GR US

The Heatwave and the State

Αssociated Press

Smoke from a wildfire north of the Greek capital, spreads over Acropolis hill, in Athens, Greece, Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021. Hundreds of residents living near a forest area north of Athens fled their homes Tuesday as a wildfire reached residential areas as Greece grappled with its worst heatwave in decades. (AP Photo/Aggelos Barai)

Athens has been like a boiler room. It feels like the air has been burning. The few people who are out and about – during peak vacation season – move briskly to get to their destinations as quickly as possible.

Those who have air conditioning in their homes and workplaces are lucky.

And lucky are those who are on the islands under an umbrella or swimming in the sea.

The temperature has been hovering around 100 degrees Fahrenheit (it was actually 102 – or 39 degrees Celsius – when I was writing this commentary from our offices in Athens).

And the heatwave is expected to last a few more days.

Climate change has probably contributed to the extreme temperatures, but this is not the first time such a heatwave has hit Greece.

The Meteorological Service ranks it among the 10 worst heat waves that have ever hit the country.

But Alexis Tsipras had a brilliant solution to this problem as well. He demanded that August 2 – when another rise in temperature was expected – be declared a holiday, and of course, for the employees  to be paid.

I imagine that every time the temperature reaches the same levels, this ‘day off’ will be repeated.

However, in order for the New Democracy government to not be seen as indifferent to the problems these temperatures are causing, and thereby allowing Tsipras to win over the public opinion, the Ministry of Labor also announced ‘measures.’ It issued a circular explaining "which civil servants can justifiably abstain, for as many days as the phenomenon lasts," from their jobs.

In America, of course, the authorities also take measures, and inform citizens about how to protect themselves during dangerous weather conditions: they urge people to avoid exposure to the sun and to not shovel snow if they have a heart condition.

But declaring a holiday in a city due to high temperatures and asking employers to pay normal wages is the latest example of a mentality whereby the citizens wait for handouts from the government and the relationship between the citizenry and the state becomes a paternalistic one.

And as for the effects on the economy, who cares – right? The prevailing mentality in Athens is “don’t worry – we can borrow money at historically low interest rates.”

And while this is true and is an important fact, how can we not care about continuing to borrow when the national debt has reached about 240 billion Euros – 210% of the country’s GDP? They are probably thinking that someone will just give the money to Greece … Seriously?

And we continue to behave as if we have Switzerland as our neighbor, instead of taking urgent actions just in case…

And somewhat similar is the case in Cyprus, where, undisturbed, the enemy is implementing its plan to occupy another – once thriving – Greek town and the only action that is taken is what we have been doing for 47 years, with absolutely no result: citing UN resolutions and International Law, both of which Turkey simply turns its back on.

So, the heatwave in Athens is a fact, but it is not the only reality that afflicts and threatens Hellenism today.

It is also the wrong mentality: that despite the flames that are spreading and threatening us, what we are looking for is not water to put out the fire … but a tree so we can rest in its shade.