Monday, September 6, 2010

Two very interesting pieces in the Athens News: first of all huge headlines on the front page; Greek government trying yet again to bring in a ban on smoking in enclosed places. This evidently is the fourth attempt in eight years. Smokers could be fined 500euro and restaurant and bar owners up to 10,000 with the added possibility of losing their licence. Will it work this time? Who knows? Greeks are such stubborn buggers and when they dig in their heels they really dig them in. ‘Let them make their laws,’ is the reaction, ‘why should we take any notice?’ There isn’t enough manpower to police the rules.
Visiting IKA’s vast main ‘non-smoking’ building in Souda for my monthly appointment with the lung specialist I see people do take notice of the no-smoking signs but there are plenty of semi-exterior places like balconies and roofed walkways where they can smoke and they certainly do. According to statistics in the paper, 63% of Greek men smoke, 39% of women. How do they arrive at these figures? However, one only has to live in Greece to realize they must be pretty accurate, maybe even on the conservative side. In the 16-25 age bracket 45% are smokers.
I must say the Italians seem to have taken to the no-smoking ban without trauma, not noticeably anyway. Cyprus brought in a law that took effect from January. Anyone caught breaking the law is liable to a fine of 2000euro. So far 2,521 people have been charged with smoking offences, mainly in bars. Presumably since the paper came out there have been a few more.
The second interesting piece was not an article but a letter to the editor from someone in Oslo. Putting it bluntly it was headed ‘No wonder Greeks behave as they do’ and was a plea for sympathy and better understanding the Greek workman after this current wave of strikes. Agreeing that they have been disastrous for the county the letter goes on to ask, ‘why do you expect Greek workers, unions, pensioners, teachers, farmers, truck drivers to show a high degree of responsibility when the country has for decades been run, controlled by and functioned under corrupt politicians from parliament down. (But what’s new there? Where are politicians not corrupt? The recent Labour government in Britain and some Tories with the expenses scandal haven’t exactly come out pre-election smelling of roses.) Some of the judiciary and the church also come in for criticism. Favoritism, nepotism, are the bugbears of Greek society and those in the higher echelons who misbehave invariably get away with it. The scandal dies down, eventually disappears and no one is prosecuted. Bearing all this in mind the Greek workman is expected to simply accept higher taxes, a cut in wages and pensions and a rise in inflation that has made everything that more expensive. As the writer concludes, ‘No wonder Greeks on “lower levels” behave as they do. I see absolutely no reason to expect a higher degree of responsibility and morality from these segments of society.’
I think he definitely has a point there.

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