There are constant reminders of the motherland everywhere I go. I have been back (in the U.S.) for about two months and not a day goes by where I am not exposing myself to some aspect of Greek culture, whether it’s listening to traditional music on the way to class or trying to replicate my grandmother’s recipes.
Before I accompanied six college students to work on the Reinventing Greece media project, I was overwhelmed by the dark outlook the media cast upon the Greek crisis and found myself unable to justify, much less explain, the situation to any of my peers back at home.
My mission as a member of the project was not only to present a more honest depiction of the situation in Greece, but also to serve as a representative of the U.S. and Greek-American youth who want to help revitalize a country that we feel a part of, both in a physical and spiritual sense.
Much to the chagrin of my parents and in no way advocated by the program, a few of the fellows and I attended a protest in Syntagma Square to compare the scene to what we had seen on American television screens. To our surprise, although a police force gathered, the group simply chanted for about ten minutes and peacefully evacuated the area.
I noticed subtle differences between my time in Athens this past summer and trips I made throughout my childhood. There are more empty, boarded-up shops, more immigrants selling counterfeit bags outside the metro stations, and generally, I felt my Greek family and friends were more melancholic. However, they all agreed that the bureaucratic issues that Greece has today are the same issues that existed decades ago.
What has changed is the media’s portrayal of Greece. Slowly but surely, global media outlets have crafted an image of Greece and Greeks as a place where nothing gets done, no one works, and chaos floods the streets.
I admit I have no answer to how the E.U. will solve its economic crisis, nor do I know of specific economic policies that Greece must employ to change things around.
I do, however, appreciate something that has been drowned out by all the white noise: cultural perspective. I urge all members of the media to make a stronger effort to put the crisis in Greece in context and not simplify the story. The Greek professionals I met during my most recent trip, ranging from young entrepreneurs to NGO workers, assure me that there are bright minds working to revitalize the country. I hope to return to Greece one day to become one of those change-makers.
Alexis and other students in the Reinventing Greece fellows program took these pictures of protests around Syntagma Square in central Athens.