“It’s clear that they’re willing to throw bombs at people to get their point across,” said Warren Lipka, a journalist currently reporting on the economic crisis in Greece.
For the past two weeks, Lipka, a senior English major at Temple and freelance reporter for RAW TV, has been immersed in what he calls the “universal frustration” of Greece’s current economic situation. When the economic crisis came to a head last week, RAW TV sent Lipka to Greece to cover the events firsthand.
He’s seen protests involving bombs, tear gas and riot police. He’s seen Greece close its banks due to a lack of physical currency. He’s spoken to Greeks personally on how they feel about the crisis, and how they believe it should be solved.
“The overall vibe of Greece right now is frustration,” Lipka said. “The Greeks see themselves, perhaps rightfully so, as victims to outside sources. …They’re angry.”
On July 5, Greek citizens voted in a national referendum to oppose austerity measures. The strict austerity measures imposed by Greece will limit government spending substantially in an effort to control public-sector debt.
However, on July 15, the Parliament in Greece did exactly the opposite, voting in favor of implementing austerity measures and remaining a part of the European Union, “essentially because leaving the EU would be worse than [staying],” Lipka said.
In response to Parliament’s decision, there was an “upswell of protests from the left,” he added, with different subgroups, like communists, Marxists and anarchists, all protesting Greece’s decision to stay in the EU.
“[Wednesday] night, one of the subgroups, primarily young extremists, decided to throw bombs at police,” Lipka said. “Then, the police hit the crowd with tear gas.”
Despite those violent protests by young extremists, Lipka said that the vast majority of protesting in Greece is peaceful.
“Most of the Greeks that I’ve talked to were surprised by the violence,” he said.
According to Lipka, some Greeks are in favor of a free market response; they see reform and austerity measures as viable solutions. Others believe that austerity will not work, and that it infringes on their rights.
“[Greeks] are in a moment where they can’t really see anything good coming out of this,” Lipka said. “No one wants to be hopeless.”
Lipka said that after conducting about a dozen interviews with the Greek people, he has noticed that the concerns of the citizens are often very similar to the concerns of American citizens.
“There’s a lot of overlap between the Greeks’ grievances and grievances that Americans would recognize,” he said. “Whether it’s the [American] financial crisis, or the burst of the housing bubble or the place of government in private life, these are all things that currently resonate in Greece.”
The main difference between Greeks and Americans, Lipka said, is that Greeks are more willing to accept the consequences of capitalism while Americans often ignore the fundamental issues with capitalism, like environmental degradation and class differences. When people do consider these problems, they’re usually labeled socialists, he added, while Greeks are “attuned to the idea that capitalism may not be the end all be all.”
“When you get down to it, this is a crisis of capitalism,” Lipka said. “It’s a crisis of integration, and it’s a crisis of distribution of wealth. The greater issue here is capitalism.”
Michaela Winberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.