As the debate about IMF- and EU-imposed austerity measures and the possibility of a Greek government default continues, there is one important piece of the puzzle that has not been widely reported outside of Greece. And it involves the Orthodox Church.
What has been reported is important, to be sure. The IMF’s and EU’s motives to date have been limited to ensuring that the troubled European banks most heavily implicated in bad Greek debt get repaid. Their shocking austerity measures—pensions cut in half, retirement age increased, huge cuts in social programs, education and health care, and crushing unemployment as the inevitable result—have been designed to help Northern European banks, no matter the cost to the Greek people.
More recently, street protests, nationwide strikes organized by the unions, and targeted work slowdowns by air traffic controllers among others, have been designed to insist that the people are paying more than their fair share, whereas the banks are not paying anything at all. Whether you prefer the word ‘default’ or the phrase ‘debt restructuring,’ a more just outcome would be one in which the banks absorb some of this pain as well, by agreeing to be repaid fifty cents on the euro for all the bad loans that they made. That is what’s in the works this week.
But something new and unprecedented is in the works in Greece itself: for the first time, the Orthodox Church has been identified as the corporation it is, and the suggestion is that it should pay its fair share as well. The Greek Orthodox Church pays very low taxes on its vast real estate holdings and its clerics are paid by the state. That hand-in-glove relationship may be about to change.
In an amazing development, the Greek Prime Minister, George Papandreiou, went to Mount Athos two days ago to meet with the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomaios, to discuss the decidedly un-spiritual matter of the Orthodox Church’s responsibilities in this time of Greek crisis.
Even more interesting is that the Church seems to be moving toward a deal. It has already signaled its willingness to use its vast real estate holdings to help finance the government’s debt, though it insists on doing anything on its own timetable and in its own way.
This is remarkable, and we shall see what comes of it. Depending on what we see, it might signal a radical new strategy for recovering money from corporations that do not pay their fair share, and a radical new view of churches as corporations…
The Occupy Wall Street movement seems to have defied many of its early critics, with tens of thousands of people still supporting those camped out at New York’s financial centre and the heart of US capitalism a month after the protests started.
It has since spread to over 70 cities across the globe.
South African “occupations” are planned to begin on October 15, with protests organised for Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, East London and Grahamstown.
The movement has been supported by many high profile activists, such as Naomi Klein and Slavoj Zizek, but has also been criticised for mainly appealling to a privileged few, given the fact that much of the activity was organised and publicised over the internet and through social networking sites.
Like many anti-capitalism and anti-government protests that have gone before, the crowd’s profile has been scrutinised. Are these the people who really should be protesting? And, if not, are those who have a voice allowed to speak for the voiceless?
It is certainly a complex issue, and one that perturbs both those who support such movements as much as it is cited as a problem by those who do not. But it seems that, perhaps because of widespread media coverage of the event, the demographics of the Wall Street crowd, and those participating in similar actions around the world, is changing.
Those expecting the crowd to be made up of bored white kids in faded Rage Against the Machine t-shirts and a library of Michael Moore DVDs would probably be surprised by the diversity (in terms of age, class and race) that is reflected.
And the issues that are being raised are broad enough to affect people from all walks of life — the “99%” the movement claims to represent does not have one face…
Read on here.
A directionless mob if ever I have seen one. For what it’s worth, here is their ‘Mission Statement':
From the 15th of October we want to see people flood into South African cities’ allocated spaces, (see links at top) set up general assembly points, public educational areas, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy the public spaces in front of the allocated focal points – not the buildings themselves. 15 October is only the beginning, the start of the occupation, so to those who say: “It is too short notice!” – let your people know and join in as soon as you can. The date of the 15th was decided worldwide – not locally. We are in Unity with all the people on this planet who has said: “Enough is Enough”. We have just woken up in our masses and realised – Hey – we are being controlled by corruption and greed – something is wrong with this picture. The 1% of people who own and control everything and who are trying to keep the masses enslaved and asleep has to know that we see through their game. We do not have the answers yet – we’ll work on it together to restore a fair and humane society flourishing in freedom. All we definitely agree upon is that something is not right.
As I said, directionless. Soon to fad into oblivion.