By Christos Zampounis
I stand in a kiosk in Kolonaki Square in front of the spread of foreign-language magazines, and I think, among other things, how many hours it takes the employees to count the receipts, place them, count the sold items, return the unsold ones, and so on. I used to procure a plethora of international publications on a weekly basis, which I continue to do on a smaller scale, particularly with the French inspections I worked with for many years. My eye is drawn to the cover of Le Point, with a photograph of President Emmanuel Macron, a doubleganger of Rodin’s sculpture, and the headline “Macron, retraite’ a 45 ans?”, “Retired at 45?”. The first observation is of an age-related nature. The President of France in his second term is a young man. The second observation is linked to the reform of his country’s pension system, which he has attempted to implement, with the result that ‘Cordelius is on fire’, as the saying goes. For nine weeks, millions of French people have been taking to the streets to protest not only against the increase in the age before they can retire, from 62 to 64, but also in general against the governance of a president with powerful powers who, in one way or another, has betrayed them.
As a former Banque Rotschild banker and former finance minister, Macron based his policy on technocratic criteria. I was listening to him, the other day, explaining in a television interview, the simple mathematics, that is, that is how much the debt is, 1 trillion euros, that is how much the public fund for the Securite Sociale, the equivalent of the E.F.S.A., that is how much money we will save from this reform, the only way to avoid bankrupting our non-insurance system. We Greeks, who, as a whole of the mainstream parties, voted for a law on retirement at 67, without ‘turning up our noses’, may even wonder at the brutality of the reactions of the people of our friendly and allied country. The causes are so deep and complex that it would take hours to list them properly and in depth. I will limit myself to a prophetic sentence that I fish out of Michel Houellebecq’s recent book ‘Aneantir’: ‘Indeed, the latter (ed: he means Macron) had abandoned the fantasies of a “start-up nation” that had secured him his first election, but had objectively led to the creation of a few precarious and poorly paid jobs in a regime of quasi-slavery within unregulated multinationals’.