Sunday, December 14, 2008

Student of History

A friend of mine used to tell me he studied History because so many of the mistakes that we make have ever been made… So, one who knows what mistakes were made is more likely not to make them.

Just read this story about the recent riots in Greece. How police shooting of a teenage boy rallied the '€700 generation'.

What fascinated me were the parallels that I can think of, relative to Uganda. Some excerpts.


“The teenagers and twenty-somethings who have come close to toppling the Greek government are not the marginalised: this is no replay of the riots that convulsed Paris in 2005. Many are sons and daughters of the middle classes, shocked at the killing of one of their own, disgusted with the government's incompetence and corruption, enraged by the broken promises of the education system, scared at the prospect of having to work still harder than their exhausted parents.”


“The demands of the young are hard to formulate. They want an end to police violence; they want to change things; they want jobs, and hope; they want a better system. If the wish list is slightly vague, the problem itself is amorphous and difficult to name: a crisis of values and institutions, society and economy, vision and leadership.”


“Politically, Greece is a democracy that never grew up; economically, it remains a poor relation trying to pass in the salons of Europe. Its 20th-century history is a patchwork of coups and conflicts. The civil war that followed Greece's occupation by the Axis powers in the second world war put politics on ice for 30 years.”


“democracy was restored, but institutions remained weak; under the socialist prime minister Andreas Papandreou (father of the present leader of the opposition), liberties were extended but corruption also flourished, hand in a hand with a corrosive leftwing populism.

At the same time, the country has been in the throes of a rapid and painful modernisation. In 40 years Greece has gone from peasant agriculture supported by a large diaspora to a mixed economy drawing foreign investment;”


“New Democracy government - which enjoys a parliamentary majority of one - has surpassed its predecessors in graft and corruption while imposing punitive economic austerity measures. Greece entered the eurozone in 2001 with a large budget deficit; prices have risen consistently since then. In 2004 the country spent an estimated €10bn on the Olympic games, an unknown portion of it pocketed by contractors and politicians.”


It is eerie. Sounds more and more like Uganda, or maybe Kenya, … yet Greece is a European country!

The more we appear different, the more like one another we are. Disturbingly, this poor country of mine seems set on a path remarkably similar to that set by Greece in this article.

Can we avoid it? Why not?



spiralx said...

For anyone who has the Internet resources, and is interested in ther Greek riots, the article in this week's Economist makes interesting reading:

Anonymous said...

And Greece is hailed as the bastion of ancient democracy...maybe we're seeing a resurgence of the 'youth revolution".

You are right- one does see shades of Kenya, Uganda..practically any fledgling republic in this situation

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