From the frontline: The Greek brothers behind London’s Rhythmatic events on the crisis in their country

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Tim Sheridan speaks to Kiri and Kostas Poulos, the Greek brothers behind London’s Rhythmatic events, about the crisis in Greece...

An important thing to remember is the crisis in Greece is a result of a global banking problem. It really could have happened to you in your own country. Everywhere got hit by the crash in 2008 and none more so than our entertainment industries and venues. If you say politics and economics are not your thing then maybe think again. The reason your favourite clubs close and the reason developers snap up the sites or build next to a venue and try to shut it down… well it’s all about the bigger picture. This story is about the very rich profiting from ‘austerity’. Austerity imposed by the very rich. We all got shafted by bankers and billionaires and pilgrim, we always will. The trick is to understand it’s all connected and something as complex as the dire situation is Greece is simply what happened to us all during the downturn, but run out of control. Don’t blame Greece for all it’s ills. Within a year of it’s problems surfacing every corporation and billionaire had pulled out and left the country swinging in the wind. Amplifying the issues a hundredfold.

The trouble with modern issues is people are having difficulty showing pity. They are living through hard times so when they hear of billions going to Greece and words like ‘bailout’ this modern disease kicks in ; “he’s got more than me”. You see it everywhere on front pages and the internet. That family gets benefits, why don’t I? That foreigner has a job, why don’t I? I managed with nothing, so can you! It’s the thing holding us back, arguing with each other instead of those at the top. The same goes for Greece. The money they were given didn’t go into the Greek economy it went to their ‘debt’ and paying off loans. Banks made this happen and banks are trying to pay each other off to fix something that has no positive impact at all on the Greek people themselves. While people complain about the European Union and banks it’s the everyday people of Greece who are suffering.

 

 


So I asked Kiri and Kostas about how the crisis is affecting people day to day. Do they have any stories of how it is affecting your family and friends in Greece? 

“Since 2008 the Greek economy has deteriorated a lot and as a result the people of Greece have suffered dramatically. People find it hard not only to pay bills, but to providing the basics. Food, clothing and to look after their families. Our sister lives in Athens. She used to see a neighbourhood Dad going to work everyday. For the last few years instead he’s been going to the bins. To find some food to feed him and his family.

Our sister is a doctor, an anaesthesiologist and good one. She makes less than a road sweeper. Her salary gets smaller by the month. She studied for more than 10 years. For what? The morale of Greece has reached the lowest possible point and this is only the beginning. Greece will suffer even more at the hands of the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank. It is likely that our family hasn’t been affected as much as our fellow Greeks. From our side we are trying to help them us much as we can.”


Austerity here in England affects the poor the most. The rich are unaffected. It is making a huge division between rich and poor. How is it in Greece?

“The global economic and financial crisis has aggravated social inequality. Austerity measures have increased the problem even further. Income inequality has increased faster between 2008 and 2010 than at any time during the previous 12 years. Greece is one of the countries that suffer most from the poverty gap and like any other country the rich will not be affected and is always the poor that will foot the bill.

It is time for politics to get involved, by taking a critical look at existing cuts in public expenditure. The gap between rich and poor must not be allowed to widen, and above all, belt-tightening measures should not come at the expense, this is not a Greek problem it is a universal problem. And we don’t think it will change.”

Unbelievably here in England when things get really bad we seem to turn to lunatics like UKIP and for some reason turn to the rich for advice. Even though they are the ones who made the situation. What is the political situation there? Who is running the show?

“I would like to think it is our Government, but the truth of the matter is that since Greece got into this situation it is run at the moment by the International Monetary Fund and the European Central bank. We are their puppets, we are their experiment. They are the ones that dictate the future of Greece and how Greece will run, NOT our government. IMF & ECB, what they actual do, is offering us the huge bailouts in return for our resources.

The Humiliation of our nation will begin. For the debts that were forced upon us Greece will sell many of its profitable assets to oligarchs and the international corporations. And hey already have. As we all know the privatisations are ruthless, involving everything and anything that is profitable. In Greece, assets like water, electricity, post offices, airport services, national banks and telecommunication, port authorities (which is huge in a country that is a world leader in shipping) etc are all up for grabs. We are going to be their cheap labour.”


Friends in Greece tell me tourism seems ok? I have been advising people to go on holiday to Greece to help in a small way. Do you agree with this?

“Greece has always been a great holiday destination and whoever visits Greece even in these difficult times, still you will experience the warm welcome of our people and the great hospitality. Not to forget the amazing beaches, but above all you will support Greece immensely. But the Media hasn't done a great job of supporting our country with all these negatives that surround Greece; they are portraying Greece as a lost cause. I am going to Greece and look forward to seeing my friends and family and to visit my beautiful place, Pelion, and yes they might say that you won’t be able to withdraw more than 60euros a day. Perhaps take cash with you.”

We have our own form of austerity in the UK but the youth never seem to really get involved in politics. They are very apathetic. I think that may be a very English thing. Do the young engage in politics in Greece?

“Young people in Greek are the most cynical when it comes to politicians and politics. They have the least trust in political institutions. They see the least benefit from being members of the EU and are among the most likely to take part in political protest. Especially now seeing our country in this hopeless situation they are more politically involved than ever before.”

I have experienced some extreme situations in Europe like Bosnia and Serbia and I tend to find that in times of trouble there is a sort of energy around. A real spike in underground parties and nightlife. when people are in trouble they need to let off steam. Is this happening in Greece? or is the mood sombre?

“Even now after 5 years off austerity measures have crippled our nation there’s always time for Greeks to go out and let off steam. There are still big parties taking place throughout the year all over Greece. Our people don’t need to go underground to let off steam. During summer, where most of our income comes from, no matter which island you go to, you will find some of the biggest parties. And Greeks are there to make it all happen.”


How do you see the future for yourself and your country? What are your hopes?

“Greeks are very optimistic, proud, true fighters and always have been. This is what got us out from the 2nd World War and Ottoman empire. However dealing with International corporations, who’s main concern is profitability at any cost, is a whole new threat to our nation. As much as I would like to be optimist I feel it’s going to be a very gloomy future for Greece. Rising unemployment, higher taxes and deep cuts to social programs is creating a sense of hopelessness and despair that may last for years, if not decades. Five years of harsh austerity measures have brought nothing but misery. What makes them think that another five years of austerity measures will make any difference? I for one would have liked to see Greece exiting Europe back in 2008.” 

Thank you Kiri and Kostas. It’s people just like us who suffer in news items from distant lands. The internet dehumanises things even further by spreading bad journalism and loose opinion. Just because we work in an ‘light’ industry it doesn’t mean we get to ignore the world. When a developer comes for your beloved venue remember it’s all connected. An economic downturn is a feeding frenzy for the wealthy. A fire sale where the buyer rules. If we pay attention to what is going on we can participate. Even if it just means deciding to go on holiday to Greece. Perhaps, like when post-Franco Spain was very poor, Greece might be the next great european clubbing destination. Leave the rich to their VIP tables in Ibiza.

Rhythmatic host a live streaming session with Kenny Glasgow in London on Saturday 29th August, 7pm - 2am, at a secret location. Entry is limited, free and RSVP essential. See event details for full lowdown. 

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