A letter’s wake

Yesterday’s Greek edition of Kathimerini published an anonymous letter. The letter did not offend anyone – although, in a sense, it ought to offend everyone’s sensibilities. A young archaeologist, who has been a contract employee for a few years at the Ministry of Culture, gave a description of her life. She offered no analytical approach, she did not indicate the problems, and she did not provide an estimation of the ministry budget or how the money is spent or wasted. She did not point her finger at any specific politician, nor did she make any specific allegation. She only expressed her emotions about her work and how her work determines her life. Simple words about human issues cannot be accommodated in any statistics or budget, in any convergence charter or social package – perhaps this is the reason why we tend to overlook them as we focus on a macroscopic view of the situation. Simple words: «Each time a 1,390 hour-contract nears its end, I start thinking about the next one. It is a nightmare that recurs every year.» «Fortunately, I have gained weight so I need not buy new clothes.» «This year I am thinking of taking on a second job.» «I do not go on strike, because I am afraid… I would be blacklisted if I went on strike…» «People tell me about recruitments and competitions. Where will I find the time to study? How can I concentrate? I am not 22 anymore…» Simple words that debunk the complaints of permanent and well-paid civil servants who protest that they «don’t get as much as they should.» Words that debunk recommendations for «higher mobility,» «lifelong training,» «constant competition,» or «career change.» Words that demonstrate how the above mandates fail to take into account factors such as age, family conditions and the corrosive feeling of insecurity in a life without prospects. The shadow looming over the life of the young archaeologist, her concerns about how she can raise children under these circumstances, the uncertainty that crushes any creative aspirations, the stress that she must look for a side job – all these worries are common among people who enter the labor market amid such unfavorable conditions. And their anxiety is not even reflected in statistics, as these people are not jobless or homeless. Can campaign programs and economic plans take into account this anxiety? What is the face value of beautiful words promising «prosperity for all»? Is life no more than a few more term contracts and a job 34 weeks a year – provided that «everything goes OK»?