Κυριακή, 8 Μαρτίου 2015

Justine Frangouli-Argyris interview: Real-life story behind ‘High Heels for Six’

Justine Frangouli-Argyris details the strong influence that feminism has had on emigration and the questions raised by the meta-feminist era, all wrapped up in a gripping tale


Greek-Canadian journalist Justine Frangouli-Argyris knows how to weave a story, entwining it with the fabric that lets readers leap over cultural walls and embrace different experiences. Her meta-feminist novel “High Heels for Six” is no exception as it chronicles the friendship of six schoolgirls reunited after twenty years of separation. The novel is semi-autobiographical, drawing from her own memories of a tragedy that saw one of her friends and her mother leave the island of Lefkada.

The book traces the links between the two, binding their development with the ropes of tradition and the restraints of a desirable pair of high heels. Here’s what the Huffington Post blogger and prolific author told Proto Thema about meta-feminism on the occasion of International Women’s Day (March 8). (Scroll down for a sample).

Which real-life tragedy is the book inspired by?
“The book is inspired by the tragic suicide of the father of one of our schoolmates from Lefkada. We woke up one morning to the the news that Telemachus Papaminas (not his real name but the one used in the book) had stabbed himself in the bathtub. He was found drowned in a pool of blood by his young and only daughter. Our island was plunged into a ‘redness’ of the blood of this great man, our memories stained forever. Immediately afterwards, our classmate and her mother left the island.”
How much of your own personal story as a Greek woman living in Canada is depicted in the book?
“My personal experience as a Greek woman who emigrated to Canada is described in the novel through the evolution of Julia’s story. All my novels are set in an experiential canvas because, for me, a novel is the “literaturization” of real life.”
What is the difference between a Greek, a Canadian and a Greek-Canadian woman?
“The Greek woman rests firmly on her feet, she is openhearted, hospitable and spontaneous. The Canadian woman’s character depends on whether her origin is English or French.  The Anglo-Canadian woman is hardworking, detached and somewhat distant. The Franco-Canadian is warmer and more generous but tends to keep to her own family. The Greek-Canadian woman has been defined by her efforts of trying to belong to the Canadian society but she finds herself in a defensive position as she is trying to be a part of both the Canadian and Greek social fabric simultaneously.”
Have you known real friendship as described in the novel and how close are you to the women you write about?
“I was blessed to grow up on the small island of Lefkada where I was able to make close friends from school in my early childhood. With these friends, I still walk, side by side, in both joyous and difficult moments. I must say, that in the course of my professional life, I met other girlfriends whom I also hold close to my heart today. My immigration to Canada made me appreciate the value of friendship and people. After my family, my girlfriends are the greatest investment in my life.”
How do you think that twentieth-century feminism has failed to liberate women’s desires?
“Feminism was a highly aggressive movement that gave many conquests to women but left them unprotected in the new era. I think that feminism has brought partial equality to women but without the backing of a psychological and social support net. So, now, the contemporary woman is trapped in a reality that has filled her life with obligation, not liberation. The traditional standards of marriage, children and family have remained constant but the modern woman now has the added responsibilities and extra hours of work.”
The book is billed as a “meta-feminist” novel and yet it is also about migration. How is feminism filtered through the theme of migration?
“The book is a post-feminist novel from the point of view that women are now trapped in this reality. They feel that since they have gained a place in the work force and in society they must also become beautiful objects of desire by way of the cosmetic and fashion industries.
Feminism for the Greek immigrant woman had a very strong influence on migration as she came from the villages of Greece where she was isolated in the historical role of wife and mother to an industrial society where she opened up to the many work opportunities.”
How have you experienced the themes of feminism and migration in your own life as a Greek-Canadian?
“Feminism in Montreal’s Greek community never took on the form of a movement. Equality at work came as a natural evolution of life in a new place that she came to in order to strive for a better life. Many women in the Greek communities in Canada are strong feminist models given their achievements in both the professional and social spaces.”
One last question, just to enlighten me. What’s the difference between post-feminism and meta-feminism?
“I will answer you by quoting Wikipedia:
Post-feminism is a reaction against some perceived contradictions and absences of second-wave feminism. The term post-feminism is ill-defined and is used in inconsistent ways. It was historically used to pose a contrast with a prevailing or preceding feminism.
Meta-feminism is the era in which women have become the equal of men in the historically masculine field of sexual opportunism.
So, meta-feminism is even beyond post-feminism in the sense that women not only feel liberated and desirable but engage in sex by male rules.”
About Justine Frangoulis-Argyri
Justine Frangouli-Argyris was born on the Greek island of Lefkada and graduated from the University of Athens Law School’s Political Science Department. A member of the Journalists’ Union of the Athens Daily Newspapers (ESIEA) she has worked for major radio stations in Greece as well as Greek state television. Since 1989 she has been living and working in Montreal, Canada, and is a correspondent for the Athens News Agency (ANA) and a series of major newspapers. In Canada, she is active in the local Greek-Canadian community and also contributes to various publications. Her weekly articles about Canada and Greece are enjoyed by Huffington Post readers.
Other books:
The Lonely Path of Integrity (Exandas Publishers, Athens 2002)
Shopping Around the World: Unbeatable Bargains and Bite-Sized Stories (Ellinika Grammata, 2004)
The Legacy (Ellinika Grammata, 2005)
High Heels for Six (2006, also on Amazon Kindle since 2013, reprinted by Armos Publications in 2013)
Havana Diaries (2008)
For the Love of Others (Psichogios 2009)
Love in the Fog (Psichogios, 2011)
Pol and Lara are traveling (Children’s book, Psichogios, 2011)
To visit her blog CLICK HERE

Τετάρτη, 4 Μαρτίου 2015

Greece and the myth of Sisyphus

Justine Frangouli-Argyris


Since 2010, Greece has been living the tragic myth of Sisyphus, the king in Greek mythology who tried to outsmart the Gods and was punished for his trickery by being forced to eternally roll a huge stone up a hill, only to watch it roll back down every time he would approach the top.

The martyrdom of Sisyphus is all the more tragic because, although he is conscious of his plight, he continues to believe that he will achieve success on his next attempt, only to experience the pain of defeat over and over again.

This is exactly what has transpired in Greece throughout its never-ending debt crisis. For, every one of Greece's four different administrations since 2010 believed that it could free the country from the constraints of the so-called loan “memoranda,” only to be forced to return to the clutches of its lenders more tightly shackled each and every time.

Let us look back to the beginning of the bailouts in order to fully comprehend the situation. In mid-2010, the debt-laden country enlisted the help of the “troika,” the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank, which formulated a joint aid mechanism for Greece. The funding from the support program was provided under the condition that Greece implement various fiscal adjustment measures and, in particular, that it would undertake concrete fiscal consolidation.

Regardless, the Greek economy was never able to attain these targets, continuing to operate in a state of financial imbalance. As such, in June of the following year, the government was forced to adopt a medium-term program that included savagely harsh austerity measures and salary cuts.

A second memorandum, replete with further urgent provisions for public debt reduction and steps to rescue the national economy, was passed on February 13, 2012 while subsequent lengthy negotiations with the troika led to further hardship with the adoption of a medium-term framework for fiscal strategy in November of 2012.

Finally, at long last, in January of 2014, the country produced a primary budget surplus and there was optimism for the future. In the spring of 2014, Greece was able to return to the financial markets and borrow money at respectable interest rates, prompting Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to proudly proclaim that, by year's end, the nation would be able to exit the hated memoranda.

Surprisingly, however, seeing tepid support for his country's efforts by its European counterparts, Samaras would proceed to call a snap Parliamentary Presidential election that would in turn lead to national elections that would bring the radical leftist Syriza party to power. In the meantime, given the unsettling uncertainty, the country's banks would see their cash stockpiles slowly but surely depleted, mimicking the effects of an informal bank-run.

The elections were determined to be the key factor that caused a shortfall of some 2 billion euros in state revenues in the 2014 budget, as was admitted by Greece's new Deputy Finance Minister, Dimitris Sotiropoulos. Adding this amount to the 11 billion euros required by Greece by June, 2015 in order to meet its various obligations such as loan payments, salaries, pensions and purchases, it is evident that the funding gap is far beyond the capacity of the current Greek economy.

Also, from the beginning of March until the end of April, the country has external commitments totalling some 9 billion euros, 1,7 billion due to the IMF and 7 billion to cover maturing T-bills. On top of which, the finance ministry must deal with the cash deficit caused by the aforementioned gap in tax collections.

Internally, March is already predicted to be a difficult month fiscally as revenues will barely reach 3.2 billion euros compared to the 5.2 billion in projected expenses. A deficit is also predicted for April as the country expects to collect 3.5 billion euros while it must spend 4.32 billion. Thus, over the next two months, the operating deficit will climb to between 4 and 4.5 billion euros, an unsustainable situation given the circumstances.

Sadly, Greece, a country that was primed to emerge from its rigid bailout regime, looks destined to suffer the cruelty of a third memorandum which is expected to be agreed upon with its European partners in four months. Even sadder is that the interim agreement the new Syriza-ANEL government recently signed with the Eurogroup clearly dictates that no money will flow to Greece until the country meets all its prior obligations and continues to show a primary budget surplus. Conversely, as seen, a sharply rising deficit is being registered, month by month.

The Greek people, with their heroic sacrifices, managed to move the boulder of Sisyphus to the top of the mountain, only to have it fall back again. And the torment of the country, like the tragic Greek hero, drags on and on, without any light or hope on the horizon.



Τρίτη, 24 Φεβρουαρίου 2015

Freedom of Speech and Torture: The Badawi Case

Raef Badawi: Sentenced to Flogging for Insulting Islam
By Laurence Cromp-Lapierre *
In 2014, thirty-one-year-old Raef Badawi was sentenced to ten years in prison, a fine of one million royals (230.000 euros), and a thousand lashes spread over a twenty week period for insulting Islam. This sentence has created controversy all around the world, as it appears incomprehensible that, nowadays, such a harsh, cruel and inhumane punishment can still be imposed. In the wake of the Paris Charlie Hebdo’s killings, Badawi received the first 50 lashes on January 9, 2015 before a large crowd gathered in front of a Jeddah mosque. Further lashings were postponed because of a medical exemption due to Badawi’s poor health.
Badawi, a Saudi Arabian writer and activist, created the secularist Free Saudi Liberals website. Through this public forum of discussion he promoted secularism, derided the absurdities of the Saudi religious authorities and called for open debate regarding the interpretation of Islam. In 2012, he was arrested for having insulted Islam through electronic channels and having showed disobedience. He was officially charged with "setting up a website that undermines general security," "ridiculing Islamic religious figures," and "going beyond the realm of obedience". He was also brought to court for apostasy, which carried an automatic death penalty, but this charge was fortunately thrown out after Badawi guaranteed that he was of the Muslim faith.
The flogging generated a scale of international protests. Indeed, the international community was outraged by the barbarity of the trial, the sentence and the punishment itself. Amnesty International, which has launched an online petition calling for Badawi’s release, characterized him as a prisoner of conscience, "detained solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression." Moreover, Human Rights Watch, a non-governmental organization, declared that "the charges against him, based solely to Badawi's involvement in setting up a website for peaceful discussion about religion and religious figures, violate his right to freedom of expression." Amnesty International's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Said Boumedouha also stressed that "The flogging of Raif Badawi is a vicious act of cruelty which is prohibited under international law. By ignoring international calls to cancel the flogging, Saudi Arabia’s authorities have demonstrated an abhorrent disregard for the most basic human rights principles."
a)      Freedom of speech and expression as a fundamental right
The right to freedom of expression is a fundamental right protected by several legal provisions both on national and international levels. For instance, section 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that: [e]veryone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, an international treaty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, provides clarifications on what the right of freedom encompasses: “this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.   
flogging, Saudi Arabia’s authorities have demonstrated an abhorrent disregard for the most basic human rights principles."
b) Right to be free from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
Furthermore, under both national and international laws, one should not be subject to torture. Numerous countries have adopted legal provisions to forbid the use of cruel, inhumane, or degrading punishment in any circumstances. Torture is also prohibited under international law. For instance, article 5 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” The right to be free from torture and other ill-treatment is also codified in major international and regional human rights treaties, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966), the European Convention on Human Rights (1950), the American Convention on Human Rights (1978), and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (1981). Moreover, in 1984, the United Nations adopted the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. As Philip Luther of Amnesty International has noted, "Flogging Raif Badawi was an unspeakably cruel and shocking act by the Saudi Arabian authorities. The practice violates the prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment under international law and should not be carried out under any circumstances; to do so repeatedly is likely to heighten the torment and suffering, both mental and physical, caused to the victim."
As long as the court verdict and sentence remain in force, Badawi remains at risk of receiving the rest of his 950 lashings. Badawi’s condemnation depicts the worldwide struggle for free speech and demonstrates the lack of enforcement of the international prohibition against torture. One can only hope that the international protests and widespread criticism will force the Saudi Arabian authorities to halt this barbaric punishment and release Badawi. 
Laurence Cromp-Lapierre was born in Montreal in 1990. She is currently a LL.M Candidate at Berkeley and holds a LL.B from the University of Montréal, a J.D from Queens’ University as well as a Certificate in French and European Law from the University of Paris II. She also passed the Quebec bar exams.



Πέμπτη, 19 Φεβρουαρίου 2015

'Grexit' Must Die, Now and Forever!

'Grexit' Must Die, Now and Forever!
Justine Frangouli-Argyris

It is in Brussels where the final act of the latest Greek drama will be played out. If, that is, Greece manages to secure a continuation of its loan memorandum that it hopes will contain certain added conditions in order for its electorate, who voted overwhelmingly for its termination, to save face.

What the Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, along with his Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, must make clear to the Greek people is, that, with a few pluses and minuses, Greece is obliged to ask for this extension, in order for the country to have access to funding for its banks beyond February 28 when the current agreement is set to expire.

It should be understood that the government does have the option to make fiscal adjustments to the present memorandum and to introduce measures that are different from those agreed to by the previous Samaras-Venizelos coalition. In the meantime, however, it must mobilize the State's mechanisms in order to collect taxes owing and fill a new funding gap that has emerged as many citizens have withheld payment, expecting the new administration to carry out its pledges to scrap various levies such as the property tax known as "ENFIA". The administration must also act to return overdue value added taxes that it owes many individuals and corporations and must look to cut the wages and privileges of the 300 members of the Greek Parliament and their numerous clerks, a step that the previous administration, sadly, failed to take.

Also, Greece should aggressively proceed with the privatizations that have been launched and not muse about arbitrarily suspending them as it must show a desire to welcome private initiatives. The governing Syriza, a pro-European but radically leftist party, will have to prove to the international environment of investors that the country is friendly to private investment and that it intends to embrace all initiatives by avoiding the imposition of new taxes that may chase them away.

Today, the administration appears set to request a 4-to-6 month extension of its aforementioned loan agreement as it must secure a source of funding for the countries banks beyond the end of the month. A potential new arrangement that Syriza seeks, and has promised to deliver, will require much study as well as its ratification by all the other 18 Parliaments of the Eurogroup, a laborious and time-consuming process.

Once an extension has been agreed upon, both the Finance Minister and the Prime Minister will need their staffs to immediately get to work on the new proposals that must be submitted to their lenders. The aim of any new contract they submit should be to focus on unlocking the current gridlock and giving impetus to growth in the battered country.
Greece should forget about playing hardball with their European partners and the IMF, wasting precious time and jeopardizing its standing with the financial markets. It should, rather, look to quickly close the "Grexit" window by showing a sincere willingness to co-operate with its allies.
Any new plan must allow Greece to lower its primary surplus, enabling it to implement the funds where they are sorely needed, and must include a fair and stable tax system that will offer justice, not vengeful punishment, and that will enable the private sector to operate under clearly defined parameters in order to promote job creation.

Also, any new agreement should provide for debt relief, either by means of a "haircut" or through a restructuring of the terms of repayment. The country's debt has reached 175 percent of its GDP and is blatantly unsustainable. It has become a clear obstacle to Greece's development and its lenders must show leniency in this respect. As such, the government will have something to offer its people who have suffered through five long years of inhumane austerity measures whose sole aim was fiscal consolidation.

Syriza must request a concrete plan to move the case of Greece beyond mere budgetary stability but one that will include a developmental phase that will promote job creation and give its devastated citizens hope for tomorrow.

The new era of Greece in the European Union will have to bring equality, stability and fairness in its relationship with its partners. The country has spent far too much capital to remain inside the Eurozone and owes it to itself, and its citizens, to conclude a program that will provide an appropriate balance of budgetary stability and development.

It is the duty of Greece and Europe to be in close co-operation during this process and to put a stop to continued mumblings about Greece's future within the Union that are negatively impacting the fragile Greek economy and the Western economy as a whole. It is imperative to put an end to the fear of "Grexit", now and forever!

Τρίτη, 13 Ιανουαρίου 2015

I'm Charlie, I’m Ahmed, I am Justine...and I'm afraid!

 Justine Frangouli-Argyris

I heard the news surrounding the mass killing of the 12 journalists at “Charlie Hebdo” in Paris early Wednesday from a friend who is working in the “City of Light" this year. “The capital is paralyzed by fear," he said, after Islamist extremists had struck the heart of French freedom of expression by attacking the renowned satirical weekly newspaper.


I arose with an anxiety that quickly spread to all the muscles of my body and mind. Earlier this year, the radical fundamentalist group, ISIS, had warned it would attack all the countries partaking in the fight against its guerrillas in the Middle East which have been brutally beheading Western hostages on camera in an effort to spread their message of terror and death.


Before I came to realize what was happening, a third jihadist had killed a female police officer the following day in Paris. And, during the subsequent massive manhunt for the three terrorists, I saw pictures of those held hostage in a Jewish grocery being murdered.  I was shocked, not knowing for whom or for what to mourn.


For the exceptional cartoonists who fell victim to Islamic fundamentalism?


For the savage blow to democracy and freedom of expression in the press?


For Ahmed Merabet, the Muslim policeman who was mercilessly gunned down in cold blood?


For the hostages in the Jewish grocery store who fell victim to a growing religious-political war?


For the young Muslim radicals who were born and raised in France but became subservient to the teachings of ISIS and Al-Qaeda?


For the inability of the French secret service to keep an eye on the extremists who had recently returned from a stint in Syria, making them perfect potential terrorist candidates?


For Western society which is unable to integrate immigrants coming from Muslim countries, incapable of making them proud citizens of the Western world?


For the Muslims who freely choose to migrate to the West but allow a hatred for Western society to fester in them?


For the world’s major power brokers in whose interests our innocence is being sacrificed?


For myself, Justine, who matures, day by day, discovering the horrible face of fear?


For our children who are learning to fear Muslims and be suspicious of them?


For the gap that the jihadist attacks have opened between the Muslims and the other populations of the West?


For the consigning to oblivion of the slogan "make love, not war?"


For the hatred that deepens daily between Muslims and other religious cultures?


A week after the dramatic attacks in Paris, while the world surged through the streets to show a common will against the terror that sows terror, I'm feeling sorry and afraid.


I am not pacified by the demonstrations of solidarity towards Charlie Hebdo and the French people. I am not reassured by the hand-to-hand march of Western and Eastern leaders last Sunday in Paris. I'm feeling sorry and afraid.


I feel sorry for the heroes of Charlie Hebdo who lay pointlessly dead at the hands of youths in a zealous frenzy.


I feel sorry for Ahmed who could not be saved by the fact that he was a Muslim himself.


I am afraid for Justine in the West who respects the East but cannot defend its actions any longer.


A week after the deadly terrorist attacks, I feel sorry and I feel fear. These two emotional states have been planted deep inside me, first with the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001, then with the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 and, finally, with the savage killings in Paris as I awoke last Wednesday. From now on, I know that I will be living with sorrow for what has occurred and with fear for what is going to happen!



Δευτέρα, 22 Δεκεμβρίου 2014

Holidays at the Trafalgar

by Justine-Frangouli-Argyris

The holidays are here and the city is resplendent in its festive lights, sparkling evergreens and beautifully decorated windows. Our beloved Trafalgar is aglow in its own right, bathed in the green-blue hue of its lit pines and the vibrant colors of its flower pots filled with winter bouquets.

This unique tower with its asymmetrical rooftops, emblematic for its convivial look, perched, as it is, on an island right in the midst of Côte-des-Neiges, has been known to pique the fantasies of passers-by. I, myself, like to roll back time and fantasize about carriages entering its courtyard through the elegant archway carrying beautifully attired ladies and debonair gentlemen on their way to opulent seasonal parties.

Throughout the century, the Trafalgar has born witness to many a magical moment, playing host to innumerable splendid events in its snowy landscape but a few meters from the Beaver Lake and carrying its glamorous past with a rare, dignified air.

Today, our building's grand entrance features a fabulous Christmas tree, gleaming under its shiny ornaments, while right beside it stands an elegant menorah, the nine-branched candelabrum representative of the celebration of Hanukkah.

At the Trafalgar, the spirits of Christmas and Hanukkah are not in contrast, but, rather, in unison, with one celebration complementing the other. Holidays at the Trafalgar exclude no one but, on the contrary, include everyone and are tantamount to a desire to come together, as a family, over and above any religious or cultural differences. They are celebrations that bring forth the joy of giving with their traditions of the offering of gifts.

I admire the multicultural community we live in and the joyous holiday spirit that manages to embrace every Montrealer and every resident of the Trafalgar at this time of year, irrespective of their ethnic background.

Christmas has become an intercultural celebration, reflecting the love and the joining of people in a happy and celebratory atmosphere. It is an occasion of joy and love for us all, a time for compassion and generosity that grants us a chance to unite and become one among friends.

Happy Holidays to all the residents of the Trafalgar, a building that holds us tightly in its splendidly decorated arms and shows off its proud and merry history!

 With our Greek Orthodox priest fr. Panagiotis Salatelis of St George's Cathedral
 Beautiful people at the Trafalgar
 The president of our association Mrs Danielle Medina with fr. Panagiotis

 Alex grew up at St. George's  Cathedral
What a blessing to have fr. Panagiotis with us
 Our lovely neighbor Elli
A lawyer with a judge
 Ben and Ted enjoyed a long talk

A cross-religion celebration
Our unique entrance
 Frank and Michael lit up the menorah

Cool moments

 Fr. Panagiotis lipt up the Christmas tree

 Ornaments for the Christmas tree
Great neighbors 

Πέμπτη, 18 Δεκεμβρίου 2014

Beware of Greeks In Despair!

Justine Frangouli-Argyris

In a surprise move last week, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras called a snap presidential election for December, moving it forward from its planned February date with potentially unpredictable results for the future of Greece and the eurozone.

Since claiming the Prime Minister's chair in 2012, the head of the conservative New Democracy party, who has governed in tandem with his socialist “PA.SO.K” party counterpart, Evangelos Venizelos, has continued to pressure an overburdened Greek electorate with a mix of salary and pension cuts, tax hikes and other harsh measures. The so-called austerity “memorandum” plunged the Greek economy into a five-year recession, increased unemployment to the highest level in Europe and brought about the devastation of the country's middle class. The result being that Samaras found himself trapped in a political dead-end, opting to speed up the election and, potentially, force the country into early national elections should the current Parliament be unable to choose a President.

The Samaras-Venizelos coalition had little choice, expecting, as it was, to receive a show of support from its European partners at a time when the country drastically cut its budget deficit and was finally able to present a growing economy. Regardless, the so-called “troika,” that is managing the Greek bailout program, continues to insist on further steps to close a paltry and disputable potential funding gap of approximately 2 billion euros for fiscal 2015 when the country's total debt amounts to some 350 billion euros.

In fact, Germany has been prodding the Greeks to agree to a new “memorandum” in order to force any future government, most notably the radical leftist “Syriza” party, down this road. The intent  being, to lock Syriza's leader, Alexis Tsipras, who is well ahead in the polls and fervently anti-austerity, into a continuation of the status quo by removing any potential bargaining power that a convincing electoral victory could provide.

However, Samaras and Venizelos turned the tables on their European lenders with the early presidential election call, possibly forcing the Germans into direct negotiations with Tsipras who has staked his reputation on freeing the country from the clutches of the devastating “memorandum” at any cost.

Unfortunately, either Europe does not understand the level of destruction its austerity program has caused or it simply does not care. Perhaps the many European leaders, who have visited the Presidential or Prime Ministerial palaces under tight security, have not taken the time to wander around Athens and glimpse, first-hand, the rampant hunger, destitution and poverty. Perhaps they have no idea that the middle class households, that have seen their wages and pensions slashed and their tax burden jump, can barely get by.

They probably haven't visited the orphanages and nurseries where parents send their children because they have no food to offer them nor have they have walked by Athens' squares to observe the many desperate graduates wandering around, aimlessly and jobless, after years of university study.

They have not witnessed the thousands who put their life's savings into a home, only to lose it all nor have they roamed the neighborhoods where hundreds of homeless Greeks and illegal aliens live in the streets, subsisting on what the soup kitchens of the Greek Orthodox Church can provide.

The Greeks are desperate, suffering for years without any hope. They are no longer frightened by the tumbling stock market and the increasing bond spreads nor by a looming national bankruptcy and a return to the Drachma.

In their vast majority, they have lost everything including their self-respect and their pride but, above all, their optimism that something may change.

This explains why, should the current Parliament fail to elect a President, they will cast their vote for Alexis Tsipras and his party, not necessarily because they believe in his rhetoric, but because they have nothing left to lose.

As such, it appears that the Europeans will soon be forced to deal straightforwardly with Syriza, a party lacking in any clear economic or political program except for its refusal to continue down the path of austerity. It is there that they will find themselves face to face with the Greek reality and the indignation of a people who are no longer willing to forgo their personal dignity.