European Revolution by December?

The problem with revelations is that they always come when you least expect them. I was in Athens this past weekend — on vacation, against all odds, and not on business. I did the tourist thing: went to the Acropolis; checked out the national museum; found the most out-of-the-way restaurant I could and tried (in vain) to order in Greek. It was the last leg of voyage that I’d been waiting for — that I’d needed — for quite some time. But, as usual, the shadow of work was following me. Even when I intentionally isolated myself from my e-mail accounts and my Blackberry, my professional mind just couldn’t ignore the signs. Between the closed shops and the graffiti that was, quite literally, providing the writing on the walls, clues about Europe’s economic future were impossible to ignore. Of course, it wasn’t anything I didn’t know already… Anybody with a pulse has been hearing about Europe’s financial woes for much of the last year. Between the trillion-dollar bailout, the multitude of bank failures, skyrocketing inflation, and the euro’s collapse, the world’s second biggest economy is a giant on life support. And now, it seems its citizens themselves are getting ready to pull the plug. This particular revelation happened in the final hours of my trip. We were on the way to the airport, riding in a Skoda Taxi driven by Andreas, a mid-thirties native Greek who had once owned his own residential contracting company. His English was a bit spotty, but he had no problem at all expressing himself when it came to his life, and where he saw it going if things didn’t change soon. “Foreigners can come in and buy the land as much as they want. It has never been as popular,” he said after I reflexively mentioned the idea of vacation property in the Greek Isles. “But I cannot make my payments. My business is gone… My money is gone.” With three times the average inflation rate of the Eurozone, and with an annual budget deficit of 13.4%, Andreas’s pains were easy to understand. But at least he had a job, which is much more than 12% (a 10-year high for Greece) of the population can say. I knew these numbers almost by heart, but it wasn’t until he delivered his next statement that I realized what this meant, on a personal level, to …

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European Revolution by December?

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