Gazeta Wyborcza’s man on Greece is Jacek Pawlicki. He has recovered somewhat from the shock of his interview on Wednesday with a Polish shopkeeper in Greece. Asked whether she feared for the safety of her shop the redoubtable lady said no, the rioters were only targeting the likes of multinational chains and banks. And your little shop is safe, he asked again. Yes, she repeated. Did she understand the rioters? Yes, was the simple answer. Could something like this happen in Poland? No, she said: Poles were too busy getting rich. It was the best – and certainly the pithiest – piece of social and political analysis I’ve seen in that newspaper in a long, long time.
In another article there is the following: “everybody thinks the government has pumped 28 billion euros into the banks and financial institutions instead of helping people.” It’s not absolutely clear whether this is Pawlicki’s opinion or that of the person he is talking to, a journalist on a “liberal” newspaper. Either way, it makes for strange reading as Gazeta Wyborcza reports as a fact that the Greek government has indeed pumped (that word again – does it just mean “given”?) 28 billion to the banks, that is, not to the people who earned that 28 billion.
In Friday’s article on the situation a chastened Pawlicki steers clear of unpredictable shopkeepers and tells it straight in an article headlined “Students – the Greek Untouchables.” He reports that attempts to reform education in Greece were defeated in 1991, 1992, 1995 and 2002. My understanding of democracy may be a little off here but I would have thought that this comprehensive and repeated expression of public antipathy to a political measure carried some weight in a democracy.* Apparently not. The government tried and failed again last year and Pawlicki writes “reform is essential.” The subhead reads – an amazing stretch of logic here – “If prime minister Karamanlis had succeeded in reforming higher education students would be studying for their examinations instead of burning police stations.” So according to the newspaper if reform were somehow forced on an unwilling populace there would be no law and order problems: cops could shoot children and there would be no violent outburst of anger.
Whatever about GW’s notorious hatred for any expression of public will going beyond a tick on a ballot paper, Pawlicki’s arguments, even on his own terms, are a little less than watertight. He starts off by sneering at “eternal students” who stay on and on in college rather than graduate to unemployment or life on 600 euros a month. (He also takes a typically Wyborczite anti-intellectual swipe at their lecturers with their “cushy numbers” (he means their jobs).) But Pawlicki finishes by saying that if private businesses were allowed to provide university education it would be the end of the brain drain: currently lots of students go abroad for their education but don’t come back, you see. But isn’t the problem – according to Pawlicki – that there are no jobs for graduates and so students prefer to stay in college? What difference would it make if their diploma came from the state or from a factory?
Pawlicki lashes out at students, teachers and the education system in general but also expects that same system to solve Greece’s political, social and economic problems.
* Mind you, Friday’s front page headline is “Lisbon Rises From the Dead” – for the third time at that: better than Jesus.