Greeks smashing windows and setting fire to shops and banks in a fury of opposition to yet more austerity is gripping. But it is hardly unique. A few years ago there were similar scenes for weeks after police shot a 15-year old schoolboy. And back when I lived there, U.S. President Bill Clinton was treated to a similar welcome — mainly because of his military assault on Serbia (a fellow Christian Orthodox nation) during the Kosovo conflict.
There are doubtless degrees. The latest level of destruction was the worst since widespread riots in 2008 — and austerity being imposed on Greeks is very painful. But it is worth noting that there are two underlying elements than make such uprisings more common in Greece than elsewhere.
It seems as if almost everyone was surprised by Prime Minister George Papandreou‘s decision to hold a referendum on the euro zone’s bailout package for his country. At the very least, it can probably be said that he is weary of being hammered from all sides — his own party, the opposition, the people on the street, Germany, the tabloid press, you name it.
A lot will obviously depend on what question is asked. Do you want an end to austerity, would get a clear yes vote. Do you want to leave the euro zone — perhaps not.