Postcard from a Greek record store
That photo, which I took a few weeks ago, shows George Korkidis, the owner of the Juke Box music store in Chania on the Greek island of Crete. The Juke Box is a treasure trove of riches from beyond the musical monoculture of northern Europe and North America. Crete, which is the fifth largest Mediterranean island, is equidistant from mainland Europe, Africa and Asia. As the Emirate of Crete it was ruled by Iberian Muslims for a century (c820-961CE), and was then part of the Christian world for seven centuries (961-1669CE) under first the Catholic Venetians and then as part of Orthodox Byzantium. Crete returned to Muslim rule as part of the Ottoman Empire for two centuries, and only became part of Greece in 1913. This multi-cultural past is reflected in its music, which looks east as well as west. A new generation of adventurous Cretan musicians has embraced and expanded this cultural synthesis, led and mentored by Irish born and long-time Cretan resident, lyre virtuoso and all-round maverick Ross Daly. George Korkiddis is an enthusiastic champion of this new wave of Cretan musicians, and he promotes them at the expense of the bland international music peddled by the global media corporations; as can be seen by the display material behind him.
The Juke Box in Chania is a shining example of the importance of independent record stores, and I returned from Greece with many CDs from artists that are new to me, and these will lead us down future paths. But that music is not the purpose of this post. The musicians that George Korkidis champions dare to be different, and Greece has a long and distinguished history of daring to be different. But being different is a challenge to the comfortable status quo that serves Western governments and global corporations so well. The current dispute between global power brokers and Greece is about the right to be different, and that is a very important right which is under threat not just in Greece. George Korkidis is just one example of the millions of Greeks whose livelihoods are threatened by punitive action by the Troika of the IMF, EU and European Central Bank. Greece votes today in a referendum on externally imposed austerity measures, and this extract from an article in Global Justice Now by Green Party MP Caroline Lucas says it all:
It’s all too easy, when you hear of markets in disarray and banks closing on the other side of the continent, to forget about the terrible human impacts of the crisis in Greece. Over 40% of children are living in poverty, a quarter of the workforce is unemployed, youth unemployment is at almost 50% and the healthcare system is close to collapse. Beyond the hackneyed headlines of a ‘Greek tragedy’ are people living on the brink, struggling to feed and clothe their families.Also on Facebook and Twitter. Any copyrighted material is included as "fair use" critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s).
It’s abundantly clear that the Troika’s (the IMF, EU and European Central Bank’s) plan is failing in human terms – but it’s an economic failure too. Greece’s Government debt has grown from 133% of GDP in 2010 to 174% today. Since 2010 the Troika has lent €252 billion to the Greek government. Of this, the vast majority of the money was used to bailout banks, pay off the private sector to accept restructuring, and repay old debts and interest from reckless lending. Less than 10% of the money has actually reached the people who need it in Greece...
The people of Greece have shown incredible resilience in extremely difficult times. They’ve worked together to provide on-the-ground assistance to those in need – from medical treatment to food banks. But there’s only so much cutting the social fabric in Greece can take before it tears apart. Any self-respecting democratic can see that further forced austerity in Greece is wrong. It’s time for Europe’s leaders, including David Cameron, to stand up for democracy and back a credible solution to Greece’s dire problems.