- Petros Markaris (writer), with his tomcat Gian, Athens
Mr. Markaris, in your crime novels you have relentlessly and openly written about the contexts and causes of the crisis in Greece at an early stage, something that would actually be the job of a journalist. Were there any such critical reports in the Greek press?
Petros Markaris: Yes, there have been reports about the crisis and the causes of the crisis. The problem of the press is that they always want to follow the daily political routine and thereby they are sometimes so much influenced, hence the correct causes and what lies beneath the immediate level are not necessarily understood.
Personally, I have always tried to understand why this has happened in such a huge way and where the errors were, not only of the political class, but also of the common people.
Usually, the press is called the fourth power in a democracy. Which role plays the media in Greece and is there a change in commentator-ship as a result of the crisis?
P.M.: In the media in general – and not only in Greece – much has changed.
What we now understand by media is television and the Internet. The press in Greece is suffering very much due to these new media. The potential of the press has become worse.
On the other hand, reporting on Greek TV is so much based on scandals, that you can not get a clear focus there. And so is the Internet, too.
What is the meaning of the culture of poverty, which existed in Greece – as you write – before joining the EEC?
P.M.: So, Greece was a poor country in the course of his modern Greek history, that means wealth was practically unknown among Greeks.
They were used to a way of life, that has always allowed them to live decently in poverty and also to develop a cultural level thanks to the poverty, that was very high. Especially in relation to the values, which a society needs.
What the Greeks have not mastered, was the culture of wealth because wealth has a culture, too. And that is linked with the fact, that Greece has been part of the Ottoman Empire like all Balkan countries.
The result was that Greece didn't experience the influence neither of the Renaissance and nor of the Age of Reason and without these two pillars a culture of wealth is out of the question.
You can read in the early essays by Albert Camus: ›There is a solitude in the poverty, but it is a solitude which gives a value to any thing.‹ Could you identify your culture of poverty with this description?
P.M.: Generally speaking, I would say yes.
I mean, it is important to clarify the meaning of solitude. There was also a strong solidarity and there was a very strong and close relationship of the family members among each other.
The family was the basis for the survival.
I am always saying, the big difference, not only in Greece but throughout the South is, that the family is the core of the national unity.
You write that the Greek crisis is rather a political than a financial crisis. Do you now see any structural changes in Greek policy?
P.M.: No, unfortunately not. For me it is nearly incomprehensible why the political class in Greece wants to continue with these old methods and this hackneyed mentality as before.
This is really very disappointing and very dangerous, too.
The TROIKA conditions – i.e. austerity measures and tax increases – have aggravated the social gap in Greece. Why should people have confidence with this country against the background of the huge differences regarding wealth and the cutback of the welfare state?
Or more generally, how can a public spirit be developed under these circumstances?
P.M.: It is true that the social gap has widened. But what went really wrong, was the destruction of the petty bourgeoisie and the middle class in Greece.
That was the big mistake and that has much to do with the governments in Greece, because they have never understood that you can not financially strange the middle class and the petty bourgeoisie.
That's exactly what happened. There were no big companies in Greece, e.g. Phillips or Siemens. It was always the middle class and small businesses which have sustained the economy of this country.
If you destroy this basis, then everything is gone.
And that's it, what the politicians have not understood and it wouldn't have been so bad if one had tackled the reforms more decisively from the very beginning.
But now the middle class and the petty bourgeoisie have been broken and they don't know how they can continue.
And when they always pronounce ›growth‹, I say, where are these companies that can generate this growth.
The public spirit exists as smallest unit only in the family, that's all.
What do you think about the economical prospects of Greece?
P.M.: I don't think that this illusory and false optimism will continue for a long time. Who wants to invest in Greece, that remains an open question.
Because let's face it, today there are countries and states in Africa and Asia, which are more favourable than us.
And the problem is, how can you develop Greece further so it becomes attractive for new investments.
Nevertheless, there are areas where this would be feasible, eg tourism and maritime trade.
Youth unemployment is still above 50 percent in Greece. Which reaction do you observe among young Greeks to the older generation?
P.M.: At first, everybody wanted to get away, no matter where.
Starting in mid 2012, this has changed to some extent. There is a minority that stays and fights. This is new and this is good.
Those who stayed, are looking for areas, where they can work, especially in the Internet and in the area of biocultures.
I think the time has not come yet, when the young generation calls its parents to account, but that will happen.
One day it will become too much, so that the young will say to the senior, please sit down, dear mum and dad, and tell us what you have done wrong.
Imagine, you have just finished school in Greece, how would you decide: Stay here or go away from this country?
Today, I would say stay. Because if you stay and if you are ready to fight, then you will find ways and means to survive.
I know many young people who do that. For example, I know two brothers who have an Internet travel agency, which is a huge success.
At first, one must be able to fight and secondly you have to understand that you can not manage it anymore alone. So, the coming together is very important for the young people.
Thank you very much.