Athens, we have a problem. Along with teetering on the edge of insolvency, potential donors to a "crowdfunding" campaign to raise money for Greece were met Tuesday with these words:
"The Greek Bailout Fund campaign page is experiencing some issues due to its astonishing popularity. It should be back up shortly. Follow us on Twitter and we'll let you know when it's back up."
You know it's not your day when Internet altruists eager to give you their money can't.
Not that those good intentions have been entirely foiled. The campaign, launched on crowdfunding site Indiegogo.com by 29-year-old marketing professional Thom Feeney of London, has raised more than 238,000 euros ($264,000) for what he calls a bailout fund for Greece. He wants to drum up contributions of 1.6 billion euros, which is roughly what the cash-strapped country owes to the International Monetary Fund by the close of business today to make good on a scheduled loan payment.
"All this dithering over Greece is getting boring," Feeney writes. "European ministers flexing their muscles and posturing over whether they can help the Greek people or not. Why don't we the people just sort it instead? The European Union is home to 503 million people -- if we all just chip in a few euro then we can get Greece sorted and hopefully get them back on track soon. Easy."
Not so easy, actually. Greece's debt crisis isn't only about the cash. It's also about politics, power and issues of national sovereignty, along with the inherent fiscal contradictions that has dogged the eurozone since the currency was born in 1999. One fly-in-the-ointment -- countries in the 19-member union don't have full control of their fiscal and monetary policies -- is now playing out in Greece, which barring an eleventh-hour deal will default tonight on its loans from international creditors.
To lend a hand in Greece's hour of need, Feeney is asking people to make donations in exchange for products that he says "would be sourced from Greece, made in Greece and sent from Greece." Give three euros and you'll get a postcard of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. A pledge of six euros buys a feta and olive salad, 10 euros wins a small bottle of Ouzo and 25 euros a bottle of Greek wine.
If the effort meets its fundraising goal, the money will go to the Greek people, although Feeney is leaving it to others to figure out how to complete the transaction. Donors are supposed to get their money back if the crowdbailout falls short.
But is the campaign a dose of that celebrated English irony, or merely a gesture of protest at Greece's unhappy fate? Not a bit, Feeney insists.
"I'm not just making a statement, this is a real attempt to do something," he writes. "But at the very least it's important to raise the issue of the plight of the Greek people at this time. Not just the profiles of [politicians]. We can help our Greek cousins by buying wonderful Greek produce such as feta, olives, wine and more. And maybe considering Greece as a holiday destination. That's part of the idea behind each of the perks on the crowdfunding page. Trade will help Greece and the Greek people out of their current situation."