shameful 05 Nov 2015 09:14 am
Facebook post from 5 November 2015 09:14
I got into a slight spat last night with a Greek state official here on Facebook. He is something like an Ombudsman for business owners – It began with his comment about an incovenience with runners closing streets down while marathons and half marathons are bing run – I responded that there were more serious problems he could tackle. Like drug dealing – after a few comments he called me “Narcophobic” – This is my response: (It’s a true story, it happened yesterday)
Vasilis Sotiropoulos: ???? ????? ????????????. ? ????????? ??? ????? ????. [You’re simply narcophobic, policing drug use is not the solution]
Stavros Messinis: Vassili, With respect, I’m sorry but you’re appearing as if you too are out of touch with reality.?’m as progressive as you my friend, probably more but I cannot not be narcophobic. I work in and around the results of narcotics every day. Being narcophilic just doesn’t fit in my mind given that at least 1 person per day dies in this city from an overdose or narcotics related fatigue or organ failure. Today, was a terrible day for me. I lost control of my emotions on the square. Walking through it I noticed man in a wheelchair. I thought he looked familiar but I was too far away to be sure. I squinted as I approached and suddenly realised it was Spyros, an addict I knew. Spyros is an addict who six months ago had asked me to help as I walked past. “Sir”, he said, “I was unconscious last night and someone stole my shoes, look, I have no shoes and it’s cold. Do you have some shoes to give me? ” I went to the Cube and took a pair of shoes I had there and gave them to him. He was so grateful and we got talking about his situation, how he had started using and all of his failed attempts to escape the illness and his need for heroin. We talked about the things this drug will make you do about how it controls you and how it keeps you warm in the winter. We talked about the levels you will decay into if you get hooked on it, about the day he was diagnosed HIV positive and how each day is a struggle, about how he doesn’t care about taking his medication because his only mission every day is to beg for as much money as he can so he can buy his dose as often as he can. We talked about how his illnesses have led to cancerous growths in his coccix but that the pain is “manageable with heroin”. Vassili, yesterday I lost control of my emotions because I saw Spyro. Spyro was a shadow of his previous self. At least 25 kg lighter, a weak skeleton with darkened eyes sunken into his skull. He was in a wheelchair. At deaths door. I have seen this death so many times. I estimate he has less than two weeks to live. I asked, astounded “?? ?????? ????!! ?? ?????!” [What happened to you? We lost you!”] – “????????? ? ???????? ???? ?????????? ?????” [The cancer progressed to my Spine] he said with around 5 other addicts around him. I asked him full of emotion “Please! Please tell your friends here what will happen to them – show them their future in yourself if they do not stop – Why must this happen, Why!” At that point I completely lost it and started sobbing like a child at the injustice. I cried for this poor man. I ran away crying. He shouted as I ran “??? ????? ?????? ??? ?????” [Don’t cry father, don’t cry] – I walked from Kannigos to Iera Odos and back before I could return to normal function. Im crying now as I write this. I mourned his looming death and I cried for my part in it and your part in it. I cried for the injustice. For allowing the dealers to do this to him. All I did was give him shoes and offer some comfort through conversation with the hope that he might pick himself up and do what needed to be done. I can do more. Can you? Vassili, Your comment that I am narcophobic is blatantly innapropriate. You are out of touch my friend. ? ????????? ??? ?????? ??? ????? ???? [The policing of drug use isnt a solution], I agree. ???? ??? ??? ?????? ??? ????????? ??? ???????? [but here, not even dealing is being policed].??? ?? ?????? ??? ????? ??? ??? ???? ????????. ??? ?? ???????? ?? ???? ??????? ??? ???? ??????????????? ??? ?????????????? ??? ????? ??????? ?? ???????????. [ Come visit here and in the Academy, come talk to the addicts, the shopkeepers and business owners you have a duty to represent]
[Below is a text of a letter I wrote to the Mayor of Athens in August 2015 about the rising drug problem in our area]
Dear Mayor Kaminis,
I own and run The Cube, Athens’ largest coworking space and tech startup cluster based near Kannigos square. It is home to some of Greece’s best web and tech entrepreneurs, people who are building globally impactful businesses. It is the defacto location for many of Athens’ tech meetups – daily , weekly and monthly group meetings of people with common interest in various technologies, tools and methods. Together, we are some of Greece’s most impactful changemakers.
Unfortunately, life in this part of the city has once again become untenable and I can no longer expend energy trying to convince the authorities that they need to do the commonsensible. I am tired of calling officials to complain about the lack of policing, the lack of cleanliness, the lack of adequate lighting – more seriously, the blatant surrender of the streets we have the unlucky fate to be in, to drug dealers, prostitutes and vagrants.
We have an ever present gang of drug dealers peddling their poison less than 50m from our entrance. Drug use on our street is significant. Addicts are constantly spiking themselves right outside our door, leaving their used needles, spraying blood on our pavement, sometimes passing out for hours on our street, very often fights break out and there is a general feeling of an unsafe neighborhood. The Police seem unable to take control of the situation, their patrols are minimal and they almost never arrest anyone. If they do, the same dealers are out on the street again within hours.
This is not a proud moment for me as I am writing to tell you about our combined failure. I am writing to inform you that due to this combined failure, it is my intent to move our business and all of our tenants out of central Athens at the first opportunity.
Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly difficult to convince some of Greece’s most talented entrepreneurs to come and work here, in The Cube, a place that has been recognised as one of the most positive things that has happened in this country in recent years.
It is regretful but our talented clients and coworkers refuse to co-exist with the vagrants that have embedded themselves here.
Unfortunately, the negatives outweigh the positives.
I suppose one could argue that it is actually we who embedded ourselves in their territory, but I had hoped that with us moving to this troubled part of the city, that we might instigate some change and some level of care from the authorities. None has emerged, despite our efforts.
Why on earth did I choose to come here you ask? Well, I was inspired by an initiative in Lisbon, where another entrepreneur like me did the same. His story and the success delivered to his neighborhood is something that should be replicated in many parts of the world.
In creating The Cube, my second coworking initiative after founding coLab – Greece’s first (and quite famous) coworking space, I specifically wanted to go to an under-served part of town and do some good. I wanted to create an initiative that would help uplift one of the many areas that have significant challenges and are undergoing urban decay. Kannigos square was once full of life. By the time we arrived, two and a half years ago, it had descended into a no-mans land of drugs, prostitution and petty crime. The opportunity to do good had appeared. We found a fantastic building – Seven times larger than our previous location – a building that once was home to a stockbrokers, one of Greece’s biggest – but they unfortunately decided to depart after an attack by anarchists. I’m not worried about anarchists. Startups are kind of anarchists by nature too. I was more worried about the drugs and the needles. My co-investor was especially nervous about my choice for this building, as were many of the members of Athens’ startup community, but I convinced him, as I did them, that new things need to be built on the ruins of bad things and if we came here, we would give life to the neighborhood. This very large building was empty for 4 years which of course means that the city received no city taxes during that period. We came and brought life to the building and to our small street. It had become dark and lifeless. The Cube, as a working concern, currently pays very significant city taxes. I feel we get very little value in return.
In the past few days, while we were away, our tenants tell us that the situation had become extreme. We returned to find chaos in and around our office building entrance. It had become a drug den. We returned and immediately began cleaning the urine and fecal matter from HIV and Hepatitis infected addicts literally in the entrance of our office. The drug pushers stood a few meters away while we did this.They had even been so kind as to leave a small shovel for use of their customers when, in a drug induced bout of diarrhea when have the urge to relieve themselves of their infectious waste, they can use the shovel to move their fecal matter into the surrounding bushes.
Over the past two years, I have personally called the Police, the Narcotics bureau, the Ministry of Public order, several city Councillors and deputy Mayors and finally your office uncountable times. Yet, this same gang of four or five Ghanaian or Nigerian drug pushers continue to work the streets surrounding The Cube day in and day out – right under the nose of the authorities who simply raise their hands and pass the buck from one official to the next official. Your office tells me your hands are tied. I respond saying your hands are raised.
I called again and visited Omonia police station after being threatened by the drug dealers yesterday. Today, I was threatened by the addicts themselves – I was chased all the way to Omonia, manhandled and had my phone removed while they deleted photographs I had taken of the decay in Kannigos square to show to the authorities.
Enough is enough Mr Mayor. I explained to one of your aides today that my job here is to provide good working conditions to my members. I have failed them and I feel the city has failed me.
Your job, Mr Mayor, is to make the city attractive for businesses and provide the conditions (in collaboration with the other authorities) for our citizens to want to work here and for entrepreneurs to want to invest here. All parts of the city require your attention. I’d say that you might consider giving the more troubled parts, and especially those parts with the potential for improvement, with high impact individuals, as I have described above, more attention. We chose to come to this part of the city because it was at a good price and we could do something to uplift it. Without your help and support, we have no reason to remain. We are losing customers and without customers we cannot remain. Our customers are asking us to move.
I consider myself an ambassador for our city’s entrepreneurial ecosystem when I travel to speak abroad on entrepreneurship and business – I’m afraid I’m finding it difficult to represent this city given the current situation.
Today, while talking, at your office with one of your aides, I asked to see you so that I can explain this to you in person. I don’t really need to see you to complain. I have complained enough here already and I have complained to you in person before, and while I have often been accused of complaining by various authorities, including city officials, I must say it is simply because I’m very invested in this city.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Founder – The Cube Athens
/cc Minister of Citizens Protection – Mr Yiannis Panousis
shameful 30 Mar 2009 01:37 am
The number of example cases are growing, Faliron, Goudi, Villa Zographou and more. Cases of ordinary citizens taking matters into their own hands when local government has failed them.
The latest of these has been the Info Cafe campaign running at Gardenia Square in Zographou where ordinary citizens took back a large space once used as a coffee shop. Apparently the previous tenant had not paid rent to the council for several years and has left a bill of several hundred thousand euros.
Local residents have since occupied the space and have turned it into a self run “Community run cultural centre”. The city council is against them of course since they just want to find another tenant who might (or might not) pay rent. It’s a funny place, Greece. Nevertheless, the group of organisers involved here are getting things right, arranging several cool events, using the internet to announce, co-ordinate and organise more generally. Take a look at their google calendar here.
Today, while walking through Exarcheia, one of Athens’ more run down districts, I came across another citizen run action I had heard about. There is a plot of land off Navarinou str that was destined to be made a parking lot but through pressure and action of local citizens, the space has been taken back and is slowly being turned into a park. Don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s the city council doing the conversion: No, it’s the citizens. Today I witnessed guerrilla gardening at its best, ordinary people, fed up with urbanisation, planting trees and shrubs in the center of Athens. The day had street theater, childrens activities and more. Here’s a few pictures from there today (I didn’t take too many since Exarcheia is a risky place to take pix)
Now while on the subject of citizen action, another place that is in dire need of such activity is the Athens City Council’s Library at Agios Thomas square. The place has been closed for over two years and has at various stages been under threat of being turned into a cafeteria. I’d love to see citizens of the area take over the place and run it like the ex Info Cafe in Zographou. The place was recently broken into again and is in a truly sorry state. Take a look at the pix and judge for yourself.
The Athens anti-racism festival is happening right now and it’s being held in Goudi park, right across the street from where we live. Some of you may already know I’m involved in campaigning against commercial developments in Goudi Park and as such we were offered a booth and projection screen at the festival. First off, I was amazed at how many booths there were. It’s unbelievable how many people have a cause they’re passionate about. There must have been hundreds of booths. So many causes.
Image by brettwayn via FlickrOne booth I’d like to mention is the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) booth. For those who don’t know about the OLPC, in a nutshell, Nicholas Negroponte founded and leads a group of people that design and produce a cheap to make laptop.
While chatting to the guys there, I was struck by what I was told. This very noble project is in real danger, it’s being hijacked by commercial interests that support the Windows/Intel platform. Clearly, giving billions of poor kids a linux based PC is a real threat to Wintel so wintel is deliberately sabotaging development of distributed production and distribution of the OLPC.
Now I don’t want to misunderstood, what I’m getting at here is not about the hardware. Frankly if wintel can produce a cheaper box then let them be the winner, let them produce and distribute the the millions of PC’s necessary to bridge the digital divide and educate and empower the world. The software used is OLPC is based on open source software whereas Wintel is not. What you do when you give someone a closed source vs an open source software solution is you limit their options. You limit their opportunity to be creative. You say “let them be creative as long as they’re creative on windows.”
I say coincidentally because, I went by their offices today and complained about their site not being available for the past year or so. I’ve recently moved to Zografou and have often needed to talk to someone at the council for various things. Naturally, being a geek, I would look to their website to provide a telephone number but there has not been a website live for over a year.
So, today I went to the council offices to make an inquiry about something and right near the entrance I notice a sign pointing to the I.T. Dept. Naturally, I walk in. “Could you kindly tell me what the council website address is please”, I ask. I notice some bare stares from the three geeks in the room. One brave soul comes up for air from his session of bejeweled and says “Oh I think it’s www.zografou.gr” seeking confirmation from his cohorts. I respond like any unknowing citizen would. “Are you sure, because I don’t think it is. Could you show me?”
More blank stares, then a hint of terror. They now know I know there is no site at that address but he perseveres, fingers to the keyboard – DNS error. Not Found.
“See, thats what I get too” I say innocently. Another geek comes up for air. Google to the rescue. A couple of seconds later he calls out, “Found it!”
“Oh good I say”, what’s the address. “184.108.40.206” – before I can say anything the third geek jumps in. “We need to make that address known !!”
“No,” I say, “You need to fix the Nameserver entry to point to your domain”, Cat’s out the bag. They realise I’m a geek too.
The traditional “We’re not responsible for the site, we’re only temporary, I’m only on Stage (work experience) employment” conversation ensues to which I respond. “You’re geeks like me and even if it has been given to a contractor, a bad or non-existent website is a bad representation of you as geeks. So fix it or call someone to fix it.” You’ll have to talk to our manager, she’s not here now but we can give you the name of the person in charge of the contract.”
I go about the rest of my business and a few minutes later, I’m back in their offices, the manager has returned. She’s been told about my little complaint and immediately tells me to take my complaint to the mayor’s office. “Superb!! I’ll see the mayor, I have some other things to tell him too.” I say and off to the mayors office I go.
The mayor was busy. But I made my point and coincidentally, the site is live. Literally 2 hours later. It looks like it was built by Atcom They’re a great company – It’s a good site. I like it. I just hope they feed it before it dies.
shameful 28 Aug 2007 09:39 pm
Protest demonstration, Wednesday August 29, 19:00, Syntagma square, and on every central square all over the country. Wearing black.
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shameful 28 Aug 2007 08:55 pm
Fires rage across southern Greece, klling 60+ and we find ourselves consuming the ultimate reality show, a gory game show where the score is measured in lives lost and acres burnt. Three days later and not much besides the mercy of the winds have changed. Cries of terrorism, Greece’s Sept11, Greek flags on TV screen top left corners. Then, more Bushisms, PM Karamanlis , standing in front of a Canadair firefighting plane, borrows some tactics from Bush, speaking to troops and firefighters, “the coalition of the willing”, Firefighters coming from across the EU, Russia and others. One thing missing : The “mission accomplished” sign abve his head. I ask myself what the mission is, helping those poor people or getting re-elected. I’m confused but will not allow myself to be terrorised. Not again.
16 days to Elections: Watch the circus.
shameful 14 Jun 2007 12:23 am
I am the customer. I have chosen you as my preffered supplier or partner so now you owe me, you owe me big. It is your job to give me what I need and keep me coming back for more.
You now have theÂ responsibility to provide me with the best possible solution in the fastest possible time at the best possible price. You now owe me this commitment and if you are, as you claim to be, the best provider of this service, you will pay me what you owe me. I will owe you after you satisfy my need. I will pay you when I owe you.
I do not care for your internal problems, your miscommunications or your personal intrigues, your little competition. I do not care.
I do not want to be told about what cannot be done. Everything is possible given enough time and money. Take more time and you’ll get less money.
Satisfy me. Now.
I applied for CableTV on the 15th of March – given current rumors I can expect to be connected around 4 months from now. Any complaints are futile. The irony is that I’m posting from a shared wireless connection I’m on through Vivodi. Am I being selfish? Perhaps.
Let me counter with this. Vivodi charge me over Eu1/min when I call their customer support line. This is provided by a third party company. It may be Teleperformance but I stand corrected. They have absolutely no idea or intention to help me with any query. I foolishly wait over 15min on hold each time I call them only to be told the same thing time and time again: that they have no idea what the hold up is and when they expect to deliver the product I bought.
Rumor has it they are making a huge profit from their Customer Support lines at over Eu1/minute.
Now who is selfish.
[update 24 May 2007] Received a call from CS this evening informing me of a “slight delay” in my application and that Vivodi are doing everything in their power to resolve the problem. I replied with “Are you kidding me, it’s 60days or so since I applied – what do I need to do to cancel, Enough with you.”
shameful 25 Apr 2007 03:00 pm
Joseph writes:Abusive pricing is a function of what the market will bear. Take a look at pricing of 3G or GPRS access from mobile providers. Their pricing model has nothing to do with marking up the cost of the service. Traditional bandwidth has become a commodity, like it or not, it has. Cellular bandwidth has the mobility factor of course but the premium they charge for that mobility it is just outrageous. In this case it’s squarely a case of what the market will bear or what the perceived value is. Is it fair to expect a customer to pay more than 100 times the price per kilobyte because of mobility? I think not. Personally I try and use mobile internet access as damn little as possible. Not because I’m cheap but because it’s abusive.