Day 146-LXXII, Αγρίνιο.
Agrinio, April 1
When people say that Greece is in a deep crisis, they surely are not talking about Agrinio. This place is really flooded with money. It falls down from the sky like snow, and you have to wade your way through it with a shovel.
The money is condensed in all the bars and banks and flashy stores. Over here the anarchists are the one percent, and the 99% are the people sipping cocktails on the terraces.
Maybe I exagerate, just a bit. But it makes me wonder. “Where does all the money come from?”
Yesterday we were invited to attend an anarchist concert in one of the central squares of Agrinio. It was a good occasion to ask the big question.
Various people told me basically the same story. And it makes sense.
So, as I told you, the plains of Agrinio are a fertile agricultural ground where local farmers used to grow mainly tobacco. Then a couple of years ago, the EU has been showering the farmers with subsidies as an incentive to change their crops. Many farmers cashed in the subsidies and continued growing tobacco like before. In the same timeframe, the price of tobacco has multiplied in Greece because of the taxes. It used to be ridiculously cheap, and now it’s as expensive as anywhere else in Europe. So of course, there’s a thriving black market for home made tobacco. You can buy it at 15 euros a kilo, tax free. And the rest is still regularly processed and sold.
That is where all the money comes from. There is a wealthy class of large scale producers, and everyone that depends from them. They lead a good life on a provincial scale. But that doesn’t mean that people don’t feel the crisis.
They do. It’s awful. ‘Before the crisis we went to the bar and took two coffees. Now we take only one.’ So they say.
Still, for young people there is no future in Agrinio. Aside from the tobacco and olive oil industry, there is no possibility of a gratifying career. So they go away to Athens, or to Thessaloniki, or overseas. And they leave this little place to its continuous building frenzy, where the past gets cancelled out and destroyed to make way for an ever more ephimeral present.