The distorted image

Television images of the festive season showed a prosperous, consumer-oriented society, light years away from recent grumbling about money shortages, rising prices and inadequate incomes. Costly nightclubs in Athens, Thessaloniki and other cities were packed, private parties were lavish, and open-air shows in public squares equaled those in rich Western countries. On New Year’s Day, cars sped through the streets, their drivers dazed from alcohol and all-night partying. The image was the polar opposite of most people’s anxieties as documented in polls and perceived by the observant. What is the meaning of this aura of prosperity and heedless consumerism which pervades the country? Has Greece become so rich that people have enough money for endless parties and dancing, or has the idea of living for the moment come to dominate everything? The economic situation – the real statistics, the profitability of businesses and the general performance of the economy – does not justify this image. The year 2002 was not the best for the working people of Greece. Major sources of income dried up. Income from the stock market continued to decrease, while returns from interest on savings evaporated, draining money from most low and medium incomes. In contrast, there was a boost to incomes from the unofficial economy, given the opportunities for profiteering that arose from the introduction of the euro. One might conclude that the image is distorted, chiefly by the unequal distribution of wealth, easy money from the unofficial economy and the pervasive euphoria that has become the pattern in a country which has yet to re-establish its productive structure and is in no position to maintain artificial prosperity in the long term.