Greece: A Dichotomy of Two Worlds
Now that we returned home from what has been a truly insightful and amazing journey through both the physical and economical environments in Greece, I have been reflecting my thoughts on the widening magnitude of the apparent dichotomy that currently exists in almost every facet of Greek life. After our series of cautiously optimistic toned meetings with representatives from organizations and institutions from a variety of sectors in the Greek economy, it is vehemently clear in the subtext of many of these meetings that the current social discontent and economic depression in Greece are of dire concern. As the economic crisis continues to expand creating much social disarray, political divide, and potential long term negative effects on an entire generation’s social psyche; it is greatly contrasted by the longstanding rich culture, deep heritage, and pride of the Hellenic people.
When walking through the streets of Athens it was not uncommon to find a large demonstration of people protesting newly passed legislation, graffiti filled streets showcasing the both political divide and social unrest toward financial inequality, rows of vacant retail store space, shells of burned out or unfinished buildings, and a growing homeless population with blatant use of intravenous drugs. Much of what can be seen in the streets of Athens could be expected considering how Greece is the petri dish of European social reform and drastic austere measures, which cut in many cases the wage and pension income for most citizens in half and increased the total unemployment rate to 30 percent, with the youth unemployment rate above 60 percent.
What is amazing though, the streets of Athens are greatly contrasted by a backdrop of a beautiful surrounding landscape of the sea and mountains, many millennium of ancient and historical structures highlighting a civilization’s durability to survive, beautiful and well preserved cultural artifacts, strong financial and emotional family support, and the overabundance of a welcoming and resilient population who is willing to share not only their thoughts and personal stories on the current situation, but also offer tremendous hospitality and an abundance of proudly made amazing Mediterranean cuisine.
Although it is unclear what impact and long-term social effects the economic crisis in Greece will leave for its society, it is clear that Greece’s society is resilient and will survive, as evident in its proud and longstanding historical culture and heritage. Our trip to Greece was able to provide us first hand insight into the social and economic challenges the country faces, which is difficult to fully understand and comprehend when only reading media headlines. I am optimistic that the more people begin to understand and experience these challenges first hand, that better policy in dealing with these complex issues will surface and help mitigate the severity of these challenges.
-Joshua Roche, MBA