On the day before the second round of elections in Greece, I’m posting the final letter written by my eighth graders about their view of life in Greece today. Although these were written at the end of February, they remain relevant and poignant. Here’s hoping tomorrow brings new possibilities..
Judging by the pictures shown on TV channels worldwide, Greece has been a battlefield during the past few months. Listening to international commentators and reading blogs in various news websites, you would think that Greeks are the laziest people on earth and that no one in Greece pays any taxes. I am 14 years old and lived in Athens since the day I was born so I know that this is all quite far from reality, and I would like to clarify the situation.
According to recent published statistics, total working hours per person in Greece are quite high compared to many other European countries. Apparently, this is because our country has a large number of small, family-owned businesses where family members work long hours. Also, it is important for your readers to understand that there is a considerable difference in working hours and effort between the private and the public sector. Private employees often work after hours whereas public employees often cheat and arrive late or leave early from their workplace! This means that not all Greeks are lazy neither all Greeks deserve a lower salary.
But it’s not only the working hours that are higher in Greece but also the taxes the Greeks pay which are much higher than in other European countries. The unemployment is extremely high, people get angry and blame the politicians who couldn’t care less since they are totally corrupt.Value-added taxes are also very high. Unfortunately, the problem is that only about half the population is honest in declaring their income. Therefore, tax rates need to be high because so few people pay their taxes according to their wealth. This is very unfair because it makes the tax burden very heavy on poorer people, especially pensioners and lower-paid employees. The tax authorities have been particularly inefficient in hunting down tax evasion. This is rightly seen by the less fortunate citizens as deeply unjust and they consider that the state is to blame for the situation. So, hard-working and tax-paying citizens expect the state to take action against tax evasion, which is so unfair to those who pay regularly.
But all this doesn’t mean that everyday life in Athens corresponds to the violence shown on television. Of course protests often become violent, people get hurt and there is a lot of destruction in central Athens, but, unfortunately, daily life is not very exciting to watch. There is a large number of shops that close everyday. There are long lines of people waiting for free lunches served by volunteers and the church, but there isn’t a fire outside every house or office building! Supermarkets organize collection points for customers who offer groceries for voluntary organizations. Life in Greece is actually quiet and depressing. Greeks go out far less than before and restaurants and bars are quite empty. So the issue is not violence, but misery! Protests and strikes are a usual everyday phenomenon, but Greeks continue to be able to stand on their feet. For that they should be respected, since they’ve always managed to find their way out, without meaning that they are not to blame for their choices to vote the politicians who mislead them. I hope that this short letter will help your readers gain a better understanding of the situation in my country and be fair to its citizens.