In the midst of all the numbers and statistics and sophisticated analysis about the impact of the austerity measures, sometimes a story emerges that shows more fully the human impact of financial and political decisions. Because while the troika is back in Athens this week to discuss the next round of the “bailout” and the dreaded measures that will be required along with them, ordinary human beings try to go about their daily lives as best as they can. And there are times when such people are confronted with dilemmas which seem trivial in light of all the “big” stuff that is going on in the world but loom huge in a single moment of a single person. Do you keep your dignity, do you abide by social norms, do you provide for your kids? What if you were only allowed one of the three?
In some respects this is nothing more than the story of one man who was charged with a petty crime and had to show to court. It is also a story that should not have happened, if we lived in a world where people’s dignity and basic needs were at least as important as the continuing profits of global financial institutions.
From a greek website (my translation): Καταδίκη για τον πατέρα που έκλεψε μαρκαδόρους!
The unemployed father who shook the nation when he was arrested for stealing a cheap box of markers that his kid needed for school, was convicted by the court where he appeared without legal representation. Despite the embarrassment in which the judges of the Volos court felt, they were obliged to follow the “letter of the law,” since the financial supervisor of the department store, who did not show up in court, had pressed charges against the 46-year old man. He was, perhaps, the only one not moved when he caught the man putting the box of markers in his pocket and he explained his situation.
With tears in his eyes the admitted his act when he testified in court, pointing out that he was forced to steal because he didn’t have the money to buy the school supplies that his child needed. “When I was found out I wanted the earth to swallow me. I showed them my wallet where I had only 20 euros and they took it. I ask for forgiveness and I will never do it again” he told the judges. The judges sentenced him to 20 days in jail, suspended for three years, and 80 euros in court fees.