We had drinks in Duende, a great bar near our hotel after our meal… and spent a lot of time talking about an idea Mark had for a new app. Duente was very lively – Maria described it as a haunt for intellectuals. What I liked was the mix of ages – people who were in their 60s, huddled over their drinks and smoking, and on the table next to them a young after work crowd who looked like they would work as creatives. There were lovely little snugs with green leather seats, lots of dark heavy wood and an overall cosy feel, with lots of musical instruments, record players on display, candlelight and mirrors.
I met Maria and Dora at a time a year and half ago when politics was urgent, when they were part of RadioBubble, an online radio station that had had reputation as being the voice of the left in Athens, pushing out news in English and other languages that challenged the official narratives of the mainstream media.
For a number of reasons, the protests have stopped – for now at least. And that frenetic energy seems largely to have gone. When I think what both of my friends have gone through – unemployment, over work, pay cuts, sickness, a range of reactions to the extreme quantities of teargas and pepper spray, as well as the physical and mental impact of the violence meted out against them during the protests.
It was in a cafe in July Monastiraki last year, eating delicious kebabs and salads and soaking in the atmosphere of the bustling street that I sat Maria and listened to Maria describing her experiences working with the Red Cross – tending to the wounds of those who were coming in after a severe beating from the police, helping those suffering breathing problems and worse as a result of the teargas.
Those protests aren’t going on now, and there’s a sense that people are tired and weary, but also one of unfinished business. People are waiting to see what happens at the next elections, whether SYRIZA might get in… Maria said she was asking herself why she didn’t care anymore – why she couldn’t bring herself to engage with politics and things that were going on. Her conclusion was that right now she doesn’t want to. Maria also concluded that everyone in Greece who took part in the protests probably needs some psychotherapy… and if there are protests in the future, those taking part are likely to face unimaginable levels of violence.