals that have rocked both the Church and the Political Establishment. As “Holy Gate” [40] and the Vatopedi Controversy [41], both attest the Church is far from a moral role model for the Greek people. 

The Political Elite: Today’s Nobility

They are a class, which fancies themselves the new aristocracy of Greece, untouchable and above the law. While the Greek people suffer under the worse financial crisis in living memory, the elite and their families plunder the nation’s wealth by sending millions overseas to foreign banks [14] in order to protect their own fortunes, which were made by wasting billions in public funds so that they could make millions. All one must do is look at the 2011 list of prominent Greeks guilty of tax evasion [42] or the various political scandals such as the Siemens Scandal [41]. The most recent tax immunity scandal [43] or money laundering case of former defense minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos [44], one thing is extremely clear; the elite has no respect for the law or their countrymen. 

This is most evident by the fact that Greek Parliamentarians have complete immunity from criminal prosecution, arrest or detention. In a way, their immunity from criminal wrong doing allows them to weasel their way out of the legal ramifications of their unethical behavior, echoing that of the Second Estate. A social class, which was exempt from most forms of taxation and led the resistance against any reform of the corrupt status quo in 18th century France.

The People and their struggle towards Change

As the Greek economic continues to remain in recession[45], austerity has burdened the average Greek with ruinously high taxes in order to pay for the mistakes and gluttonous lifestyles of those that have led the country into its current predicament. It is estimated that a third of the country has fallen into poverty [46], while the national suicide rate has double since the start of the economic crisis [47]. Current policies of the Greek government have done nothing but breed social unrest and anti-government sentiment, with numerous ongoing demonstrations and strikes across the country. The response from the Government has been brutal, with police brutality being cited by both the Greek and Foreign media [48] [49], as well as Amnesty International [50] [51]

Many anti-austerity protestors have rallied together to create non-partisan resistance, known as the Indignant Citizens Movement. The movement, which has been, responsible for organizing many of the demonstrations throughout the country have also established ‘people’s assemblies’ in places such as Syntagma Square in Athens. These assemblies have called for the adoption of a new constitution to be written by the people, not the parliament, as well as for the immediate cancellation of the memorandum signed between Greece and the IMF. They have also declared the Greek Debt to be odious and have called for harder taxation of the rich [52].

These actions are all eerily similar to those taken by the Third Estate in 18th century France. When faced with starvation, rising bread prices [53], and the French State’s effective bankruptcy the Third Estate began a process, starting with the proclamation of the Tennis Court Oath and the passing of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen that eventually led to outright revolution, with the assault of the Bastille and the march on Versailles. The stage for this revolution is uncannily similar, by which France’s inefficient and outdated financial system could no longer manage its national debt, which was worsened by its insufficient system of taxation. As a result, social cohesion began to unravel, and the royal court became increasing isolated and indifferent to the hardships being endured by the overwhelming majority of its subjects (peasants, wage-earners, and other professional known as the third estate), which were forced to accept the heavy burden of taxation [54], while the nobility and clergy were given numerous exemptions [55].

The Impact of the French Revolution

The French Revolution was not a single world changing event, but rather a period of profound social and political turmoil, which began in France and spread across Europe. It resulted in the overthrow of the Old Ideas of Monarchy, Aristocracy, and Religious Authority and ushered in new ideals such as Equality, Citizenship and Inalienable Rights. This brought about the development of republics and liberal democracies that were centered on our current evolving political ideologies [56]

In retrospect, it marked the beginning of the end of Feudalism and the rise of modern political concepts such as left, right, and center. It transformed self-identity with the elimination of privileges and replaced them with rights. It spread democratic ideals, not just across Europe, but throughout the world [57]. It is because of these things. That the overwhelming, majority of historians regard, the revolution, as one of the most pivotal events in human history, and, therefore, identify it as the ‘dawn of the modern era’ [58]

The scenarios for a Hellenic Revolution

It is this era, which stands on the cusp of a transformation. As the economic crisis, worsens and social unrest grow, the conversation about the future of 21st century Greece and the world as a whole is slowly beginning to change. It is no longer a question of if a revolution will occur, but rather when and what revolution is on the horizon. Much in the same way as the French Revolution, the coming Hellenic one, will not be a single world changing event, but rather an extended period of turmoil and social change that many future historians may decide began in 2008 with the murder of young Alexandros Grigoropoulos [59]

It was this event, which sparked wide spread rioting, protests and demonstration across the country on a scale that had not been witnessed since 1974 [60]. Although the murder of this incident youth ignited the social unrest [61], there was a deeper sense of frustration pushing the younger generation to a breaking point. The economic troubles, rising unemployment and the perception of government inefficiency and corruption [62] [63] was beginning to take its toll on the population. In a way, it was the prequel to the anti-austerity drama that is now playing out inside this small Mediterranean country. From the birth, of the Indignant Citizens Movement to the fall of the illusion of Democracy and the rise of the puppet government of Papademos; they are all chapters in a developing story for the future of an ancient nation.

Revolution is upon us and in full swing, as witnessed by the recent collapse of the old Greek political system [64]. The recent May 6th elections resulted in the end of bipartisanism[65], and the rise of extremist parties [67]; each of which have tapped into certain ideals of the ICM, specifically the goal of establishing an international commission to investigate whether Greece’s debt is legal [66]. What lies before the Greek people now are three possible scenarios for the future of this growing revolution. The first of which is its utter failure; allowing for the elite to maintain the status quo and prevent any real change from happening.

The second scenario, which is highly likely, is a left or right wing revolution that taps into the collective anger inside Greek society and co-opts the growing momentum for change to produce a merely internal adjustment in Greek society, thus containing the revolution and maintaining the global status quo. The last possible scenario is a transformation that taps into the growing global frustration and social unrest, which would spark not only internal change, but a global awakening on the same scale as the French Revolution. It is the hope of this writer that the third scenario wins and the world witnesses the return of rational Hellenic thought and the rise of global direct democracy.

[1] Benjamin, Anastas. “The Final Days”. The New York Times Magazine: Section 6, p.48.
[2] This American Life. “NPR-The Giant Pool of Money-April 2009”.
[3] Michael Simkovic, Competition and Crisis in Mortgage Securitization.
[4]Horesh, Roxanne & Bollier, Sam. Q&A: Eurozone debt crisis.
[5] Inside Story. Deepening Eurozone Crisis?
[6]Anderson, Kurt. The Protester. Time Magazine
[7]Staff. Time names ‘Protester’ person of the year. Russia Today
[8] Intellectual Rootsof Wall St. Protest lie in Academe - Movement’s principles arise fromscholarship on anarchy”. The Chronicle of Higher Education.
[9] Penny, Laurie. Occupy Wall Street: policeviolence reveals a corrupt system. The Guardian
[10]Sherter, Alain. In day of protests, “Occupy Wall Street” faces policeviolence. CBS News
[11]Punt, Anthony. Occupy Movement Shines Light on Systematic Police Brutality.
[12]Sotiris, Panagiotis. Greece: From Despair to Resistance: Test Site forNeoliberal Social Engineering  
[13] Revision of the Greek Government Deficit and Debt Figures. Eurostat. 22 November 2004.
[14]Dabilis, Andy. What’s Really Riling Greeks? The injustice of it all. Greek Reporter
[15]Giavris, Vasilis. Greece in Crisis: The IMF and Eurozone Loans in Perspective. Where to from Here?
[16] Floudas, Demetrius A. “The Greek Financial Crisis 20120: Chimerae andPandaemonium”. Hughes Hall Seminar Series, March 2010: University of Cambridge.
[17] “Back down to earth with a bang”. Kathimerini (English Edition)
[18] Fiscal data for the years 2007-2010. Hellenic Statistical Authority. 17 October 2011.
[19] Wills, Andrew. “Rehn: No other state will need a bail-out”. EU Observer
[20]The following constitutional violations have occurred during the last yearsin Greece of the economic crisis.
[21] Thomas Jr, Landon.  97% of InvestorsAgree to Greek Debt Swap. The New York Times. 5 April 2012.
[22] PSI participation at 96.6 pct. Ekathimerini. 11. April 2012
[23] Granitsas, Alkman & Bouras, Stelios. Greek Debt Restructuring LeavesDissent Question. The Wall Street Journal. 25 April 2012
[24]UPDATE: Greek, Spain, Portugal Debt Insurance Costs Fall Sharply. The Wall Street Journal. 29 April 2010
[25] Reuters. ECB suspends rating limits on Greek debt, News. Business Spectator. 22 October 2007
[26] Dempsey, Judy. Three Reported Killed in Greek Protests. The New York Times.
[27] Ubriaco, Michael. Revisiting Greece. The Observer at Boston College
[28] Lesova, Polya. ECB suspends rating threshold for Greece debt instruments. MarketWatch. The Wall Street Journal
[29] Athens concludes EU-IMF audit: finance 3 June 2011
[30] Protests against the mid-term (plan) throughout Greece. 29 June 2011
[31] Smith, Helena. Greek debt talks on knife-edge amid growing IMF pressure onbondholders. The Guardian
[32] Spiegel, Peter & Hope, Kerin. Greek bondholders draw line in the sand. The Financial Times
[33]  Censer and Hunt, Liberty, Equality, Fraternity: Exploring the French Revolution, 4.
[34] Salles, Alain. Orthodox Church appears to be exempt from austerity. The Guardian
[35]Taylor, Paul & Maltezou, Renee. FEATURE- Debt Crisis taxes cosy GreekChurch-state ties. Reuters
[36]Greek church racks up EUR 7m profit in 2008: report. 29 August 2009.
[37]Kathemerini. January 2008
[38]Galpin, Richard. Greek church rocked by scandals. BBC News
[39] Harry de Quetteville. Corruption scandal hits the Greek Church. The Telegraph
[40]Smith, Helena. Greece in revolt as scandals sweep the Orthodox church. The Guardian
[41]Top 7 Political Scandals in Greece. Personal Finance Hub
[42] Phillips, Leigh. Greek elections pushed back to April.
[43]Greek Minister Resigns over Husband’s 5.5 million Euro Tax Evasion.
[44] Dabilis, Andy. Tsochatzopoulos Says He Will Name Names of Greece’sCorrupt. Greek Reporter
[45] Q&A: Greek debt crisis. BBC News. 9 February 2012
[46] Wearden, Graeme & Garside, Juliette. Eurozone debt crisis live: UKcredit rating under threat amid Moody’s downgrade blitz. The Guardian
[47] Smith, Helena. Greek woes drive up suicide rate. The Guardian
[48] Απομακρύνθηκανοι "Αγανακτισμένοι" από τον Λευκό Πύργο".
[49] Greece passes key austerity vote. BBC News 29 June 2011
[50] Smith, Helena. Greek police face investigation after protest violence. The Guardian
[51] Tear gas fired as Greek police clash with Athens protesters. 29 June 2011
[52] Σας περιμένουμε στονΠύργο το Λευκό...". 30 May 2011.
[53] Hibbert, Christopher. The Days of the French Revolution.  1980
[54] Hibbert, Christopher. The Days of the French Revolution.  1980
[55] Frey, Linda & Frey, Marsha. The French Revolution.
[56] Bell, David Avrom. The First Total War: Napoleon’s Europe and the birth of warfare as we know it. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
[57] Riemer, Neal & Simon, Douglas. The New World of Politics: AnIntroduction to Political Science. Rowman & Littlefield
[58] Frey, Linda & Frey, Marsha. The French Revolution.
[59] Police Trial Two indicted over teen shooting. Kathimerini
[60] Christofer, Kat. Athenian Democracy in ruins. The Guardian
[61] Explainer: Why is there unrest in Greece? CNN 10 December 2008
[62] Behind the protests spreading across Greece. The Economist. 9 December 2008
[63] Donadio, Rachel & Carassava, Anthee. In Greece, a crisis decades inthe making. International Herald Tribune
[64] Governing Greece. Russia Today Published May 8, 2012
[65] Tsatsou, Marianna. International Press Focuses on ‘New’ Political Figures. Greek Reporter
[66] Leftist leader says Greece's bailoutpledges are null. Reuters
[67] Vrana, Katerina. The Greek 2012 Elections, Retold. Huffington Post