A month ago, Thom Feeney, a young Associate Community Manager from London, started a crowdfunding campaign to bail out Greece. His idea was a simple one: If every one of the more than 503 million EU citizens donated only a few euro each, then Greece’s debts could have been paid off. In Thom’s own words: ”European ministers flexing their muscles and posturing over whether they can help the Greek people of not. Why don’t we the people just sort it instead?”
His idea seemed to resonate with a lot of people – at the end of the campaign, the impressive amount of almost €2 million was raised by about 100,000 supporters. Before the campaign reached its deadline, several questions were raised – for example: if it was to be successful, who would have gotten the money? Did it actually make sense to ‘bail out’ Greece, or should this money rather be invested into local projects to benefit the Greek people directly? Is it actually realistic to try and raise €1.6 billion in 10 days? Maybe not – but was it actually about being realistic here? Or did this campaign aim to do something else?
No, it was not about being realistic; it was about making a point, showing solidarity. I am not an economist, but I think it is obvious that the current situation in Greece will, unfortunately, not be solved by just raising a huge sum of money to pay off the country’s debts. The situation in Greece is far more complex and, among other things, the result of years of mismanagement – on a national, but also European level – and even if the debts were paid off (or waived), sustainable political and economic reforms are needed to re-establish the country’s integrity and to help the Greek people who are affected by the crisis. Clearly, raising €1.6 billion alone cannot solve the country’s problems. Putting the campaign‘s failed attempt aside, , I think that it succeeded in highlighting several aspects of the current situation in Greece that go far beyond the usual, recurrent arguments of money and austerity and who is at fault. It was a remarkable initiative that raised our social awareness, solidarity and social responsibility and encouraged others to take action in times of crisis.
The issue of solidarity
This issue is at the heart of the campaign as it called on each and every one of us Europeans to support Greece and the Greek people in their hour of need, to show our solidarity. In his campaign description, Thom stressed that: “This isn’t just about Greece, but about the Greek people, the working classes and trying to help other ordinary people across the world. If governments, corporations or banks won’t help, what can we do but band together.“ He has a point: in my opinion, the whole debate about Greece has been overshadowed by accusations, heated debates about who owes whom what (even going so far as to suggest that Germany still owes Greece repayment of reparations from WWII), too much of a focus on the financial sides of the crisis, and the question whether Greece is too much of a financial burden for the EU – and should therefore just leave. Of course Greece is in desperate need of funds and there is no doubt that these financial issues have to be solved – but in the end, it comes down to the most vulnerable members of society, the Greek people of the middle and lower class, who are the most affected by the current economic crisis; young people who cannot find jobs; people who are ill, or old. People who have lost their jobs and their houses, and do not see a future for themselves. The crisis in Greece is not only a financial and economic crisis – it is, above all, a humanitarian crisis.
Through the crowdfunding-platform, a huge sense of solidarity was created – this can be seen in the comments that people who donated money posted on the platform:
“Thank you for raising this amazing campaign. I am willing to donate my money to those in need there in Greece.“
„This is the only ACTUAL help we are getting right now. Thank you and rest assured that I am definitely going to support any country’s bailout fund in the future. Crowd funding beats the hell out of the gd markets!
George – Athens“
“It’s time to show European solidarity, if our corrupt leaders are not willing to do so. Greetings from Germany, Tom“
Through this crowdfunding platform, people from different nationalities with a common goal came in (virtual) contact with each other, were able to share opinions and exchange ideas, and, above all, show their support and solidarity: “Ordinary Greek people need hope – and you know what, we can give them some.” (Thom Keeney)