OPINION

A movement of solidarity

In the first phase of the ?potato movement,? farmers from Nevrokopi and Thebes distributed tons of their produce for free to citizens around Greece. Rather than letting them rot in warehouses or selling them to intermediaries at a price that wouldn?t cover even half their expenses, the farmers chose to give away their potatoes, fueled by an anger that did not blunt their ability to make a sound judgment.

With their action they both drew attention to their predicament (arising from the free rein allowed to intermediaries, which also costs households a fair amount of money) and expressed, in a simple and tangible way, their sense of solidarity — solidarity of a different brand to that represented by the so-called ?solidarity tax? that is imposed on all wage earners. And because everyone recognized the true meaning of the initiative and did not brand it as being a populist stunt, none of the hundreds of people who stood in line for a sack of potatoes or a bag of onions cared one iota about the television cameras that arrived or hid their faces behind a hand or a newspaper. They did not feel that they were there with their hand stretched out nor that they were exposing themselves. They felt that by allowing the farmers to make a success of their plan, they too were expressing their solidarity.

In the second phase of the initiative, the potatoes were not distributed for free but at cost. It?s one thing to pay 30 cents a sack and quite another to pay 70 cents — the difference has always been important, but especially so now, as other than those who declare their measly million only after it is discovered, most people pay attention to every euro and cent. And, if the political essence of the initiative is the fact that no political party appears to be behind it, on a social level it is worthy for the following reason: that the people who purchase the potatoes at cost are not just those who are unable to pay the regular asking price, but also those who can afford to but refuse to pay five times as much for staples as they would if buying straight from the producer. These are people who refuse to continue rewarding the profiteering of the intermediaries and the apathy of the state, which is supposedly concerned about the needy and putting up a fight for their well-being.

It is only natural that the movement has provoked the ire of the government, representatives of which have asserted in what can only be perceived as a bad joke that the prices asked for by farmers in Greece are among the highest in Europe but the prices paid by consumers are among the lowest.