AE interviews Daniel M. Knight (Durham University)

Interview by AE editorial intern Deniz Daser (Rutgers University), June 2015

In his May 2015 article in American Ethnologist, “Wit and Greece’s economic crisis: Ironic slogans, food, and antiausterity sentiments,” Daniel M. Knight shows how the lived experience of individuals complicates media depictions of Greece as the “problem child” of Europe.

Knight draws on long-term ethnographic research on temporality, historical consciousness, and economic relations in the region of western Thessaly to examine how in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis Greeks interpret and resist austerity measures through the deployment of ironic slogans. These slogans reference resonant themes of food and historical periods of collective suffering in order to criticize political elites’ neoliberal policies. Such satirical forms become sites of resistance and solidarity that reframe relations between local people, their government, and international creditors. AE editorial intern Deniz Daser asked Daniel Knight to reflect on Greece’s recent election in relation to the themes of his AE article, and to comment on the widely circulated May 2015 cover story on Greece’s crisis in the New York Times Magazine.

Deniz Daser (DD): Let’s begin with an ending! In the postscript to your article, you briefly discuss the ascent to power of SYRIZA, Greece’s current leftist, antiausterity ruling party. SYRIZA’s leaders--such as the prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, and its finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis--have attained rock-star status among many on the political left in the European Union (EU) and beyond. Having come into power in January 2015 with a huge groundswell of support, SYRIZA now is locked in tense negotiations with EU and International Monetary Fund (IMF) creditors over debt, austerity, and a potential exit from the Eurozone. How do your research participants view the current government?

Daniel M. Knight (DM): The question about how my research participants view the new SYRIZA Greek government is a huge one, and quite complicated, so I will have to make generalizations – and I suppose that I should state from the outset that since commencing fieldwork in western Thessaly in 2003 I have seen many governments come and go – center-right, socialist, and now the so-called “radical” left – and I remain skeptical about their political rhetoric. At the time, there seemed to be a mixture of hope and fear surrounding the election of SYRIZA to government. Some of my research participants who are struggling to hold down jobs, have young families, and cannot afford risk would say something along the lines of “we have just about learned to live with the conditions of austerity, we are managing to make a livelihood to survive and now SYRIZA brings so much more uncertainty and we cannot afford to risk losing anything else.” I think that such people felt that with the New Democracy (the center-right party last in power 2012-15) government of Antonis Samaras they had some form of stability – not that they approved of the austerity measures or that they necessarily had a good quality of life, but they knew what to expect from Samaras. Tsipras and SYRIZA were seen as a risk, introducing yet another element of the unexpected into their already painful lives. On the other hand, SYRIZA offered hope that there was another way. Many of Tsipras’s election promises – increasing the minimum wage, giving jobs back to the unemployed, leading Greece out of Troika austerity – were and still are perceived as ambitious. To repeat a line from my postscript, the election of SYRIZA was most certainly a vote against Troika austerity and the two-party political establishment that had run Greece since the fall of the junta in 1974. These two points are very significant. Standing up to the injustice of Troika austerity is a popular position, and Tsipras, Varoufakis, and company are generally applauded for this act of resistance, but I get a distinct feeling among the majority of my research participants that there is now general disbelief and distrust in the SYRIZA policies, just as there is distrust of all Greek politicians and parties at the moment. That would be the case no matter who was in government. It is interesting that I can have a conversation with the same Greek individual on a daily basis and each time his or her feelings towards the new government change. On one day the person feels hope, knowing that Tsipras and Varoufakis have stood up to Troika and are not just taking their punishment, bowing to their every whim like Samaras was generally perceived to have done. At least now there is, supposedly, dialogue. On the next day the same person is questioning SYRIZA’s integrity, hollow policy, and naiveté. The individual may be enthusiastic about the new promises of a return to prosperity and then denounce those policies as hollow populist rhetoric. One thing is constant though: people from across the social and political spectrum are tired of the crisis, the ongoing uncertainty, and the constant “will they, won’t they leave the Eurozone” debate. Every week seems to be “critical,” there is always another “thriller,” the end is always, apparently, nigh, and the economic crisis is engrained in the life of every individual on a 24/7 basis. It is very tiring and people are sick of it. There is growing popular feeling that there must be an end to the uncertainty soon – either way.

DD: The New York Times Magazine (May 20, 2015) features a long piece by Suzy Hansen on Greece’s financial crisis, entitled, “A Finance Minister Fit for a Greek Tragedy?” What are your thoughts on how Hansen portrays Yanis Varoufakis as well as the ongoing financial talks in Europe?

DM: Let me first say that I thoroughly enjoyed Suzy Hansen’s New York Times article. I thought it was balanced and gave a nice snapshot both into the mind of Varoufakis and into some of the complex questions at the heart of ongoing negotiations over the Greek crisis. Varoufakis’s rock-star status at home and abroad can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, he gains much-needed exposure for the Greek plight, he has a strong following among young people across Europe who are usually disinterested in the political process, and he is most certainly a breath of fresh air on a rather stuffy European political scene. But, with his fame comes criticism that he is not a serious politician, or that he is simply a poster-boy with no substance, and he is left wide open to the ravages of satire. Reaffirming his rock-star status, Varoufakis has been known to reply to reporters’ questions by quoting lyrics from Beatles songs. German satirists have penned a catchy tune called “V for Varoufakis” (“He puts the Hell in Hellenic … He’s the lost son of Zeus”) taking YouTube by storm , and it has recently been reported that his wife, Danae Stratou, is the Greek student referred to in UK 1990s pop group Pulp’s classic tune “Common People” (“She came from Greece, she had a thirst for knowledge”). The relation to Pulp’s “Common People” which tells the story of a rich Greek girl wanting to live like a poor person to get a little excitement in her comfortable life (what Pulp front-man Jarvis Cocker describes as ‘Class Tourism’), links well with the point Hansen makes about the uncomfortable situation of Varoufakis and Stratou appearing in the tabloid Paris Match magazine, which Hansen notes came across as “rather glitzy for a leftist politician.” And the weird comparison he makes of himself with Margaret Thatcher – the devil figure in the eyes of the British left-wing, for, let’s not forget, “Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead” was the anthem of choice for some UK citizens at street-parties on the occasion of Thatcher’s passing – has fed much satire and confirmed the general perception that Varoufakis should choose his words more carefully. But, there is no denying that Varoufakis is a global superstar who can help put Greek economic woes on the front page of the New York Times. Another theme that I think comes across well in the New York Times piece--and it is something with which I completely agree--is that Varoufakis does seem to be thinking about the bigger picture of European prosperity. I do get the sense that Varoufakis is genuinely concerned about the current economic policy dragging the whole continent further down into a financial quagmire. This could be connected with his cosmopolitan background, the New York Times article suggests, but my opinion is that Varoufakis comes across as a very compassionate man, a rebel with a cause, and in Britain he has become a popular figure of resistance against what is seen as European (especially German) imperialism. Of course, Britain will soon be facing its own referendum on whether to remain in the European Union, so it seems, but that is another story. The honesty of leading figures in SYRIZA has been a contentious point both in everyday conversation and in the media during the past two months. For example, Varoufakis saying that, “There’s no doubt that this economy now is far worse off in the last two months as a result of our hard bargaining” does not inspire confidence in a downtrodden and disenchanted Greek public who elected SYRIZA to power on promises of economic recovery and, what is more, promises of immediate improvements to basic living standards. However, as Varoufakis says in the New York Times piece, his hands have been tied by endless rounds of hard-nosed European bargaining, but this inevitability wasn’t necessarily communicated to the electorate before the January 2015 polls. Honesty and trust are themes that have appeared elsewhere in popular discourse about SYRIZA’s dealings not only with Europe but also on domestic issues. Recent footage of Varoufakis offering to resolve petty legal disputes by “having a word with Alexis (Tsipras)”--thus bypassing the judicial system--again suggests that this man is not a career politician and should be aware that his every word has consequences. Unfortunately, on this occasion the conversation was caught on film and, when coupled with a SYRIZA politician announcing in parliament that “jobs should be found for SYRIZA supporters,” public figures in the new government have not done much to dispel the idea that Greece is a nation operating primarily on a patron-client basis. So, among at least some of my research participants, the hope for change ushered in by the January 2015 elections has given way to resignation that little seems to have changed and although Varoufakis still has more public support than most figures from across the political spectrum, his reassignment away from the head of the European negotiating table has confounded popular feelings that much of the hope offered in January is slowly draining away and being replaced by even more uncertainty.

DD: Do you see some limitations to Hansen’s analysis in the New York Times?

DM: Yes, I take issue with one of Hansen’s opening points that Greece has long been a “corrupt economy” that “borrowed billions from imprudent European banks and then lied to EU officials about its mounting debts.” I do not dispute that there may be some truth in this statement, but it is precisely this exclusivist approach to Greece’s financial turmoil that is unhelpful. Essentializing Greece, focusing blame in such a blinkered manner and allocating a particular cultural character to the economic squalor seems to suggest that such economic (mal)practice was not going on elsewhere – but it was! “Corruption,” borrowing billions from European banks and lying about debts didn’t just take place in Greece; it was openly encouraged by the banks themselves and the majority of the European political elite. Greeks rightly feel like they are being made an example of, singled out for unfair treatment and, as Stathis Kouvelakis of SYRIZA’s Left Platform says in Hansen’s article, Greece has become “the test case for stringent neoliberal policy” no matter the consequences. Again, the perpetual uncertainty is now really beginning to take its toll. A leading Greek satirist summed up what I would go so far as to say is the national feeling (regardless of political allegiance) when he said last week that he would love, just for one week, to wake up on a Monday morning and find it not to be a critical week for Greece. To have just a few days without talk of crisis, Grexits, and hearing the voices of endless so-called ‘experts’ talk of doom and disaster.

DD: Do you have other comments on Hansen’s New York Times piece in relation to your AE article?

DM: Instead of depicting the crisis as a purely Athenian affair, I think that a view from a village in central or northern Greece would enrich the analysis and provide the world with a more realistic overview of the consequences of crisis. Second, it was very interesting to see how Varoufakis drew on his own historical consciousness to frame his political beliefs and his main motivations for tackling the current situation. He referred to the Greek civil war (1946-49) experiences of his father and his own childhood during the 1967-74 dictatorship--two events I explore at length in my work as providing affective links between past and present. Third, in the context of former Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s plans to provide free Wi-Fi across Greece, I found it somewhat amusing that the Internet didn’t work in the offices of the finance ministry. I think that is a poignant, elegant, and highly appropriate summary of a daft plan on the part of the New Democracy leader. Finally, I thought it striking that Hansen noted something that perplexes so many outsiders – the continuation of the café culture. She mentions that the coffee shops are still full of people, but when one starts to dig deeper it becomes apparent that all is not as it seems on the surface. I am glad that Hanson mentioned this, and it is something that I discuss in my AE article.

DD: In your article you discuss how disparate groups in society can unify through the deployment of slogans that represent humorous, affective, or ironic critiques of contemporary politics. In the case of Greece in this time of austerity, you argue that such sloganeering offers avenues for intervention by a population otherwise left voiceless and disenfranchised. Can you elaborate on how these slogans constitute a form of political agency? By extension, what forms of social change, if any, do you see occurring as a result of this public discourse?

DM: Most of my research participants are extremely frustrated by the Troika austerity measures and what they perceive as external meddling not only in their national political-economic system, but also in how they are sanctioned to live their everyday lives. “Crisis” is a word that one hears over and over again on a daily basis, not just in the media but on the streets and at home. And this has been the case for nearly six years. People are feeling devoid of political agency, in many cases feeling sapped of strength, their suffering being ignored both by their own government and international creditors. There is the general perception that only numbers and graphs matter to European bureaucrats and economists, and that the humanistic consequences of their actions are conveniently overlooked, or at least play second fiddle to getting “the economy” in line. However, no matter the political persuasion of my research participants, people need to vent their frustration, anger, and displeasure with the current situation and party politics is failing them in this respect. It is also misleading to focus solely on mass, sometimes violent, protests that are regularly beamed to our television sets and reported in international print media. These street protests are only one form of resistance, of expressing political agency, and they are not representative of the way that the majority of the population choose to express their discontent. The focus on high-profile protests and rallies also feeds into the Atheno-centric perspective of the crisis commonly portrayed in international media, leading viewers and readers either to conclude that this activity is common throughout Greece (it is not), or that citizens outside of Athens are not affected by the consequences of austerity (they most certainly are!). Of course, the street protests are an aspect of the resistance to the financial turmoil, and Athens is home to half the population of Greece, but there are so many more ways that people are reacting to the situation, critiquing the status quo and performing their political agency. In much of the Greek periphery, street protests have not been a significant part of resistance against the austerity measures--certainly not in Trikala, where political agency takes different, usually unreported, forms. Slogans are one way that people find to regain a voice that they feel has been removed. My research participants in western Thessaly are usually keen on a humorous, often tongue-in-cheek, anecdote, typically with a bittersweet or highly critical message, and what strikes me is their recurrent themes – specific moments of the past are referenced in order to criticize the current crisis, particular political figures are lambasted, and, as my AE article shows, food is a central theme as well. What is also noticeable is that the slogans are often self-deprecating and reflexive, being extremely critical of both self and other.

DD: Speaking of food, when discussing the symbolic role that, for instance, cucumbers and bread play in ironic reactions to austerity, you bring up the significance of collective memory and history in Greek society. Can you elaborate on how food and history intersect in significant ways?

History, Time and Economic Crisis in Central Greece, 2015

DM: I have written at length about the significance of the past and collective memory in the way my research participants experience the current economic turmoil. You can call it historical consciousness, polytemporality, historicity, or, as I argue in my recent book, History, Time, and Economic Crisis in Central Greece, the cultural and temporal “proximity” of selective moments of the past helping people understand dramatic social change. My fieldwork spans the time before and after the outbreak of Greece’s economic problems in 2009 and captures the plethora of social changes over this period. My research participants draw on specific moments of the past to help explain increasing social suffering and material poverty. In Trikala, the events that are most readily recalled are the Great Famine of 1941–43, the 1940s Axis occupation, and the reign of late Ottoman–era landlords. Trikalinoi frame their fears and anxieties about the current crisis by discussing these eras, and also draw courage that even the worst crises can be overcome. This is what I term “cultural proximity” – the notion that two distant points in time can suddenly become close, even superimposed, during periods of rapid social change. It is interesting that events such as the famine did not really directly affect Trikala due to subsistence agriculture and dense resource-sharing networks in the region. Yet the account of the event that cost the lives of 300,000 people in Athens has been nationalized through the education system and popular culture and is now recounted as if it had a much greater direct impact on the local population. Other interesting cases of how moments of the past are referred to as if they are repeating themselves include how a European Union-backed scheme aimed at decreasing national debt by placing solar panels on agricultural land and potentially exporting the energy to northern Europe is locally perceived simultaneously as a return to an era of German occupation (most of the solar technology is produced in Germany and Germany has a vested interest in the Greek energy sector) and a repeat of Ottoman landlord-tenant agreements. The energy project is additionally seen by some locals as yet another neoliberal short-term program of economic extraction. Also, the moments of the past that remain dormant, that are not recalled, are equally important for they tell us something else about the socio-political history of the region. An example of this is how accounts of the divisive events of the Greek civil war (1946-49) are not prominent in how Trikalinoi experience the current economic crisis, yet with a 40-minute drive into the Pindos Mountains, the topology of the past changes completely and the civil war becomes the main event around which people frame their narratives of crisis and suffering. In western Thessaly, where crop production has been a primary livelihood strategy, the significance of food in times of crisis can be traced back over the decades – from the importance of resource sharing networks to accounts of hunger under Axis occupation, to being one of the basic human rights demanded in protests against the junta in the early 1970s. All these events have been captured in polytemporal slogans in the context of the current fiscal austerity. Food in Greece is either a marker of celebration or destitution, something perceived as a basic human right. Nowadays hunger is tangible and even suicide notes regularly cite the inability to feed the family, coupled with unpayable debts, as “cause of death.” So food (or lack of it) and history constantly intersect in accounts of the current economic crisis.

DD: Food and eating are symbolic goods and practices, respectively, that evoke strong sensory meanings. Your article highlights how Greek individuals’ relations with food “represent the literal embodiment of shifting economic circumstances” (p. 237). Indeed, one woman states to you in regards to history: “We all know the stories of and feel on our skin … the famine during World War II and the times when we had no private businesses or even our own land” (p. 238). I am reminded here of Noelle Mole’s 2008 American Ethnologist article, “Living it on the Skin: Italian states, working illness” which also examines the embodied responses to neoliberal changes, though in Italy instead of Greece. Can you speak more about how individuals embody and experience austerity through food?

DM: Hunger is part of daily discourse at the moment in western Thessaly and there are numerous paths through which people embody moments of the past that relate to food – personal experience, intergenerational narratives, and nationalized accounts. And you only have to take a look at the extensive work of fellow anthropologist David Sutton to see the inextricable link between food and sensory memory in Greece. Michael Herzfeld, in The Poetics of Manhood, offers a nice example when he explains how Cretan shepherds employ the notion of hunger to justify stealing livestock. His interlocutors insist that they were hungry under Turkish rule and then again under the German occupation, so they had to steal to fend off starvation (even though they stole flocks from other Cretans and not the enemy). So hunger is an idiom through which to express disenfranchisement and oppression. However, hunger is also now a reality for the poorest sections of Greek society and this has caused fear and anxiety about food provision to spread. Some of my research participants have accounts of seeing people rummage through garbage bins looking for scraps of food (often linked to similar scenes recalled about the 1940s Great Famine) and homeless people chasing wild ducks on the river in the center of Trikala, presumably to cook and eat them. Also, as I discuss in my book, the fear of hunger is not helped by things like the regular haulage strikes that mean that supermarkets in the Greek periphery sometimes do not receive deliveries for days on end. Recent years have also seen periods of no gasoline deliveries, when many people were getting around town on their bicycles, resembling scenes from the 1960s, I am told. In austerity Greece there has been an increase in the hoarding of food in giant home freezers and a return to growing as many fruits and vegetables as possible in your own garden. There are many disturbing accounts of the disintegration of social and family networks that center on food, as I discuss in my published works. Narratives of the insufficiency of kin networks in providing for crisis-stricken households are widespread. One can look at the food distribution centers set up by the Golden Dawn neo-Nazi party and also by NGOs, or take the now famous “potato movement” that I mention in the AE article as starting points to analyse how individuals embody and experience austerity through food. A common denominator is that people feel the weight of history and the weight of responsibility to the family and the suffocating austerity measures are intensifying these feelings.

DD: During the uprisings in Northern Africa and the Middle East in the last decade, social media has been a key outlet for individuals not only to organize but also to satirize and criticize their governments. You briefly discuss social media in your article. Perhaps you could expand a bit more on the role it plays in extending the reach of the slogans you analyze?

DM: Regular use of the Internet is most prevalent among the youth. Social media has played a significant role in the dissemination of antiausterity slogans; some slogans even have their own Facebook and Twitter accounts! I understand that social media has been influential in organizing street protests in the urban centers and I suppose the circulation of slogans is another form of organized protest. The number of slogans, ironic sayings and satirical anecdotes one comes across on the Internet is phenomenal and the few I have selected for my AE paper are some of the local favorites and they focus on very particular themes. I think it is also important to highlight the influence of YouTube in disseminating political satire beyond the borders of Greece. Greek diaspora communities in North America, Australia, and the United Kingdom all seem to be talking about the same shows and repeating the same slogans – the cucumber slogan I discuss has appeared on street walls in Melbourne, Australia, for example. There is usually some witty banter, intelligent observations, and heated argument going on in the text comments under these YouTube videos as well. And I enjoy nothing more than settling down of an evening at home in Scotland and watching the most recent episode of Radio Arvila or Al Tsantiri News, probably the two most prominent shows currently on Greek television. Social media has also played a significant role in communicating a range of protest forms between Greeks and people in other southern European nations suffering from austerity, especially in Portugal and Spain. It seems that similar slogans are becoming popular throughout the austerity-plagued nations.

DD: These ironic deployments of slogans and graffiti are far from a laughing matter. As you point out, many Greek individuals can “no longer afford to heat their homes, pay for vital medication, or, in extreme cases, provide sufficient food for their families” (p. 231). And so we witness a humanitarian crisis in the cradle of European “civilization.” Do you think the extent of this crisis has been downplayed in European and international media? If so, why?

DM: European media reporting on the Greek crisis is so Atheno-centric, showing mostly violent protests, immigration problems and the odd case of political corruption. The media portrayal of the crisis offers almost no view from the periphery and little focus on “humanitarian” issues. It is all big politics, global economics and cultural stereotyping. But, in March 2015 even the European Union was forced to admit there was a serious humanitarian crisis in Greece, making 2 billion euros available for humanitarian needs. European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said “Humanitarian crisis it has been called and it is indeed a humanitarian crisis,” to which Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras replied, “It was recognized that there is a humanitarian crisis in our country and that there must be a common effort against it – because it was not the result of some natural catastrophe.” Something Tsipras promised in his election campaign was food, shelter and free energy to the poorest citizens to try to stem Greece’s humanitarian crisis. But generally the humanitarian aspect of the crisis has been overlooked by the international media. For example, the issue of energy poverty and the ability to heat the home is extremely important but is virtually unknown outside of Greece, and then only among a small team of academic researchers. My two interdisciplinary post-doctoral projects to date, at the London School of Economics and Durham University, have focused on renewable energy initiatives, and how austerity has affected people’s ability to heat their homes. My projects investigate the EU-backed solar parks on the Plain of Thessaly as new forms of extractive economies, revealing local fears about neo-colonialism, historical issues of land ownership, and the environmental consequences of alternative energy solutions. I also delve into the temporal paradoxes of having “futuristic,” “ultra-modern,” “European approved,” “high-tech,” “clean and green” photovoltaic panels on farmland while the landowners turn to what they refer to as “archaic,” “pre-modern,” “pre-European,” “unsustainable” energy solutions to heat their homes. I have published an article on how the Greek economic crisis has become a trope employed in other European nations to cause anxiety about possible futures and to justify controversial spending reviews . For example, fuelled by the imagery of rioting on the streets of Athens, screened live on numerous news channels, during the 2010 UK general election headlines focused on how “Britain is facing its own Greek tragedy” while opposition parties suggested parallels between the Greek situation and the potential fate of Britain. The Conservative Party that won that election then emphasised how they alone were stopping Britain from sliding toward a Greek-style economic crisis. One week before the election, Vince Cable, then treasury spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, continued the politics of fear by warning that the country risked following Greece into crisis unless there was a change of government. Meanwhile, a leading unionist (Bob Crow) stated, “If you want a snapshot of what we are facing take a look at what’s happening in Athens today. Junk status, key services ripped to shreds and workers on the streets. Greece today—UK after May 6” [the date of the 2010 general election], quoted in The Guardian, 28 April 2010. In the election aftermath the victorious Conservative Party then used the Greek crisis as a justification for drastic UK spending cuts – amounting to some £81 billion over four years – saying that dramatic cuts and years of fiscal austerity were necessary in order to save Britain from “the Greek alternative.” So you see that the stereotypes of the Greek crisis have proven very useful when employed in some other European nations to pass unpopular spending reviews and extend fiscal austerity.

DD: To come full circle to the opening question of today’s SYRIZA talks, how have ironic slogans shifted along with political changes at the top?

DM: When it comes to shifts in ironic slogans and the targets of satire, well, it was like flicking a switch. Tsipras and Varoufakis have proven to be extremely rich, new sources for satire and parody. For example, in one scenario, Yanis (spelt with one n, not the usual two – this is important as it emphasizes his rebellious side) Varoufakis, and Christine Lagarde (the Managing Director of the IMF) are romantically involved and she just cannot resist his stylish scarf collection. Both Tsipras and Varoufakis are caricatured for their “cool” fashion sense, laid-back public personas, and Tsipras’s problems with the English language, while Zoi Konstantopoulou, the speaker of the Hellenic Parliament, is portrayed as a power-crazed dominatrix. SYRIZA is also ridiculed for its perceived links to Putin’s Russia. However, this is not to say that the other parties have escaped the satirical eye in post-election Greece. Giorgos Papandreou, who was prime minister from 2009 to 2011, is still a source of popular ridicule, while we are regularly reminded of Antonis Samaras’s subservience and unhealthy preoccupation with free Wi-Fi! Samaras is also ironically chastised as the voodoo-maker doing everything in his power to make the SYRIZA government fail so he can dance on their grave and return to power. But generally media satire has shifted focus to SYRIZA for the time being, while the most popular slogans still target Troika and Germany and reference meaningful moments of Greek history. One leading Greek satirist, in reply to an email complaining that he was baselessly attacking the new government, summed up much of what my AE article is about and the role of irony and satire in austerity Greece. I paraphrase him here: > The thinking person should pause for reflection. There is no such thing as apolitical satire, there cannot be a satirical program that praises the people who currently govern, that says, “let’s give them a round of applause and go to the commercial break.” All those years that we were satirizing PASOK and New Democracy (the parties that governed Greece since 1974), where were you my friend? My fellow citizen, where were you, what were you watching exactly? Understand that unfortunately that is who we (the satirists) are. Forgive us, but even if it was our own mother in government – who, by the way, would do a seriously better job – we would satirize her too. As I said before, people who have critical minds, people who are not sheep--regardless of political persuasion--can appreciate the power of mockery, spoofing, ridicule.