Review by Martha Warren

Electric Sarcasm is an elegy faithful to the Greek root of the word; a lament for Greece, a country so important for its ancient ruins, facing financial ruin. Dimitra Ioannou describes how it started:

“I used to eat credit card food, the milk of agreements. Give me some. Give me more than that. We can all become masters of distraction.”

What did cheap money and credit mean? 

“Meaning, brimming with receipts, and disproportional gifts… Meaning, the bubbly.”

There is a distinctive language to international agreements, to economics, and to politics. Ioannou examines the roots of meaning. She spells the word language with a Λ λ, language, to give meaning to words like tax and debt. What did these words mean to Greece? They meant debt. Ioannou writes:

“By 2015, I would shout OXI along with 61,30 percent of voters. For many that anti-austerity vote would have entailed some kind of independence or a strategy of survival For others it was rather an attempt to give debt a language.”

They also meant punitive taxation for the bailout as a member of the European Union:

“Tax me at the Golden gate to Europe

While I link up to the whole, the whole model.”

​It was the human cost of the bailout that was so horrifying. I remember the newspaper headlines about parents not picking up their children from daycare because they couldn’t afford to feed them. How Athenians would cross the city, so as not to beg on a street corner in their own neighbourhoods. The suicides.The true meaning of the bailout terms is shown by the ravages of austerity measures. 

​And while the Troika – the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund – calculated repayments that would require an economic miracle, the whole episode smacked of colonialism and unfairness in thatEuropean banks had been complicit in allowing Greece to become so wildly overextended. Ioannou calls them the “rulers… verbal machine.”

Only time will tell whether this elegy will also have been for the ideal of a united Europe. The human cost of the bailout will go down in history as one of the European Union’s greatest failures of regulation, cooperation, and democracy.

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