This morning, I had to go for a COVID Rapid Test as having that done then obtaining a certificate of a negative result is the only way I can access some shopping I want to do. While waiting at the Bioiatriki office located close to the border of Nea Ionia and Nea Irakliou in Attica, I happened to hear an elderly woman, most likely in her 70’s, speaking in English on her mobile phone. She sounded as if she was having some stressful issues, although I could not hear exactly what she was saying.
After my test was completed, the woman, who’s name turned out to be Katharine, was still sitting in front of the testing centre and she had a distraught appearance on her face and knowing she spoke English fluently, I wondered if she needed some assistance or even a helpful voice to speak with that she could understand fully. I do appreciate it myself when that happens, here in Greece.
It turns out Katherine is from Arizona and works/volunteers her time at a Greek Orthodox monastery dedicated to St. John in Arizona. One of her dreams was to visit Patmos – for those who are not aware, Patmos is the island where John, the author of the Book Of Revelation, was exiled to and where he wrote his prophecies. On the island of Patmos, there are churches and monasteries of course dedicated to this St. John, and Katherine was able to realize her dream and had just spent some time there.
She apparently had arrived in Greece on a one-way ticket, not originally in a rush to get back home to the USA. But today, she was in a rush.
“I can’t wait to get out of this country,” she said to me. “Everything is insane here.”
She had my sympathies right away. Greeks do not understand my own frustrations regarding how things are done in Greece and how insane it can be. Sadly, I think Plato wrote “The Cave” for modern day Greece. It is sad actually, because Greece could be a very rich country despite the lack of natural resources (other than of course, the ubiquitous beauty of the landscapes in the country).
One could of course blame the COVID pandemic for Katherine’s frustrations, but the problems are far more deep-rooted than the pandemic. The insane bureaucracy, rules, regulations – Katherine pointed out to me, which I well know from my own experience, that she can call four different government agencies here for information, and get four totally different answers. As I’ve often pointed out to anyone who will listen here, it’s like the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing, and the feet are moving in different directions.
But that is the natural result of far too much bureaucracy and regulation. Seldom are “unintended consequences” thought out; instead, a new rule to try to deal with the unintended consequences, which of course, will have it’s own unintended consequences and the result is a lack of freedom, a lack of respect for time, and even life here is not all that valuable except in words.
Katherine has been staying in the area for the past several days I assume with a friend – but the friend has no internet access. But Katherine cannot get internet access from a cafe or other place as she is not allowed to visit without a negative test. When she makes phone calls to try to get information, she’s told to go online…. but of course, she cannot read Greek. She has no idea how to navigate the hell of Greek bureaucracy.
Katherine pointed out (similar to my first thoughts when planning my first trip to Greece) how excited she was to come here, and see places where so-called Western Values apparently first appeared, ideas of liberty and freedom… and the utter disappointment and frustrations she has felt – doubled down with dumb COVID regulations not well thought out, and their unintended consequences.
Katherine was unable to check her email – but happily, I have some mobile credits available on my phone from Cosmote. I was able to create a “hotspot” on my mobile phone and provided the lady with the password – the happiness that showed on her face at being able to check her email was wonderful to see. Sadly, one of the emails she was hoping for – a confirmation of her plane ticket home – was not there yet.
I had to leave Katherine after awhile, as I had my own Greek bureaucratic madness to deal with, and while I am not leaving Greece in the next few days, I certainly understood her frustrations and why she never wants to return to this country. Sadly, many Greeks don’t even seem to realize the madness they deal with; they just accept it as a normal way of life and don’t understand that all this time spent on rules and regulations means not spending time on being productive, or enjoying life the way they might want to, otherwise. They just don’t “get it.”
Oh… and all this to fight a pandemic, where in Greece, the MEDIAN age of Covid deaths is …. 78.
The Prime Minister here, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, promised to reduce bureaucracy before he was elected. He did not do that. He does seem to have moved some of it, to online bureaucracy in an attempt to make bureaucracy more efficient, but the bureaucracy has not disappeared. Greeks are just as unfree as they were before he was elected. Greece remains at around #73 on the world’s freedom index – a spot I’m sure Greek heroes such as Theodoros Kolokotronis would be disgusted with. And that freedom index spot is likely to get worse, as PM Mitsotakis now brings in new laws in regard to “fake news” being a crime – which could have horrible effects on the press here in this country.
But hey, the “Greek sun” is nice….