Up close and personal


The emergency services had to break the front door down on the night Mark died and, despite the best efforts of family and friends to ensure the battered and padlocked one was replaced before I returned home, it stayed that way for some months.

It’s difficult to convey the impact it had on me in my numbed, grieving state to return home to see a smashed, padlocked door, or how utterly powerless and close to unraveling I felt when I had to deal with the service company responsible for the building. I didn’t have many words at the time, only a cry from somewhere deep within me that what was happening was, despite the friendliness and politeness of everyone I spoke to, heartless and cruel. I had to hand the matter over to family and friends in the end – it was simply too much to cope with while organising a funeral and all the other things that needed doing at the time…

Something Lou, a friend and champion, said to a member of the team she got through to has stuck with me, and has been on my mind particularly today as I’ve been walking around Athens, thinking about the current negotiations between Greece and the European Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Lou has a forensic mind and at times can be unrelenting when she starts drilling into an issue, and thus she succeeded in getting this particular staff member to confess that from the point of view of the organisation, they had done what was required ie secured the door so that they would not be liable if the flat was broken into.

“But if you were sitting in her lounge with her now, face to face, in a flat with a padlocked door that had to be broken down in those circumstances, would you think that was OK?” Lou asked.

We can do things by the book, follow the logic of an organisation’s need to look after its own interests, but that doesn’t mean that they are just or good. In Greece, there is a sense that they are being forced to fall into line with an ideology, an economic way of life that not only is at odds with their desire for social justice, but has also been seen to fail and do great harm to many Greek people.

Could such policies really be enforced if, instead of just following the logic of the markets, there was real concern for the people of Greece, if their suffering was really taken into account? What got me through my micro clash with organisational logic was friends who were prepared to fight my corner. For that reason I was pleased to read that at least there was a protest in London in support of the Greek people. We owe it to them, surely, to try and disengage from all the politicking and posturing and ask ourselves if we were face to face with the reality of the lives of the Greek people today, would we really think what is happening is OK?

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