I sent Yanis Varoufakis’s comments (see “Greece Is Finished”) to an old friend in Greece the other day, and asked her for her reaction. She writes, in part:
Varoufakis is describing the situation in a realistic way, since we don’t experience just a financial crisis, but a crisis of values and, yes, a big psychological depression. Many young Greeks might want to emigrate, either due to high unemployment rate or because they have never lived with less than they used to, during the past two decades.
This country’s economy is a black hole, any bailout loan simply vanishes as soon as it reaches Greece (if it ever reaches Greece).
My daughter is 17, and she will take exams to go to University next year. In the back of her mind is the bankruptcy. How could she possibly go to University if the country bankrupts (as if it isn’t already bankrupt!). And I am trying to give her the right incentives to do her best and fight for her future.
I am not going to tell you about homeless people, or people who are fed in soup kitchens, or about students fainting in the classrooms, because of malnutrition. One way or another, you’re already aware of all these. And I am not optimistic enough to believe that something will change or improve soon.
On the contrary, we’re going to live more and more difficult situations. Maybe because we deserve them. Besides, we are the ones who voted for parties that support the EU and the Eurozone, and all the austerity measures packages. We simply did not understand, yet, that we’re already bankrupt and the rest of the Eurozone is sick and tired with us.
A few days before the elections we were watching on the tv, people from Poland and elsewhere, who had lived the aftermath of a bankruptcy, and who were describing the situation in the darkest colors. Political games. On the other hand, pensioners had decided that smaller pensions are better than no pensions (that would happen if Syriza was elected, as they thought). And there is always the possibility of a war hanging above our heads, so what is the wiser thing to do? Vote for the ones that provide you with the illusion of a fragile stability, and watch your country as it falls apart, day by day.
To my point of view, the most frightening is that fascists and nazis are popular mostly among young people. The Golden Dawn is already in the Greek Parliament. Consider this, all the members of the parliament are having a Parliamentary Asylum, which means that they’re not prosecuted, no matter what crime they might commit. Some of the Golden Dawn’s elected guys, are already known as rapists and killers. For the moment, they beat up and torture immigrants, and recently they made a fresh start with leftists and anarchists too. Which might lead to a civil war (urban wars are alredy here -Golden Dawn has many suporters in Athens because its members “cleaned” the center of the city of immigrants using rather violent methods).
Well, I live in a country were people were indulged by money they never really had, but they spent in a wasteful way. It’s time we pay for this. But what makes us all mad, is that people who pay are not the ones who are responsible for this financial chaos.
I don’t know what exactly the future holds for us, or when something radical happens. I’ve learned to live the day and not plan the future. Our dreams are stolen. Our national sovereignty is sold out, according to the memorandums. Our national wealth will soon belong to our creditors. We sold out our precious belongings along with our dignity. What else can I say to make out national depression more clear?
It’s strange, but somehow hearing this from a familiar voice makes the things we read about in the newspapers far more real. I had not heard about students fainting from malnutrition. I had heard about the thugs of Golden Dawn, but I had not heard that their support was coming mostly from young people. This is what I meant when I blogged the other day about the lesson of Germany of the 1920s and 1930s: I don’t believe Greece is going to arm itself and invade its neighbors. I’m talking about what sustained material want and (probably more important) psychological despair does to a people. Radical suffering calls forth radical solutions — or, in the case of fascism or communism, pseud0-solutions.
I wonder if we are as far removed from all this in the US as we think. The reason I say that is because I started reading last night a book called “Pistols And Politics,” a history of 19th century politics and culture in the Florida Parishes of Louisiana, where I live. Just the first chapter was eye-opening to me. The author, historian Sam C. Hyde, talks about how the culture of the Florida Parishes was astonishingly violent, even by the standards of North America of the era.
Why? It had a lot to do with the particular culture of the region, especially the piney-woods parishes of the east. The place was full of settlers who had for whatever reason fled relatively well-governed territories, and made their stand in the Florida Parishes, which were poorly governed in part because they were shuttlecocked among European colonial powers. In the absence of effective government — again, a condition that some of the settlers preferred — the place became ever more anarchic, with disputes settled by deadly violence. Hyde writes of one man who dealt with a perceived insult to his wife by shooting the insulter dead. This, Hyde said, was commonly understood by the settlers to be justice; the failure to have done so would have brought terrible shame onto the killer’s family.
The absence of effective government and the resulting anarchy was a big part of the rationale behind the West Florida Rebellion of 1810, against the Spanish crown. Anyway, the reason I bring all this up in this context is simply to point out how reading the history of my own part of the US reveals to me how fairly recent, in historical terms, is the peace and good order that we residents alive today have always taken for granted. When my original ancestors migrated to the Florida Parishes in the 19th century, this was a far different, and far more dangerous, place. The achievements of stable government, especially stable self-government, are, it seems to me, radically underappreciated by many of us, myself included.
Imagine that the letter I received from my Greek friend had been written by an American. How stable do you think our country would be right now if such things could be said of conditions here? My father, a child of the Great Depression, said to me that one saving grace for his family and his neighbors was that they were all poor country people to begin with. Times were hard, but for his people, times were hard even when they were good, economically speaking. They didn’t have nearly as far to fall, economically and psychologically, so the shocks of the Great Depression didn’t crack things. That would by no means be the case today for us Americans.