I wanted to write something after being lucky enough to spend time in Greece over the last 10 days.
Several people have got in touch to suggest that Positive Money should be “telling the Greek government about creating a sovereign money system” as the solution to their problems.
I would compare that to telling someone whose marriage is breaking down that they can get a new marriage right now if they chose to! In order to build a money system that serves society and is designed to meet people’s needs, takes time, energy, a lot of effort, and the support of large numbers of people. Just as building a happy marriage is a lifetime’s work that requires the support of the friends and family of those involved.
There is no easy answer to this crisis and no shortcuts. Change rarely happens overnight.
After having various conversations with some inspiring people I left on Wednesday with mixed emotions, but mostly of elevation and empathy for the Greek people and the task they have on Sunday and beyond.
Here are a few thoughts I drew from the conversations I had:
- Syriza were mandated by the Greek people to get their (declared illegal and odious) national debt reduced and stay within the Euro. These two things are incompatible, but setting up (or even thinking about setting up) a sovereign money system requires leaving the Euro so it can’t be considered.
- People say (and apparently laws make it so) that leaving the Euro is synonymous with leaving the EU. People cannot think about leaving the EU because it has brought prosperity, inclusiveness, progressive forces and an identity with it to Greece that they don’t want to leave behind, and many people don’t believe they can go it alone. ‘We are not Iceland’ one person said to me. A lot of people I spoke to wanted to give me the run-down of Greece’s modern history as a way of understanding Greece’s insecurity about leaving the Euro / EU.
- As an outsider I didn’t realise how divided the country is. Most people I spoke to want a No vote on Sunday (no to the Troika, creditors, and keep Syriza in). However even during the few days I was there, I found a shift towards yes, resulting from fear, loss of confidence in Syriza, and the Greek media largely favouring a yes vote.
- Some people suggested a parallel currency in January – this idea didn’t get off the ground, and apparently the ECB got involved with the idea and shut it down. However it’s worth noting that the implementation of a parallel currency requires a lot of work, more than a handful of people involved, and it’s not easy to do when people are in ‘crisis mode.’
- People are in crisis mode and some seem almost frozen with uncertainty and fear. People that are understandably very angry can protest (on both sides of the referendum fence) but there isn’t much ground work being done on workable solutions (such as a parallel or new currency to the Euro). Most of the amazing groundwork being done is addressing the humanitarian crisis that is unfolding.
- Emotions are running high. There was no one I spoke to, either a taxi driver, or pharmacist, or waiter, or musician, that wasn’t on the edge of their seat with what is happening.
So what can we offer? I think rather than preaching solutions at this stage, people in Greece want to be listened to. A lot of people are torn over how to vote on Sunday. Many don’t even want to vote. They want to know that we care, and that we are with them, and that we are listening.