The Sad State of Greece

“We’re very, very lucky to live here. It is very very critical on the streets of Greece now,” said Ashley Webster this morning on Fox Business, reporting on his recent trip to Greece.

“We were there in November,” he continued, “but in the three months from when we came back, it’s a mess. There’s a lot of tenseness on the streets, a lot of hopelessness and the numbers bear it out. Homelessness up 25%, soup kitchens cropping up all over town and no hope for the future because that’s the result from the cuts they’ve seen already. Now, if they get the next round of bailout money, it will cut even deeper and these people are desperate.”

Host Stuart Varney quoted some numbers from the New York Times: “one quarter of the businesses closed down. Half of all small businesses are in arrears paying wages – they’re not paying what they should.”

“Four or five months now without any pay,” inserted Webster.

“And another amazing statistic,” Varney continued, “late last year the government held a seminar. If you want to emigrate to Australia, 42 people showed up. But they did the same thing again last month. Twelve thousand showed up.”

Webster responded that the lines at the American and Australian embassies get longer every day. “People burying their money in the back yard. People selling gold, going through their house and trying to find gold.” He said that he’s talked to jewelers who say people are coming in, crying, selling their wedding bands “to try to get money to buy food. Kids fainting at school.” One father told Webster that in his child’s school “four or five are fainting a day they aren’t eating enough…. it’s the biggest meltdown of a western economy we’ve seen since the second World War and it’s only going to get worse. I don’t see any way out of it.”

He spoke of growing hatred for the Germans.Tthe Greeks know that they themselves are partly responsible, but “they do think that the austerity measures put in place and the insistence of Germany has gone beyond what is reasonable.”

Webster addressed the issue of the Greek youths who are rioting. They have no hope, he said. “They are going into stores saying I want those Nike tennis shoes, I want that shirt, I want that – (the store owners) say no and they say well, we’re going to burn your business down. So it’s come to extortion. But business owners are calling relatives to come down at night so that they won’t be looted.”

Politically voters are starting to go far left or extreme right and that alone will make the situation worse he believes.

Even if they get the money today does that relieve the hunger? “No, it’s just to service debt, Stuart,” Webster said. “It’s just to put into place the things that they need to do to service their creditors. This doesn’t have a direct effect for people on the ground who are living hand to mouth. Not at all.”

Glenn Beck concurred on his radio show today after a weekend where he spent some time in Greece.

Translation in above photo: “If the revolution will not happen peacefully, then it will happen violently. Anarchy

Beck relayed this:

As we talked with more passersby about the situation, two self-proclaimed anarchists approached us. They were in a zombie-like state, both carrying beers but appearing to be under the influence of something else as well. They asked what we were doing. We said that we were trying to understand the riots and the graffiti. One kept repeating that “Anarchy equals Freedom.”

Next, we drove to see one of the burned out buildings from last week’s riots. Our driver told us that the universities offered a unique protection to the rioters and anarchists. If anyone is being pursued by the police and manages to get on university property, the police cannot arrest them without a warrant, and the warrant must be authorized by the university’s president. Virtually all of the university presidents have refused to approve these warrants, rendering the schools as sanctuaries.

Beck heard this and remarked, “The universities have replaced the churches.”

The previous weekend a local shopping mall and office complex was firebombed by the rioters.

We spoke with Con (as in Constantino), a man who owns a security company hired to protect the building. Con told us that the rioters tossed Molotov cocktails inside the stores on the first floor and then lay down in the streets surrounding the area. This road blocking action prevented fire departments from getting to the building for two hours and allowed the fire to burn out of control. The police have also warned Con that intelligence reports say another attack on the building could happen within the next day or two.

At least two other buildings have suffered a similar fate as the mall, both of them banks.

The downtown area surrounding the Parliament building is littered with graffiti, many well-fed and friendly stray dogs can be seen everywhere, and an alarming number of homeless people shuffle along the streets with a glazed look in their eyes. In one case we witnessed a man shooting up in the doorway of a store where he planned to spend the night.

It is no secret that Greece is in serious trouble. Decades of out of control government spending on social programs that have now become an untouchable right in the minds of many Greeks are at the heart of the problem. Something must be done or the economy will collapse under its own weight.

Most of the Greek people seem to understand that their current situation is unsustainable, but they also are sympathetic to the protesters. It is this position that seems to render the Greeks incapable of taking action that could save their country.

This attitude was clearly evident when Glenn Beck asked, “Who is at fault for the violence and destruction, the banks or the protesters?” One citizen paused for a second and remarked, “They’re both criminals.”

Beck talked about the overwhelming stench in Athens as well.

For now we might be “very, very lucky to live here.” But can things change? Can they get this bad? I think so.

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