As crisis talks over Greece’s continued membership of the troubled Euro currency continued in Brussels this week, the reality of the financial apocalypse facing this southern European nation famous for giving the world Demis Roussos and olives was playing out in a series of individual tragedies far from the glare of the world’s media.
The Dandy Goat spoke with Athens wino Demetrios Kleptos, who was sucking the last dregs from a liter bottle of industrial-strength Mindfukos ouzo, known to young Greek partygoers and anarchists as “Tramp Ouzo” due to its affordability and foul, stagnant odor.
“This could be the last bottle I drink today,” complained Mr. Kleptos, who like the rest of his compatriots is only able to draw out 60 euros — about 65 U.S. dollars — per day, and then only if the banks are open and have cash reserves. It’s barely enough to buy several liters of ouzo and a couple of kebabs, with a little left over for Mr. Kleptos’ hobbies of playing the slots and indulging his fetish for cheap locally produced pornography featuring unfeasible acreages of bushy, black pubic hair.
But Mr. Kleptos is relatively lucky. Tramps in Greece, unlike on the rest of the planet, are heavily subsidised by the state. While many chose to live on the streets rather than in comfortable government supplied apartments, they receive generous financial support, as do students, anarchist squatters, and anyone who simply can’t be bothered to get out of bed in the morning to go and look for work.
But this generosity comes at a price. And it is being felt over 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) away in Wittlich, a small town in western Germany’s Rhineland-Palatinate region best known for its moderately successful girls handball club and its annual pig festival, a giant street hog roast which celebrates the burning of treacherous pigs that according to legend opened the city gates to invaders in the Middle Ages after being bribed with turnips.
Joachim Pist, an architect who shares a comfortable cottage on the outskirts of the town with his busty, blonde-haired wife Greta, their sons Helmut and Adolf, and 17 vicious Rottweiler attack dogs, has financial troubles of his own. His credit card was declined earlier this week when he attempted to pay for a relaxing weekend break in the Black Forest town of Baden Baden, famed for its healing mineral waters and for having played host to vast numbers of fugitive Nazis after the end of the Second World War. “I contacted ze bank to see vat se problem vas,” Mr. Pist told the Dandy Goat’s central Germany correspondent. “Und zey said zat my account vas uberdrawn! Und I said das ist keine possible! I make uber 100,000 euros a year, und my frau makes very gut money as a serving maiden in a beer hall.”
It turns out that Mr. Pist’s finances had been heading downhill for some time, but not through any fault of his own. It’s now been revealed that Greek citizens have had direct access to the bank accounts of hardworking, conscientious Germans and other EU citizens for over two years. The scheme was dreamt up by EU finance ministers as what they thought would be a more economical way to transfer northern Europe’s wealth to its indigent southern member states — the PIGS of Portugal, Italy, Spain and Greece.
Barry Shrott, a spokesman for the European Central Bank, told the Dandy Goat that “it seemed to make sense at the time.” He explained: “Our economists came up with the idea that, rather than go through all the hassle of having governments collect taxes from northern European citizens, then having to pay that money to the EU so that they could then redistribute it to the PIGS, who would then redistribute the cash in welfare payments to their sloth-like populaces, it made more sense to cut out the middlemen and just give the Greeks and the others direct access to the bank accounts of people in countries like Germany.”
“It made sense in theory,” said Mr. Shrott, “but the problem was that the Greeks, as we say in England, started taking the piss. Having hairdressers retire at 50 because they’re considered to work in a hazardous profession is one thing, but effectively paying bums and deadbeats to sit around doing nothing except drink ouzo is going a bit far even by European standards.”
Now the gravy train seems to be coming off the rails. The bank accounts of Germans like Joachim Pist and thousands of others have been, or are close to being, completely emptied. It’s believed that the last of Mr. Pist’s money was drawn out by a 51-year-old part-time art student and street performer in Athens who used the money to buy several liters of Mindfukos and a box of highly volatile artisanal handmade fireworks which he intended to use to celebrate the overwhelming ‘No’ vote by the Greeks against the EU’s last-ditch austerity plan.
Demetrios Kleptos was also at the street party, and is still suffering from a raging headache. Happily for him, he also has access to the bank account of another German, one Gunther Mott, a zookeeper from Bremen, but he’s not sure how long that money will last. “I can’t believe I have to wait for tomorrow to get some money to buy more ouzo,” he said. “What about my human rights?”
Meanwhile back in Wittlich, Joachim Pist is also desperate. “Mein kinder need new Lederhosen fur schkool in Zeptember, und mein BMW needs new brake pads,” he told the Dandy Goat. While Greek civil servants, students and hobos sleep off their referendum victory hangover, lying half naked in the sun in streets awash with vomit and the stench of stale ouzo, Mr. Pist is wondering where he will get the money for his next stein of Schturmmlaager. And how he’s going to tell his wife that she will have to become a sex worker.