Reproduced in antifasi.gr, kitrinos-typos.gr, clickbomb.gr and assorted other Greek “news” sources (English translation follows).
ΞΕΝΑ ΔΗΜΟΣΙΕΥΜΑΤΑ ΣΥΝΔΕΟΥΝ ΤΑ ΚΑΛΑΝΤΑ ΜΕ ΤΗΝ ΕΓΚΛΗΜΑΤΙΚΟΤΗΤΑ
Τα ξένα μέσα οργιάζουν και πάλι σε βάρος της Ελλάδας. Αγγλόφωνος ιστότοπος δημοσίευσε πρόσφατα άρθρο στο οποίο περιγράφει με… ευφάνταστο τρόπο τα κάλαντα στην Ελλάδα της ανθρωπιστικής κρίσης.
Σύμφωνα με το ρεπορτάζ που φιλοξενείται στο blog datelineatlantis, η Αθήνα βρίσκεται στο έλεος οργανωμένων συμμοριών που απαρτίζονται απο ανήλικα παιδιά που δρουν υπό την κατεύθυνση… νονών του οργανωμένου εγκλήματος. Με όπλο τα τρίγωνα, τα παιδιά ξεμοναχιάζουν ευάλωτους ηλικιωμένος που περνούν τις άγιες μέρες μόνοι και εγκαταλελειμμένοι απο τις οικογένειες τους και τους αποσπούν με απειλές χρήματα και τιμαλφή. Ο ξένος ρεπόρτερ παρατηρεί με εμφανή ειρωνία οτι τα παιδιά και οι… προστάτες τους βλασφημούν κατά της αγιότητας των ημερών καθώς εκτελούν το εγκληματικό τους έργο ντυμένοι Άγιοι Βασίληδες.
Δε λείπει η αναφορά στην προειδοποίηςη του Βουλευτή της Χρυςής Αυγής Ιωάννη Λαγού περί παράτυπων μεταναστών και κτηνοβασίας, ενώ ο ρεπόρτερ παρατηρεί επίσης την πλήρη έλλειψη αστυνόμευσης στην πρωτεύουσα.
Θυμίζουμε οτι ο ίδιος ιστότοπος έχει φιλοξενήσει κατά καιρούς προκλητικά δημοσιεύματα, στα οποία η Ελλάδα παρομοιάζεται με μπανανία, η μαθητική παρέλαση της 28ης Οκτωβριου περιγράφεται με χλευαστικό και απαξιωτικό τρόπο, ενώ προωθούνται συνομωσιολογίες για το πρόσωπο του Έλληνα Πρωθυπουργού.
Εκτιμάται οτι αυτό το τελευταίο… κρούσμα εντάσσεται σε μια ευρύτερη προσπάθεια αποσταθερποίησης της Ελλάδας απο τα ξένα μέσα. Πρόσφατα πολλά μήντια αναπαρήγαγαν φήμες ότι Ελληνίδες φοιτήτριες εκδίδονται για μια τυρόπιτα λόγω της κρίσης, ενώ ο ιστότοπος του BBC δημοσίευσε ρεπορτάζ όπου εικαζόταν ότι «η κρίση ωθεί τους Έλληνες να ξεθάψουν τους γονείς τους».
Ως γνωστόν ο εκταφιασμός των νεκρών συνδέεται με σχέδιο εκποίησης των οστών απο Κινεζικό όμιλο παραδοσιακής ιατρικής στα πλαίσια του προγράμματος ιδιωτικοποιήσεων που έχουν επιβάλλει οι θεσμοί.
“FOREIGN REPORTS LINK THE KALANTA TO CRIME
Foreign media are once again indulging in an orgy of anti-Greek sentiment. An English-language website recently published an article with an “imaginative” description of the kalanta in the Greece of the humanitarian crisis.
According to the report which is hosted on the blog datelineatlantis, Athens is at the mercy of organised gangs made up of underage children acting under the direction of godfathers of organised crime. Armed with triangles, the children accost vulnerable elders who pass the holy days alone and abandoned by their families, and use threats to extract money and valuables. The foreign reporter observes with obvious irony that the children and their “protectors” blaspheme against the holy days by carrying out their criminal acts dressed as Santa Claus.
The report is complete with a reference to the warning by Golden Dawn MP Ioannis Lagos concerning illegal immigrants and bestiality, while the writer also notes the total lack of policing in the capital.
We remind you that the same website has hosted at times provocative publications in which Greece is likened to a banana republic, the school parade of the 28th October is described in a mocking and degrading fashion, while the blog also promotes conspiracy theories concerning the person of the Greek Prime Minister.
It is believed that this latest outbreak is part of a broader attempt by the foreign media to destabilise Greece. Recently many foreign media reproduced rumours that Greek students were selling themselves for a tyropita, while the BBC website published a report speculating that “the crisis is driving the Greeks to dig up their parents”.
As is well known, the disinterment of the dead is related to a bid to exploit the bones by a Chinese traditional medicine group, as part of the privatisation programme imposed by the lender institutions.”
All of the above is of course imagined, apart from the external links which are 100% genuine.
Inspired by the example of actress and humanitarian Susan Sarandon, Koutofrangos drove through the night, braving fog and the vagaries of long-haul lorry drivers on the Italian Autostrada, to board the last Igoumenitsa-bound ferry from Ancona to ‘bear witness’ to Greece’s ignominious ongoing decline into depravity.
Already horrified by reports from my informants that a member of Parliament spoke authoritatively about recently-arrived migrants from Pakistan having an unusual attachment to their goats, I was braced for the worst as I entered Athens.
Nothing, however, could prepare me for the shock of seeing gangs of street youth – boys and girls alike – going from door-to-door in a brazen shake-down of the elderly. This on Christmas Eve, no less. The streets have been crawling with urchins since dawn, clearly working under duress by foreign organised crime bosses, wielding menacing metal triangles and iron rods, pounding on doors and demanding cash from the already-depleted unemployed and beleaguered pensioners. Even casual observation revealed the elderly – those abandoned or forgotten by family – being accosted on street corners and in modest kafeneios.
This pitiful spectacle was made all the more horrifying by the fact that many of the youth – doubtless kidnapped and press-ganged into common criminality – wore red and white Santa hats, in a perverse and sickening show of blasphemy towards the holiday. The degree of organisation entailed by this mass extortion racket was evidenced by pick-up trucks cruising the streets, Christmas carols blaring from loudhailers to drown out the cries for help of victims, an adult ‘Santa’ directing the street gangs to their next victim. With no police visible anywhere, the streets of Athens have at long last truly become a jungle.
[You may want to read this before going to press – Ed.]
All of the above is of course imagined, apart from the external links which are 100% genuine.
Image: photo by Koutofrangos, somewhere in Athens, 24 December 2015.
You don’t need an alarm clock on Christmas eve in Greece (or New Year’s eve, or even Epiphany in some places). In Greece it is traditional for children to doorstep you for the Κάλαντα (Kálanta) starting at the crack of dawn and continuing almost until noon. The Kálanta is a cross between carol-singing and trick-or-treating. You can expect groups of children, sometimes accompanied by adults, brandishing triangles and other noise-making instruments to sing the traditional song appropriate for each holiday, until you ostentatiously retrieve a stack of coins to reward them.
It is very cute if you are in the right mood, and the kids can be very good and sometimes even musical. If you live in an apartment block you can get a hint as to their merit as they progress up the floors. The quality tends to deteriorate as the morning progresses, as the younger kids tire and the teenagers haul themselves out of bed to make their perfunctory rounds, with their breaking voices and embarrassed shuffling.
It is now more common a parent to accompany their children as they visit friends’ houses only – but when I was as young as six or seven we started out in pairs at dawn, unaccompanied, to knock on total strangers’ doors and sing for money, before hitting the toy shops to spend our loot. Every modern parent’s nightmare.
These days, it is probably Golden Dawn’s worst nightmare too, as you can count on opening the door to at least one group that resembles a Unicef card in its multi-racial harmony.
Because money is involved, the Kálanta can act as a litmus test for peoples’ views on economics and morality. Some people simply hand the money over before the end of the first verse to get it over with as soon as possible before the carolers notice they are still in their pyjamas. This is as if to say, this is a naked economic transaction, if not an outright extortion racket, so let’s not pretend otherwise: I give you money, you give me peace. Others (like my parents) like to test the kids by making them sing at least two verses, to make them “earn” their gratuity. It is sometimes tempting, especially in these hard times, to take the kids aside and explain to them that this is one of the few occasions in life when you can expect to get a handful of cash just for showing up. But that is not the holiday spirit. And once you note the strong correlation between your temptation to moralise and the viciousness of your hangover, you have already talked yourself out of it.
“Real grownups” are less squeamish about using the Kálanta as anything other than a harmless tradition. Every year the country’s political leadership also receives several visits from organised groups, often in traditional regional costume, for what is probably best described as “soft lobbying”. The Kálanta songs with their feudal overtones, addressing the hosts as “lords” (άρχοντες), lend themselves to flattery of power. On occasion, the political Kálanta can be less oblique, particular when local traditions encourage improvisation. The Cretan tradition of μαντινάδες (mantinádes) lends itself particularly to shameless politicking, as when a group of traditionally garbed singers serenaded then PM Antonis Samaras with an anti-austerity ditty, praising his great leadership and calling on him to cut back on the Troika-imposed taxes.
But remember, kids: “This is one of the few occasions in life… ”
Image: from thetoc.gr
Watching the current Greek government approach one year in office, I am frequently reminded of a tale I once heard about the customs of a faraway land. This is the tale as it was recounted to our regular contributor Koutofrangos on his travels:
“A real central African country I have visited has in some ways a very efficient system of public administration, one often mistaken by rules-obsessed Westerners for rampant corruption. When you are appointed to a public sector position in the this country, you are not paid a salary because the state has no money to pay you. Your office, your uniform, or your badge, are licenses to extract money and to grant favours. You may expect to serve something like six months in post before you are booted out and replaced by the next incumbent. You are given an office that consists of nothing but bare walls – the equipment, fittings and furniture having been stripped by your predecessor.
Once in place, you have a brief window to make what you can of your position. A typical example is that the police will set up roadblocks with the sole purpose of collecting on the spot ‘fines’ for invented infractions that go directly into their pocket. Once word reaches your village of your new appointment, your kin, both immediate and distant, will expect you to quite literally ‘take care of them’, for nothing is more deeply engrained in the local culture than that of sharing whatever you have with those who are without. For the lowly policeman, your badge and uniform entitle you to require a small payment before wielding your baton against the street mugger; likewise, a ministerial appointee will require the payment of a ‘gratuity’ by wire transfer directly into a foreign numbered account before he is able to confirm a meeting with a senior minister to discuss a mining permit. And the same functionary will arrange for as many relatives as possible to receive civil service jobs back home, who will use their posts to extract whatever they can from those seeking their services.
This sharing of the wealth is an admirable instinct, one that has enabled entire communities to survive even the leanest of times in a world where access to resources is, at best, uncertain. The sense of obligation to family and village on the part of the benefactor is every bit as strong as the sense of entitlement to a share of the spoils by kith and kin; the ties of family and village loyalty are ironclad. When the time comes for you to leave your government post, you will – like all who had gone before you – strip the office clean of its equipment, fittings, and furniture, and leave it to your successor to commence the cycle all over again. As an economist acquaintance long familiar with our African country explained, this system of informal redistribution could be seen as an extremely efficient form of taxation. There were no administrative overheads as ‘tax’ was collected directly from those in need of services, as and when those services were required, effectively a system of ‘pay as you go’ government service delivery. Where it breaks down, of course, is in the arena of major public infrastructure, such as roads and water; it is difficult to demand a bribe from an entire community, or country, unless the demand is delivered from the business end of a gun. It is for this reason that towns some distance from the capital, with populations of a quarter million or more, often lack electricity and sewage disposal – true public services, not amenable to such a model of ‘direct finance’”.
By the way, I forgot to mention, if you hold Greek exceptionalism as an article of faith, or if you are fond of employing words like “neo-colonialist” as an insult, you probably won’t appreciate the analogy that has been creeping up on you. But I suggest you hold your nose and read on.
This is the kind of behaviour that economists call “rent seeking”, and what we have previously written about when documenting the inventive vocabulary of informal transactions in Greece. Since the Syriza/ANEL coalition came to power in January 2015, and then again in September, a typically Greek political ritual has been playing out that differs only in scale from the familial largesse of our African official.
Within the first six months we saw political tokenism in the wholesale rehiring of the ministry cleaners that had served as the red-cleaning-gloved mascots of the election campaign, the upgrading of some of their number to court clerks, and the re-advertising of the same positions on less favourable terms (all perfectly legal if not exactly equitable). We saw the triumphant re-opening of the state broadcaster ERT (including all 1,560 of its original employees), paying back the previous government for its heavy-handed plug-pulling, thereby winning the undying loyalty of a full battalion of media foot-soldiers. School janitors, university administrators, vocational educators and a whole raft of functionally random but symbolically charged public sector positions abolished by the previous government – in an admittedly feeble and itself politicised attempt to make even the most modest inroads on cutting government spending – were reinstated through fast-track procedures. This was given extra piquancy by the fact that the Employment Minister was an established lawyer specialising in representing public sector employees in unfair dismissal cases. The timing was also significant: this rush to deliver on pre-election promises took place as the new government’s risky but ultimately doomed negotiations with the creditors were reaching a crescendo, and on the eve of the referendum called by the government in July to break the deadlock that they had created.
The families have also been gathering round to get their feet under the table. In the literal sense, nieces and nephews, spouses, siblings, in-laws, and assorted relatives have been named almost daily in lists of ministerial appointments and prestigious secondments. In the realms of fictive kinship, party functionaries and failed candidates have also featured large. Back in May, an opposition politician was able to name over 100 appointments with a strong whiff of nepotism, and more have been made since.
Other controversial personnel changes have been effected under the guise of reforms and assessment exercises at senior levels of the civil service. A recent evaluation exercise of hospital directors found that 59 of the 71 assessed by interview were deemed unsuitable for the position (representing an astonishing 83% failure rate); in a number of instances, it was openly acknowledged that politically-sensitive criteria such as “crisis management skills” and “good workplace relations” (i.e. fealty to the all-powerful unions) were allowed to override formal qualifications and successful performance in the job. Sensitive positions at the head of supposedly independent agencies such as the Internal Affairs Unit of the Police and the Secretariat-General of Public Revenues have also been summarily cleared of their incumbents.
In sketching out the outlines of these shifts I do not mean to imply that individual cases cannot be justified. It would not be shocking to hear that a ministry cleaner had been overqualified for her job, in the same way that the waiter who served you your cappuccino may well have a law degree; or that a senior health service official turned out to be crooked, lazy or an incompetent political appointee; or that the head of Public Revenues had bowed to political pressure, as is alleged in the indictment filed against her, since she herself was appointed by the outgoing Samaras government following the unceremonious ouster of her predecessor. It is more that the aggregate pattern can only be interpreted as the result of an overarching plan so pre-rehearsed that it borders on ritual.
That this is the norm rather than the exception is illustrated by an unattributed (though highly plausible) account of a recent gathering of the clans of the Syriza parliamentary group. In it, a rank-and-file MP pleaded sincerely that his job is made harder by the party’s failure to capture the state apparatus to an adequate degree to allow him to grant his constituents’ rousfétia (favours). “The voters came back to me a few days later,” he recounts, “and told me they went to another party’s MP who was able to grant them their rousféti.” Another one of his colleagues reportedly complained that “we can’t even get an army conscript transferred that easily” (see vísma, meson etc.). The account does not disclose whether any of the complainers were “heroic” enough to take to their tent in the wrath of Achilles for not getting their share of the booty. But clearly the fear in the party is that someone will on the eve of the next big battle, and risk costing them the war that they have travelled so far to fight. The government now has a thin majority of three votes, and some challenging measures to pass.
These developments can only be seen as remarkable because they are being set in motion by a government whose supposed USP was a break from the “old” political tradition and a focus on rooting out diaplokí (entanglement) in public life. But in this sense also it is not new. There is a growing body of literature in political science documenting and analysing the politicisation of the civil service in Greece (you can read two slightly different perspectives here and here). In it, a picture emerges of a ritual of capture that takes place with every change of political administration. The ritual rotation was both accelerated and formalised with the coming to power of the Socialist PASOK in the 1980s, which for the first time gave the Left (yes, there was a Greek Left in power before Syriza) a bite of the apple (for most of the twentieth century, leftists were explicitly excluded from the civil service). It has been practiced equally adeptly by their Conservative counterparts Nea Demokratia (under Kostas Karamanlis they are estimated to have appointed over 300,000 civil servants between 2004 and 2009, equating to roughly 4% of the working population of the country at its peak, and 3% of registered voters!) all under the guise of “reforming” the public sector. What is truly shocking now is that the system survives despite the paucity of spoils to distribute.
The capture typically takes place both from the top, to control policy, and from the bottom, to reward loyalty or inflict a political obligation. The result is a state apparatus loyal to its political sponsors that then has to be dismantled by the next party in power. The offices are stripped, and the cycle continues. The prize of any anti-corruption campaign is to catch a frontline politician with his or her fingers in the till; when that happens we are all momentarily shocked, disgusted and chastened. But that is not “us”; at the same time we all tolerate and participate in an astounding volume of exchanges of banal favours because we see them as “business as usual”, the most efficient way to get things done, without acknowledging that we are subtracting from the whole.
This is an informal exchange system and a mode of governance, with its own operating logic, its own morality code and values system. To believe that it is simply parasitical to the democratic system and the “real” economy is to ignore the extent to which it drives things; recognising how rousféti fits in the picture is painful because it is a tacit acknowledgement that the official system is dysfunctional and deficient. Consequently, it is just as naïve to trust that it can be easily rooted out or “reformed” simply through cookie-cutter “good governance” initiatives, as it is to expect that someone by virtue of being young and “not from a political tzáki” (the political equivalent of virgin birth) will be your saviour from all the sins of the political system.
All this grubbiness is of course frowned upon by our partners to the north, just as some of us are tempted to frown upon our African temporary cop in his still-crisp uniform as he demands a bribe at the roadblock in our African capital’s suburbs. As overseers of our spasmodic “reform” efforts, our partner-creditors only rarely make public acknowledgement of what is going on before their very eyes. How can they miss it? Is it because corruption is a “southern” disease that is so alien to their Protestant value system that they fail to see the signs? This is hard to believe given their own achievements in the field. If in doubt, I suggest that you take a closer look at the overbearing embrace of our oleaginous Luxembourgeois MC on the fringes of a European summit. You might just catch a glimpse of the twinkle in the eye of a northern Don Corleone who has just persuaded his wayward nephew to take care of the smooth running of the waste disposal business.
Image: Still from the 1965 comedy “There is Also Conscience” (Υπάρχει και φιλότιμο) in which a naive minister visits his constituency and discovers that his administration is corrupt, he is reviled and the government is mistrusted. The protagonist’s name, Mavrogialouros, has become a byword in Greek for charlatan politicians.
“The Greek Tobacco Epidemic” is the very apt title of a 162 page report prepared by the Faculty of the Harvard School of Public Health in collaboration with the Hellenic Ministries of Health and Education and the Hellenic Anti-Cancer Society and published in December 2011. It was funded by the George D Behrakis Foundation as part of the “Hellenic Action through research against Tobacco” (HEART) Project. I cite it in defence of what some followers thought were over-gloomy pronouncements in my earlier post on smoking.
Among the multiplicity of data presented in that report are the following numbers: Diseases caused by tobacco accounted for 14.4% of the total Greek health budget, with 53 deaths a day in Greece related to smoking. Bad News indeed. However there was also some Good News: Between 2006 and 2010 the prevalence of smoking dropped by 12% in the 18-24 year age-group. The Good News was confirmed in the European Journal of Public Health in October 2012 in a paper with a less catchy title, “Prevalence and determinants of tobacco use among adults in Greece: 4-year trends”. Based on the Hellas Health III survey in 2010 it was estimated that overall 41% of Greeks (45% of men and 38% of women) were smokers. Comparing the findings with the Hellas Health I survey in 2006, in the “young adult” group there was a fall from 48% in 2006 to 35% in 2010, with “a substantial reduction in the number of cigarettes smoked in all groups”.
Approaching the situation from the economic angle, a very recent publication in the British Medical Journal with another unsexy title, “Estimates of price and income elasticity in Greece. Greek debt crisis transforming cigarettes into a luxury good: an economic approach”, aimed to assess smokers’ sensitivity to cigarette price and consumer income changes, and to project health benefits of an additional tax increase. Using a statistical model the authors estimated that depending on the level of tax increase, revenue could rise while smoking could be reduced and smoking related deaths averted. Also Good News, if somewhat hypothetical. Along with increased taxation, the authors recommend that now is the time for “focused antismoking campaigns, law reinforcement (to ensure compliance with smoking bans)” but also “intensive control for smuggling”, thus keeping a one foot on either side of the fence.
Concerning focused antismoking campaigns, the HEART project, introduced above, remains ever active. It is sponsoring the 6th Three-day Conference “Education for a World without Smoking”, with scientific coverage of such topics as quitting smoking, passive smoking, the electronic cigarette and contraband tobacco. It was opened on 9th December with an event for schoolchildren at the Hellenic Ministry of Education, Research and Religion by the President of Greece Prokopis Pavlopoulos, who tossed back his white mane and presented awards to the children with winning entries in the contest “I learn not to smoke”, confessing that he himself started smoking at their age and has regretted it ever since. He was recently caught on camera cadging a light off the Mayor of Thessaloniki at an official event (above). The Minister of Education, Nikos Filis, looked on with a somewhat sheepish expression, as well he might, when his colleagues in the Ministries of Economy, Development and Tourism, Citizen Protection and Mercantile Marine and Island Policy were publicly supporting the other “Stop Smoking” movement – NO to contraband cigarettes (www.oxistaparanomatsigara.gr).
Yiayia was initially heartened when she opened the Sunday newspaper one weekend last month to find a full-page advertising spread dominated by a huge 100 euro note mutilated by a charred-edged cigarette burn. “At last” she thought “An antismoking campaign that will hit Greeks where it hurts – their pocket”. But she looked closer and found that the campaign was anti contraband smoking, and the hurting pockets were the state coffers. She looked even closer and found that she was being invited by 4 tobacco companies, 3 ministries, the municipalities of Athens and Thessaloniki, the Consumers’ Institute, and the Greek federations of tobacco processors, kiosk owners and agricultural cooperatives to join them in their fight against contraband cigarettes and loose tobacco. They even, helpfully, provided the telephone number for the hotline of the revenue office and its e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) for easy “κάρφωμα” (karfoma – nailing, i.e., snitching) of offenders one might happen to meet. So, in effect, the message was “DO smoke legal tobacco products and lower the country’s primary deficit”.
The full extent of import and sale of untaxed tobacco products is not known. A recent government estimate put the potential gains from a crackdown on contraband at €800 million annually.
Meanwhile, many Greeks are turning to alternative smoking experiences. The increase in the numbers of smokers rolling their own cigarettes is obvious to anybody who takes a walk around. One incentive is the price – it works out cheaper – particularly if your source is contraband. Another is the impression that you cut down on consumption, which may be true, as a lot of time is taken up with all the process of opening your kit, shaking out the shreds, licking the paper, etc.; or you cut down on risk, which is not true. Many smokers in Greece who wanted to reduce the risk have switched to “electronic cigarettes” – now one of the few growth sectors in the Greek “high street”. NOBACCO, one of the marketers of e-cigarettes in Greece, with 22 new shops in Athens, 15 throughout the rest of Greece and numerous other outlets, claims in its advertising that the “British Ministry of Health” says that e-cigarettes are 95% safer than cigarettes. Perhaps so – they don’t have the carcinogen content of cigarettes; however, their active ingredient is one of the constituents of cigarettes, nicotine, which contributes to cardiovascular damage. It is difficult to find data on legal sales figures for loose tobacco or e-cigarettes – an internet search just throws up advertising of the products.
It appears, then, that a combination of antismoking legislation, albeit loosely enforced in the case of bars, coffee shops and restaurants, antismoking campaigning and economic pressures, is resulting in a reduction in smoking in Greece, with fewer young people starting and seasoned smokers cutting down, switching to e-cigarettes or rolling their own. Less revenue, but less burden on health and health costs.
What is Good News for some is Bad News for others, and vice versa. Still, on the rare occasion that Yiayia decides to dine al fresco by the sea she inevitably ends up at the next table to the couple who light up between all the many dishes they order.
Photo from newsbeast.gr
Greeks are waiting with bated breath for tonight’s televised address to the nation by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, wondering which Alexis will be taking to their screens and why*. Rumours that Tsipras was kidnapped earlier this year by a neoliberal cabal and replaced by an austerity-friendly double have received further support by the PM’s erratic behaviour in recent weeks.
Veteran Tsipras-watchers point to his strangely discombobulated performance on a recent diplomatic visit to Turkey, where he failed to recognise a Turkish player for Barcelona, which he claims to be his favourite football team. Others dismiss this, asking with a shrug “what do you expect from a volleyball player?” In the wake of this development, one his closest collaborators resigned his seat, saying in private that he no longer recognised his old friend.
The rumours however were fuelled further by a series of what can only be described as a series of drunk-tweets following the visit, in which the Greek PM posed his Turkish counterpart a classic passive-aggressive make-up question both in Greek and mangled English: “Why can’t we stop arming against one another and instead bond over extracting aid from the Europeans to manage their refugee crisis?”
Puzzlement became even more intense after Tsipras (“or whoever was managing his Twitter account,” as one observer commented with a knowing wink) rushed to delete the English version (“possibly embarrassed by the over-enthusiastic use of a thesaurus – mercurial? WTF??” according to a more sceptical expert reached by email last week). The Turkish PM’s altogether more laconic response was translated from diplomaticspeak to mean, “No thanks, buddy, we’ve already got that covered”:
Speculation is raging that the Tsipras double planted by the “European project”/CIA-Mossad consortium has “gone rogue” due to excessive exposure to chemtrails, a well-known phenomenon in Greece, or prolonged Ibogaine deprivation due to a worsening shortage of imported drugs.
The PM’s televised address, originally scheduled for last week, was postponed due to “ill health”, prompting rumours that his handlers decided to withdraw him for an emergency re-programming session. It is believed that their goal was to use the address to gather support for painful pension reforms due to be put before parliament in the coming weeks, which it is feared could lead the government to lose its majority. Veteran conspiracy theorists claim to have evidence of a top secret facility code-named “The Island of Dr Schauble” in the depths a glacial lake in the Black Forest, where “personality re-alignment” is carried out at the behest of the New World Order in order to produce compliant reform clients. It is said that the neoliberal elites are desperate as they now see Tsipras as the only hope for implementing their sinister programme, following the complete implosion of the Greek official opposition.
Tsipras-watchers, however, speculate that his personality is proving particularly resistant to treatment. As evidence they cite a press release published yesterday in Greek by the PM’s office.
The release, which (if genuine) was issued in response to publications in the German press comparing Greece’s recent progress to that of a rudderless ship, opens with a defiant shout-out to the “unrepentant and fixated enemies of Greece” who “misinform and speculate (σπεκουλάρουν),” before hailing the “great success” of the recent recapitalisation of the Greek banks (a clear sign of delusion according to critics) and signing off with a sarcastic “Get well soon…” (the final “…” thought to have replaced the even more on-the-nose “h8ers” at the last minute due to the limitations of Google Translate).
The current whereabouts of both the “real Alexis” and his “double” are unknown, as even the most hardened conspiracy theorists have lost the thread of their investigations. Some have gone so far as to speculate that it is in fact he who will be replacing Socialist firebrand Nicolás Maduro as he prepares to vacate the presidential mansion in Caracas after his defeat in the weekend parliamentary elections. Crypto-linguists comparing Maduro’s grudging concession speech blaming a US-instigated right-wing “counter-revolution” and “economic war” argued that the close resemblance of the rhetoric to the Greek PM’s press release lends credence to this hypothesis. Experts are closely monitoring the activity of numerous Swiss bank accounts where Venezuelan government officials among others stashed close to $15 billion in the course of their embattled rule.
Meanwhile, ordinary Greeks are pre-ordering pizzas a stocking up on beer to watch tonight’s speech, which is expected to deliver record ratings in a country where the daily average 4+ hours of TV viewing have gone through the roof in the past year, due in great part to political blockbusters such as the July referendum and the cliffhanger negotiations with the troika, now in their third series. Bookmakers OPAP are believed to have registered record takings on the back of the “Tsipras bet”, a welcome boost to their bottom line in advance of the introduction of a €0.05 per wager tax on betting due to be introduced as part of the latest tax reform package.
*All stories and tweets linked to or reproduced are genuine, everything in between is a fabrication.