Feeling the heat

The heat wave, like all extreme weather conditions, works like a catalyst accentuating a society’s virtues and flaws. It provides a measure of state readiness to tackle difficulties, determination to get through the ordeal and a degree of solidarity. The current heat wave finds Greece in a transitional phase. Unlike the great 1987 heat wave that killed hundreds, the country is now better equipped with countless air conditioners. We now know how to protect ourselves against the threats. Our society is based on familial ties. The French tragedy of 2003 when 14,802 mostly elderly people died alone due to the heat, would be unthinkable here. But we are still on loose footing. The Public Power Corporation is struggling to meet soaring demand. It has been forced to import electricity at exorbitant prices and to make selective power cuts to stave off the threat of a blackout. The vicious circle will only break when the country starts producing more power than it consumes. Media sensationalism that magnifies anything that defies the mundane is one more problem. Luckily, Greece’s viewing public is no longer taking the news bulletins too seriously and continues to work, struggle and make plans for the day after. One can also see here the big social rift between those who work in the state sector and those who strive to harness the difficulties that are exacerbated by that same dysfunctional state. Yesterday and today, Greece’s civil servants were granted an early finish in order to save energy. Calls by the General Confederation of Labor (GSEE) to also include private sector employees fell through. But people know how to manage, whether hot or cold. This morning, a truck driver standing at the Panathenaic Stadium traffic lights waited for a motorcycle to drive by and then poked his head out of the window before dousing himself with a bottle of water. Air-conditioning for the masses.

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