Top Greek cartoonist and all round good egg Michael Kountouris kindly agreed to write a short series of blog articles (translated by his wife, Athena) for www.procartoonists.org (@procartoonists) about the situation in his country following the economic crisis. His moving illustrated accounts can be seen here and here.
Michael is a sensitive, passionate observer of the situation enveloping his country and he writes movingly of the reality of the situation which is all too often presented in the UK media as just another bunch of lazy southern Europeans who can’t balance a budget; like he says “The saddest thing is that we also discover that our country has been vilified all over the world.” Kountouris is one of the very best political cartoonists in Europe; he uses metaphor with the ease of a poet and has a pocketful of international prizes to prove it, although that must be little comfort right now.
Michael writes “Greeks are facing a daily attack on their incomes, their rights, their freedom, hope, culture, their dignity and honour.” What he doesn’t mention is that he lost his job at a prestigious Greek newspaper last year because of the austerity cuts. That’s in-yer-face reality. In terms of impact in the newspaper, it is like The Times pensioning off Peter Brookes or The Guardian axing Steve Bell because such off-message comment is seen to be a luxury in straitened times; a convenient excuse for newspapers owned – as Michael points out – by “big companies, building contractors and ship-owners” who don’t serve the people’s interests.