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Fire and brimstone

Nikos Fotakis' big fat Greek week of news

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Photo: AAP via AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris

18 August 2017

Forty-nine bushfires within 24 hours, from Wednesday morning to Thursday morning.

This might be a world record of some sort, even for a country which is used to the destruction of its natural beauty.

At least, they are all contained, for now. At the time of writing, most of the bushfires were under control, even the one in Kefalonia. The ones in North-eastern Attica, Zakinthos, and Ilia, were practically put out, after having devastated large areas.

And become an excuse for another round of Greece's favourite pastime: the blame game.

It helped of course, that most of the country's political personnel, from the prime minister to the minister of citizen protection to the regional governors were reduced to the role of bystanders.

We're used to it, by now. Every year, it's the same thing. Greek forests are burning. No measures of protection have been taken. No additional firefighters have been hired. No funds have been allocated. One government after another is proved to be inept to deal with the most predictable danger of the Greek summer.

What they do is blame others:

The lenders for not letting them properly fund protection.

The winds for spreading fire.

The pine trees for being flammable.

Of course pine trees are flammable - everybody knows that. In fact, burning down is part of the pine tree's DNA, yet Greece has been planting them even in areas where there were no pine trees in the first place.

And of course, Greek people have continued to be negligent in fire-prone areas.

And of course, there are still areas not included in planning - and illegal building is yet another national pastime.

And arsonists are always around to ease the transition from forest area to developmental area.

One of them was arrested this week. The police arrested a 63-year-old man and charged him for arson, finding him in possession of eleven lighters and other flammable materials. His line of defence is that he's a devout Christian in the habit of lighting up.

If we only had a dollar for every Christian willing to light up a forest in exchange for money.

We could match the fortune we made betting that Greek politicians would speculate over land burned down.

With the bushfires still burning, political opponents of the SYRIZA government have been quick to foresee the end of Tsipras, due to the extent of the damage.

They might be right - if Greece was another country, that is.

Because ten years ago, the western Peloponese all but burned down, in what is still the most devastating event of bushfires in current times.

At the time, the minister in charge, blamed the almighty 'general wind'.

A few months later, elections were held, in which the Karamanlis government reaffirmed its prevalence.

So anyone counting on the fires as a factor that would end Tsipras' reign, should not hold their breaths.

Here's a prediction. Nothing will happen.

Even if they fail to take measures to prevent flooding, something that should happen within a month before the rain season begins.

Everything is business as usual.

Greece was not the only country where fires were lit. The US city of Charlottesville was lit up by torchbearing White Supremacists - i.e. Nazis, in what was the most alarming, shameful incident of the far right making a statement in the country.

The event was covered by Vice media, which produced a report for Viceland, which was broadcast by SBS. In it, one of the organisers of the violent protests said on camera, that they were "primarily following the european example of Golden Dawn".

So yes, Greece is finally exporting something: Nazi thug know-how.

Fire suddenly seems like a kind of redemption.

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