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These Young Greeks Don't Think the Bailout Referendum Will Change Anything

"I don't think it'll change anything, but at the same time, enough is enough. Voting no is a matter of dignity. It's a way of hitting back."

by Demosthenis Christopoulos, Photos: Dimitris Michalakis
05 July 2015, 11:00am

A demonstrator at a "no" rally in Athens earlier this week (Photo by Panagiotis Maidis)

This article originally appeared on VICE Greece

Since news of a bailout referendum broke last Saturday morning, things have been more than a little tense in Greece.

Over the last week, "yes" and "no" have been the two most-discussed words in the country, with Greeks of all ages debating what each might mean for the country. While some folks are taking to the streets to actively demonstrate for one or the other, there seems to be a suspicion among some that, regardless of the outcome, very little will actually change post-vote, with the country remaining in just as dire a situation.

We spoke to a couple of Greek girls who hold that exact opinion.

Elina, 22-years-old, Studying Linguistics

I met Elina close to where her and her father live in Athens. Their apartment – near the famous Acropolis – may be situated in one of the most beautiful neighbourhoods in the city, but she assures me that the fact they live there is purely coincidental. "People think that if you live here you have no problems, but it isn't true. We just happen to live in a nice area. Just like other kids my age, I belong to a generation of potentially unemployed," Elina said as we walked towards her house.

VICE: How do you think things are going to play out from Monday onwards? What's going to happen after the referendum?
Elina: I don't think it'll change anything. At least, not immediately. I don't think there'll be any tremendous changes come Monday. In general, I'm quite optimistic for the future. I don't know what I'm basing that on, but I need to be. I'm not going to sit here and make myself sick with worry; I need to stay positive.

Do you think that one of the choices in the referendum is better than the other?
I'm not sure which of the two is the right choice. I don't even know if there is a right choice.

Does that mean you aren't going to vote?
Well, I probably shouldn't vote if I don't think it'll change anything, but for some reason I'm leaning towards voting no. I can't really explain why I'm going to, though. Even people who are well informed are having difficulty explaining why they're voting one way or the other. For some reason, I think no is the best choice.

But if you don't think it'll change anything, why vote no?
Because I'm bored of bowing down and accepting everything that Europe says. People who have far more responsibility than I have can't keep on bowing either. If a no vote actually brings about the things they're warning us about on TV, then we're in for a very bad time. But both options are a mess.

So your choice is egotistical?
Yeah. I'm pretty sure that Europe isn't going to turn around say: "Oh, OK guys. We were too hard on you, but you seem to want it really badly so we'll leave you in peace." But this can't just go on. We signed our first memorandum because we were told that it would help us avoid all of these exact things that have eventually happened.

What's the solution, then? Is there a third choice?
I don't know. I don't know how to talk about politics and economics. I don't think anyone does, for that matter. Everyone has their opinion, but nobody actually knows what's best. I don't know if a third option exists. The ideal solution would be if our debts were cancelled, I guess. If only I could just show up at the houses of these European politicians and just scare them into writing off our debts. But that's probably about as realistic as the referendum having some sort of positive outcome.

Anastasia, 22-years-old, Employee at a clothing company

Anastasia returned to Greece a year ago after finishing her studies in England. Currently, she's working part-time at a clothing store. Her and her boyfriend just rented an apartment in Athens. They happened to find out about the referendum as they were moving into their new place.

VICE: How do you think things are going to be from Monday on?
Anastasia: I try not to let it scare me. I think that, no matter what, things will be bad for a long time. I don't think a "future" exists – at least, not in the conventional sense of the word. To find a good job, you basically have to turn up and work for free. That's how it was before the referendum and that's how it'll be afterwards, too.

So you aren't going to vote on Sunday?
I'm going to vote. I've already decided to vote no.

But why vote if you don't think it'll change anything?
I don't think it'll change anything, but at the same time, enough is enough. I think that voting no is a matter of dignity. It's a way of hitting back.

With everything that's going on in Greece, do you miss living abroad?
No. The economy is better abroad, but I don't miss living over there. In England, where I lived, they're just using Thatcher's political ideas. That's the reason I wanted to leave and come to Greece. Socially, life is different here: there's solidarity among us – we haven't become so individualised.

Do you think you'll consider leaving again if you can't make it in Greece?
I've been thinking about it, but I want to avoid that. It seems strange to leave purely for economic reasons. The entire situation affects me a lot, but I don't want to move again. I'd be leaving so much behind me. I'd prefer to stay and fight.

If you think that neither yes nor no will change much, what do you think could? Is there an ideal situation?
Overall, I think we should get out of the European Union. But I've always thought that. The European Union represents a lifestyle that isn't for the Greeks. I'm not sure if it's the best time to do it right now, though. I think the country needs to change some things before we leave.

Thanks, Anastasia.