Greek society is now stuck between neo-Nazism, racism and austerity

Disclaimer regarding the video: This IS NOT WHAT I BELIEVE. This is what Greece has turned into,a Nest of hating fascists. My opinion is known and IS NOT in favour of any kind of extremes.If you are to leave a comment,please be kind enough to follow the WP rules and do not leave any threats /hate messages. Thank you

Fascism is making a mainstream comeback. That is fascism in the sense of a nationalist and nativist movement, to be distinguished from totalitarianism, which is an internationalist and imperialist movement. The scene for the return of fascism is Greece. In the birthplace of democracy, the failure of the European Union has combined with the utter impotency of mainstream Greek politicians to  offer an opening for Golden Dawn, a neo-Nazi and anti-immigrant party that is openly and violently taking the law into its own hands. The New York Times writes:

The video, which went viral in Greece last month, shows about 40 burly men, led by Giorgos Germenis, a lawmaker with the right-wing Golden Dawn party, marching through a night market in the town of Rafina demanding that dark-skinned merchants show permits.

The video is harrowing. It is racist and rightly condemned by legitimate parties. But no one, it seems, is willing to do more than to condemn Golden Dawn. Article after article speaks of the close relationship between Golden Dawn and the Greek police. They appear to act with impunity.

The real danger is only in part the destruction of shops and stands owned by brown people who don’t have documentation; it is the shock, passivity, and even the support of the people and the police. Greek society is, as The Guardian reports, making media darlings of Golden Dawn. Multiple reports suggest that Golden Dawn has support of more than 20% of the Greek people.

The problems Greece faces are extreme. Overly indebted, the Greeks have not been able to choose a coherent response. They have refused to leave the Euro or nationalize their banks and their debt. But nor have they willingly embraced the kind of severe austerity that would allow them to return to good economic standing. The sad result is enforced and partial austerity at the barrel of an economic pistol. It is a painful and humiliating submission to international bureaucrats.

At the same time, the broken immigration politics of the European Union puts an impossible burden on Greece to police its huge and porous borders. Since illegal immigrants can travel freely in the EU once inside Greece, it has become an easy port of entry to the whole of the EU. There are now, according to the NY Times, more than 1.5 Million immigrants in a country of 11 million people. Other sources put the number lower at 850,000. Whichever is correct, the politics of immigration are underwriting Golden Dawn’s popular vigilantism.

 

The combination of a broken political system, economic austerity, and growing illegal immigration is, as the video and the increasingly mainstream popularity of Golden Dawn show, a dangerous mix. This is a mass movement that is filling a vacuum of legitimate leadership. It is a sign of what happens when the political system refuses to honestly address the reality of the problems a nation faces; the complete breakdown in legitimacy and the turn to extremism.

Read more about Golden Dawn in the Times article.

ATHENS – As if any more proof was needed that the Nazis of Golden Dawn are really just cowardly bullies who do their fighting in packs like mad dogs when they can pounce on one victim without fear of being hit back, came the sad spectacle of its spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris  – who was elected to the Parliament after the stalemated May 6 elections before the body quickly dissolved – attacking a top Communist lawmaker, Liana Kanelli, on live television. How he got to be the spokesman is another question because he speaks only Neanderthal.

Kasidiaris threw water at Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) MP Rena Dourou as a result of  becoming  infuriated after she had referred to his pending court case on the Klimera Ellada TV show. The 32-year-old Golden Dawn MP is also facing a charge of assisting an attack and robbery against a postgraduate student in 2007. His trial has been adjourned until June 11th, six days before the critical national elections.

Not content with assaulting one woman, he jumped up and slapped around Kanelli as she tried to defend herself before the show’s host jumped in to pull off the rabid dog, who ran out to hide but vowed to return – but only with a gang because he couldn’t face one woman alone. After the incident, Kasidiaris was locked in a room at the studio of the private Antenna TV but broke down a door to escape, according to reports, running away into the dark where his subhumans live, a craven chicken-heart who put his tail between his legs and ran away. A prosecutor issued an arrest warrant and if police catch up with him, they can tack on some new charges. If there’s any justice he should be put into the women’s jail so they can have a go at him, although it might take him time to take off his dress.

Kanelli is an eloquent intellectual who can infuriate opponents as she disarms them with wit and argument even with the little ammunition she gets from her sadly outdated ideology, and he is no match for her with words because she’d be in a battle of wits with an unarmed opponent, a thug charged with a felony. Maybe a good start for Greece would be to pass a law barring felons from being elected as members of Parliament. You could extend that to idiots too, but that would empty most of the 300 seats in the body.

If any good comes out of this, it’s that now that Golden Dawn keeps being exposed as a lunatic fringe, beating up immigrants and having no philosophy, and as its leader Nikos Michaloliakos denied the Holocaust, that it won’t get enough votes in the critical June 17 elections to be elected to Parliament. In the May 6 balloting, on the back of opposing the austerity measures that have crippled workers, pensioners and the poor, and a platform of tossing immigrants out of the country and beating up those still around, Golden Dawn got 6.2 percent of the vote and 21 seats. Since then, as it has continued to show it’s just a group of whack jobs supported by empty-headed twits, it has fallen to 4.2 percent, and hopefully the live TV assault will push it under the 3 percent threshold needed to get into Parliament and back under the rocks from which these lizards came after evolving from primordial ooze. In the 2009 elections, it got only 0.29 percent of the vote, but even that was too much.

While the other political parties who don’t want to sit next to Golden Dawn types in the Parliament properly responded with condemnation, sadly – if predictably – the bully was not universally scored, with many people jumping onto blogs and Greek news sites to cheer on the assault, and you know the types: unemployed, live-in boyfriends sponging off the girlfriends they beat up because if they had to face a man they’d need to order some Depends diapers. Golden Dawn types prefer to beat up women and immigrants, but only if they outnumber their victims by 30-1 or so, the odds they prefer.

Michaloliakos, who must not have been watching TV or was too busy cleaning the scales on his body or looking for rats to eat, claimed Kanelli attacked Kasidiaris first and that the incident had been blown out of proportion. He said he would no longer allow any of his members to talk to the press in retaliation, which should bring a big sigh of relief to any reporter who no longer would have to take a shower after getting too close to them. Speaking at a pre-election rally in Megara, west of Athens, Mihaloliakos said “elections never did this country any good,” forgetting it was an election which got him into the Parliament, but then his types prefer dictatorships anyway.

But this being Greece, Kasidiaris may not face justice and could be elected to Parliament again unless Greeks rise up as they always have against bullies and tyrants and shun Golden Dawn, make its members pariahs and ostracize them. There’s another option: deport them to a country that hates immigrants or seat them next to Manolis Glezos, a real Greek hero who, with his late friend Apostolos Santas, climbed up under the Acropolis in 1941 to pull down the Swastika that Golden Dawn wants to put up again. Glezos knows how to deal with Nazis. Let’s see if the rest of Greece does too.

 

Tens of thousands of Greeks hit by austerity cuts have taken to the streets in Athens as the government pushes for an austerity deal with its lenders.

On Tuesday, inspectors from the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank, and European Commission, known as the troika, tried to avoid the protesters demonstrating outside the labor ministry building in the capital, where negotiations between the troika and Athens were being held on the details of a two-year austerity package.

For weeks, Greece has been negotiating over 12 billion euros of cutbacks that its lenders have declined to sign off over concerns that many of the proposed saving cuts are unlikely to materialize.

For the second day, the troika inspectors had to face the angry protesters interrupting them as they entered the ministry building to start negotiations.

Dozens of disabled demonstrators blocked the main entrance of the labor ministry and chanted, "We won't let it pass!" One held a banner saying, "They handed 200 billion to bankers but cut down on medicine, treatment, and benefits for the disabled."

On Monday, Athens unveiled its 2013 draft budget which includes measure that would affect pensions, benefits, and the salaries of civil servants to meet the troika criteria. The austerity budget foresaw a sixth year of recession in 2013. However, the measures did not convince the troika.

"The troika is questioning the effectiveness of the measures related to structural reforms," a government official said.

Greece has been at the epicenter of the eurozone debt crisis and is experiencing its fifth year of recession, while harsh austerity measures have left about half a million people without jobs.

One in every five Greek workers is currently unemployed, banks are in a shaky position, and pensions and salaries have been slashed by up to 40 percent.

Greek youths have also been badly affected, and more than half of them are unemployed.

The long-drawn-out eurozone debt crisis, which began in Greece in late 2009 and reached Italy, Spain, and France last year, is viewed as a threat not only to Europe but also to many of the world’s other more developed economies.

GJH/AS

The aftermath of June’s fresh elections in Greece saw the formation of a three-party coalition government. The election also saw the neo-Nazi party “Golden Dawn” come fifth place in the polls, and gain seats in the national parliament. Alexandros Sakellariou and the the Greek MYPLACE team at Panteion University of Social And Political Sciences discuss neo-Nazi influence, austerity measures and racism following the Greek elections.

Neo-Nazism…

It has been more than two months after the elections of 17th of June and the formation of the three-party coalition government. In the meantime we got some very interesting data derived from the exit polls regarding the neo-Nazi party “Golden Dawn” (ChryssiAygi), which received 6.9% of the votes and came fifth in the national elections, surpassing the Democratic Left, which now participates in the government (6.3%) and the Communist Party (4.5%). According to these data, Golden Dawn was voted for more by men (10%) than by women (4%) and this was the highest difference between the two sexes compared to all other parties. In the age category 18-24 Golden Dawn was in the second place with 13% after the Coalition of the Left (SYRIZA) with 37%. In the age category 25-34 SYRIZA was again first with 33% and Golden Dawn second in the same place with the conservatives (New Democracy) with 16%. In the following categories Golden Dawn is in the third or fourth and fifth place.

It is very interesting that in the age category 65+ is in the seventh place with only 2%, which according to our view means that older people who know what Nazism and Fascism did to Greece did not vote for them. This perhaps is a very important issue which is related to memory (remembering and forgetting), but also points out the lack of historical knowledge on the part of the young people. The educational background of the Golden Dawn’s voters is 9% middle, 3% low and 6% higher education; the majority of them are unemployed (12%), 11% are working in the private sector and 11% are self-employed and employers, 7% are university students, 6% are working in the public sector, 3% are pensioners and 3% housekeepers. 8% of them are from semi-urban areas while 7% are from rural and only 6% from urban areas.

When they were asked why they voted for Golden Dawn, 29% of them spontaneously responded because of indignation and in order to punish the politicians, 27% because of the immigration problem and the control of the borders, 14% because they agree with the party’s political program and declaration and 13% for patriotic and national reasons.

However, apart from these numbers Golden Dawn members have been very active since their parliamentary entrance . They are using the financial support they receive as a parliamentary party in order to give food to those people who need it, provided that they are Greek! (See the poster below from their webpage):

Furthermore, they created a blood bank in many Greek cities, in order to collect blood, but again only for Greek people (See the poster below).

We should add that in the course of our internet ethnography about Golden Dawn we have  seen that their official webpage is very active with many posts and announcements being
uploaded on a daily basis. In addition, their youth’s webpage is also very rich with texts, photos and videos, but what is quite surprising is their women’s blog, which is very strenuous and seem to show that many young women are taking part in the organization’s activities (See the picture below from the blog).

…Racism…

The most alarming ‘activity’, though, is the attacks against the immigrants. Even though no one has been arrested, the incidents have been augmented during the last weeks in Athens and other cities. In August the 10th around ten o’clock at night, during the Ramadan month, about five motorcycles attacked a Muslim prayer house in Piraeus throwing smoke bombs. Fortunately enough the people inside managed to get out without any injuries. In another similar attack on Saturday the 11th of August, another group of motorcycles attacked again a prayer house. Some of them entered the place and vandalized it writing on the walls: “Fuck the Koran”, “Fuck Allah”, “Mohamed was Gay”, “Hellas” and they also pictured Christian crosses (See the picture below).

Finally, there are many reports regarding racist attacks against immigrants from people with black t-shirts (like those worn by the Golden Dawn members). In one of these attacks a young Iraqi was killed in the center of Athens on August the 12th, at around 04.30 in the morning by a group of people who before him attacked two other immigrants, one from Romania and one from Morocco. Their tactic is to get close to their victims and be friendly asking them where they come from and then they attack them. Anti-racist organizations report that many incidents of this kind occur on a weekly basis, but the problem is that the police were unable until now to find the suspects, not even in one case. Without any intention of implying a close relationship between the police and the neo-Nazi party, even though there have been many accusations in the last years, it is worth mentioning that during the last elections in the special electoral departments for policemen Golden Dawn received from 17 to 23%, more than three times up from the party’s national percentage. One last alarming event was that Golden Dawn is organizing Security Battalions in Peloponnese (like those during the Civil War) against the immigrants. The local representative made a call to all the inhabitants from 15 to 70 years old to be alarmed and participate in these forces. He also attacked immigrants, accusing them of being responsible for the delinquency in the region, arguing that “the illegal immigrant intruders are responsible for the high rates of criminality in the area” and also added that “the gypsies are a delinquency plague for the Greeks”.

…Austerity

Within this social and political climate new austerity measures of more than 11.5 billion Euros are ready to be applied for the years to come (2013-2014). According to very recent information, due to the five year recession, which is going to be continued, more billions are necessary in order to achieve the financial goals of the economic program (approx. 13.5 billion). Among other measures new cuts are planned for wages in pubic sector and in pensions. It has to be noted that according to Eurostat Greece is now in the first place of youth unemployment (15-24) surpassing Spain, with 52.8 to 52.7% (April data). However, the Hellenic Statistical Authority published its May 2012 data which showed that youth unemployment was 54.9%. Furthermore, according to the first data from the last census (2011) another issue seems to arise: the decrease in the birth rate. As a consequence, Greece’s population declined by about 300,000 people and this is connected with the economic crisis as there is a decrease of around 15% of births in the maternity homes and also a decrease in the number of weddings. In addition, many immigrants especially from the Balkans and especially from Albania have returned to their homelands. Some estimate that about 100,000 have already left and this is going to be proven in the beginning of the new school period. Finally, many Greeks have decided to immigrate to other countries. In 2010 5,000 immigrated to Germany, and in 2011 this number rose to 9,000 and was about 15,000 this June. The German Statistical Authority stated that immigration from Greece rose by 90% in 2011 and they speak of about 23,800 new immigrants (Newspaper Kathimerini, August 18, 2012).

It is obvious, that because of the austerity summer vacations were a dream for many of the people of Athens. The majority of them visited friends and relatives in their villages and it was the first time that no one could say that Athens was empty during August. I personally stay every August in Athens and this time was more crowded than ever before, and not only by tourists. As a newspaper article put it “August is no longer a vacation month” (To Vima, August 12, 2012). Based on the last study of the Consumer’s Institute 69% of the Greeks will not go on vacation this summer and those who managed to go reduced their stay from 2 or 3 weeks to 7 or 10 days the most. Some of them also decided to take their vacation leave and stay in Athens and just go for walks and meet their friends.

Even though the above description is not very optimistic, it gives us the opportunity to conduct our MYPLACE survey and our ethnographies in very interesting times and in a social milieu, which is very fruitful for social research.

This article originally appeared on the Project MYPLACE blog.

Recession and suicide

Posted on | juli 21, 2012 |

Materialistic/hedonistic lifestyle and Suicide
During the Great Depression, the press published dramatic stories of people committing suicide after they had lost their savings, homes, and/or jobs. The World Health Organization (WHO) currently reports that more than 800,000 people kill themselves each year, a rate that has been rising owing to the recent recession. Is there a correlation between economic recessions and increase in suicides? The figures from developed, semi-developed and underdeveloped nations indicate that there is a link. Even in the UK, which is outside the perimeters of official austerity, unlike Ireland, Portugal and Greece, the rate of suicides rose 15% in 2011 in comparison with 2007. It is true that suicide rates in many developed nations have risen sharply in the last half century, although incomes have risen for most of that period, but falling in the past two decades. This is in part because the materialistic/hedonistic culture and lifestyle on which the individual’s psychology is molded cannot absorb the shock of having a lessening of materialistic/hedonistic lifestyle undercut by economic contractions impacting the individual’s life.Therefore, when the nice home, car, and lifestyle are diminished, all things on which the value system is based, the individual cannot cope and sees no point to go on living.

Suicides in Southern Europe
More interesting than northwest Europe, which has a long-standing pattern of higher suicide rates than most of the world, southern Europe (Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy) have seen their suicide rates skyrocket in the past two years. From 1980 to 2000 suicide rates averaged six per 100,000, or about the same as in Mexico and Israel, whereas in the Russian Federation and South Korea rates were almost three times higher. There is a long-standing debate about suicide as an individual matter vs. a social problem, something that is discussed more in Asian and other non-Western societies, but is more likely dismissed in Western nations by media, politicians and social elites that want to blame the individual and not the institutional structure for the conditions providing fertile ground to suicide attempts.

Mental Illness, Alcohol, Substance abuse and Economic hardships
While suicide is often associated with mental illness, abuse of alcohol and substances, suicide rates since the recession of 2008 have risen owing to people losing jobs, homes, income, falling into debt and watching their lives destroyed and identities shattered. Particularly in Italy and Greece, suicide rates have been rampant in 2011 and 2012, with blatant cases of individuals killing themselves because they see no way out of economic hardships. The dignity question, often associated with middle class status is linked to rise in suicides at a time that the economic recession has eroded middle class living standards.

OECD warnings on suicides
OECD – Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development – has been compiling statistics that indicate a direct a correlation between economic hard times and suicides, especially in countries under formal or informal austerity pressures. As EU economy will continue to struggle in 2012 and 2013, with rising unemployment, falling wages and benefits, the likely scenario is higher rate of suicide attempts across most of EU, along with higher crime rates and social unrest. At the same time, the social fabric is under attack, given that the economic recession is impacting the integrity of the family, as more people need to take anti-depressant medication to cope with external problems that they internalize.

GDP Correlation to Suicide
Studies conducted over long periods suggest that the higher income the lower the suicide rate. Moreover, higher income nations suffer a lower suicide rate during expansionary economic cycles than they do during recessionary cycles. As much in the US as in Japan, suicides rates rise during recessionary cycles, though it is not true that such rates rise across all of Asia during economic hard times, thus indicating that value systems – traditional-religious rooted society does impact the individual’s outlook on suicide.

Suicide: Internalizing an external problem
It is true that in much of the Western World the external problems of economic recessions that lead to job loss, home loss, savings depletion, high debt, divorce, etc. is often internalized, largely because the media, politicians, priests and sages insist that any calamities that befall on the individual are her/his fault and not a structural or institutional problem. Therefore, the sense of guilt, self-hatred, and pain is so intense that to stop the hurt, the individual must kill the self, instead of pointing to the predatory institutional system as the root of the problem.

Capitalist value system and Suicide
In Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, the option of suicide is seen as one that the system of the market economy brings to Willy Loman, an option from which he cannot escape because his life, his identity, his family, his success is defined. Has finance capitalism created a new class of Willy Lomans on the verge of depression and contemplating suicide, or is this an exaggeration, considering that no matter the political economy, human beings would always contemplate choosing to end their lives when pressured by unpleasant circumstances? Does the marketing/publicity machine of the free market economy condition peoples’ minds to the degree that they actually believe in the illusion of ‘making it rich some day’, and once that does not come true some become depressed and a few suicidal? To what degree has the credit economy contributed to false hopes about achieving the dream of riches, when in reality such dreams are confined to a tiny percentage of the world’s population? Finally, what is the meaning of life for an individual who grew up in materialistic/hedonistic society in which material success cannot be achieved?

AUTHOR: Jon Kofas
URL: http://jonkofas.blogspot.com

Depression, Suicides Rise as Euro Debt Crisis Intensifies

Depression, Suicide

CNBC content made available by kind permission of CNBC.

By Holly Ellyatt, CNBC Assistant News Editor

Europe is approaching a crisis as the region’s debt crisis and austerity measures increase the rates of depression, suicide and psychological problems – just as governments cut healthcare spending by up to 50 percent, according to campaigners, policy makers and health organizations.

A growing number of global and European health bodies are warning that the introduction and intensification of austerity measures has led to a sharp rise in mental health problems with suicide rates, alcohol abuse and requests for anti-depressants increasing as people struggle with the psychological cost of living through a European-wide recession.

“No one should be surprised that factors such as unemployment, debt and relationship breakdowns can cause bouts of mental illness and may push people who are already vulnerable to take their own lives,” Richard Colwill, of the British mental health charity Sane, told CNBC.

“There does appear to be a connection between unemployment rates and suicide for example,” he said, referring to a recent study in the British Medical Journal that stated that more than 1,000 people in the U.K. may have killed themselves because of the impacts of the recession. “This research reflects other work showing similar rises in suicides across Europe.”

According to Josée Van Remoortel, advisor to the European organization Mental Health Europe (MHE), the financial crisis is affecting “all areas of life,” not just economies, and its impact on mental health is creating a “deep chasm in our society.”

“The credit crunch [has] had one unexpected consequence and one that reflects a deep chasm in our society – a sharp rise in mental health problems, largely caused by uncertainty and fear for the future,” he writes in a paper entitled “The Sane Approach.”

A recent survey of general practitioners (family doctors) in Britain by the Insight Research Group seems to support Van Remoortel’s view.

The data showed that out of 300 family doctors surveyed, the majority reported that austerity was damaging their patients’ health. Seventy six percent said their patients were unhealthier due to the economic climate and 77 percent said more patients were seeking treatment for anxiety.

The doctors surveyed relayed an increase in the incidence of alcohol abuse, anxiety, depression and requests for abortions due to economic reasons, anecdotal evidence borne out by statistics for anti-depressant requests in the U.K., which have risen 28 percent from 34 million prescriptions in 2007 to 43.4 million in 2011.

However, just as public health deteriorates, national government throughout Europe are deepening spending cuts and cutting mental healthcare by up to 50 percent.

The consequences of spending cuts could be long-lasting and pervasive throughout the continent, according to Van Remoortel from Mental Health Europe.

“The financial crisis will not last forever,” Van Remoortel said. “But rushed measures taken by national governments to patch their economies will surely have prolonged effects.”

He isn’t alone in calling for Europe’s governments to avoid cutting spending on mental health, particularly as one in four Europeans (215 million people) will experience a mental health disorder during the course of their lives according to MHE.

More worryingly, one study suggests that only 30 to 52 percent of Europeans with mental health problems make contact with a health professional, and as a result the real figure could be much higher.

John Dalli, European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy says Europe could be “sleep-walking into a catastrophe” as budget cuts hit healthcare services.

Speaking at a meeting at the European Economic and Social Committee in June, Dalli said that Europe was heading towards a “humanitarian crisis” and warned of the risks of "neglecting public health in times of austerity."

"The economic crisis should not turn into a health crisis. Financial hardship cannot jeopardize people's health and access to healthcare,” he said.

“Cutting back on healthcare delivery is invariably a false economy, triggering worsening outcomes in the longer term — for people’s health, for health systems, for society and the economy as a whole,” he said.

But with rising debt burdens and austerity programs, this is exactly what countries throughout Europe are doing. In Greece, a country in which a number of high profile “economic suicides'' have been recorded, funding for the mental health service has been cut by up to 50 percent.

In the U.K., 13.8 percent of the total 102 billion pound annual health budget goes on mental health provision. But after a decade of rising investment, the government is looking to cut 6.6 billion pounds from mental health care provision as part of 20 billion pounds of cuts from its<a href="http://www.dh.gov.uk/health/2012/07/investment-mental-health/"> national health service bill.

In a country where 6 million people suffer from mental health problems, a cut of 150 million pounds from the annual mental health budget could cause billions of pounds in adverse economic and human effects according to the National Mental Health Development Unit (NMHDU).

In a report by the organization, it estimated that the financial cost of mental illness  to the wider economy amounted to 77 billion pounds a year in lost productivity and increased need for social security benefits.

At a time when mental health services are needed the most by society and economy, the government is jeopardizing the public’s welfare, Richard Colwill from the charity Sane told CNBC.

“Our concern is that people will be doubly penalized. At a time when we would reasonably expect there to be an increase in demand for mental health support, in the U.K. we are seeing cuts to services across the board,” Colwill said.

“With stretched services already seeing people fall through the cracks, our fear is that the fault lines can only widen.”

CNBC.com

Americans now stand a greater chance of dying from the effects of austerity than being killed in a car crash. At least that’s what a new report suggests, if you read between the lines. The study, authored by a West Virginia University professor and published in the American Journal of Public Health last week, says that suicide now kills more Americans than car crashes. While the study doesn’t draw a direct connection between the recession and the spike in suicides over the last ten years.

Death By Austerity

More Americans now commit suicide than die in car crashes, making suicide the leading cause of injury deaths, according to a new study.

In addition, over the last 10 years, while the number of deaths from car crashes has declined, deaths from poisoning and falls increased significantly, the researchers report.

“Suicides are terribly undercounted; I think the problem is much worse than official data would lead us to believe,” said study author Ian Rockett, a professor of epidemiology at West Virginia University.

…For the study, Rockett’s team used data from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics to determine the cause of injury deaths from 2000 to 2009.

The leading causes of unintentional deaths were car accidents, poisoning and falls, and for intentional deaths they were suicide and homicide.

Deaths from intentional and unintentional injury were 10 percent higher in 2009 than in 2000, the researchers noted.

And although deaths from car crashes declined 25 percent, deaths from poisoning rose 128 percent, deaths from falls increased 71 percent and deaths from suicides rose 15 percent, according to the study.

Can it be a coincidence that the rise in U.S. suicides occurred simultaneously with America’s biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression -- when millions of Americans found themsleves suddenly facing foreclosure, long-term unemployment, homelessness, and hunger? Possibly, but a significant increase in suicides doesn’t “just happen,” anymore than do economic meldtowns. As with any other socio-cultural trends, there are likely to be one or more factors driving it.

You don’t have to be a college professor to connect the dots. Back in April, I began writing a series of posts about the human costs of austerity in Europe, after the suicide of 77-year-old Green pensioner Dimitris Christoulas made headlines around the world. Christoulas set his suicide in the context of the devastating conesquences of austerity for Greek citizens when he chose to take his in a public square located near Parliament, and left a suicide note directly blaming the government’s austerity measures for the desperation and despair that pushed him to take his own life.

Christloulas’ public suicide, and his posthumous indictment of the Greek government’s austerity measures sparked protests from middle- and working-class Greeks who bear the brunt of Greece’s austerity-shrunken economy, and its 21% unemployment rate (51% for Greeks between the ages of 15 and 140). It also reflected an increase in suicides not just in Greece, but across Europe -- in every country caught in the vice grip of austerity.

Austerity has brought another change to Greece. Prior to 2007, suicides among Greeks under 65 fell sharply. In face, Greece had the lowest rate of suicides. Not surprising since suicide is so deeply stigmatized in Greece that the Greek Orthodox Church rejects the bodies of suicides for burial.

The economic downturn reversed that trend, as suicides increased among people under 65 increased between 2007 and 2009. The increase coincided with a 35% increase in suicides across the EU, with the sharpest increases in Greece, Ireland and Latvia -- three countries in which people live under severe austerity policies. Of the three, Greece leads the pack with the fastest rising suicide rate in the EU -- a 20% increase from 2007 to 2009.

Austerity has added its impact to the that of the economic crisis, to overcome the cultural stigma against suicide. Greece’s suicide rate has increased 40% since 2009. Perhaps what made Dimitris Christoulas different from so many others was that he chose to meet his end, not in some quiet room, but practically on the doorstep of Greece’s government.

As I wrote back in April, America is not Greece. While Americans’ have yet to experience the soul-crushing brand of austerity that has become the “new normal” for Greek citizens.

Since imposition of austerity upon Greece, there has been no shortage of news stories the impact on ordinary Greeks.

The Guardian’s Jon Henley travelled through Greece and recorded his experiences in a searing series of reports he titled “Greece on the Breadline.” Reporting a mixture of fury and solidarity among Greeks, hears from them how austerity has changed their lives. In Athens, a woman who uses her professional experience to coach the unemployed asked, “[W]hat kind of society have we become, that we are kicking homeless pregnant women on to the streets?” He finds the school children of Athens are too hungry to underfed to do P.E. In Thessaloniki, a student postponed lessons to get in line for potatoes. Young people in Athens -- raised with an emphasis on education and a “career mindset” -- spoke of living with their parents again, taking odd jobs just to survive, and declared “We’ve watched our futures go up in smoke.” Across the country, “savage cuts” in Greece’s health services budget have allowed HIV/AIDS and malaria to make a comeback. Newborn testing for up to 40 diseases like cystic fybrosis and sickle cell are “effectively grinding to a halt, ensuring that children will die from diseases that are easily detected and treated.

Is it any wonder that desperation times have led some Greek citizens to commit desperate acts?

Given the impact of recession on the lives of millions of Americans, it’s a wonder we haven’t seen more people taking the kind of desperate measures on the rise in Europe.

We have been surrounded by the results so long that -- except in cases like the Tuscon shooting -- we can easily miss them, because they are becoming our “new normal,” of “anxiety, distrust and an array of mental and physical ailments.”

Combine all of the above with the easily obtained firearms, plus the 250 million already in private hands, and even with out the addition of inflammatory political rhetoric, it’s almost a miracle that we haven’t seen more violence events like the Tucson shooting -- a miracle, or just an run of incredibly good luck. All it takes is a spark, after all.

Conservatives claim they are not to blame if someone who may be mentally unstable takes their rhetoric “the wrong way,” and acts out violently. But they are accountable, as all politicians should be, for using rhetoric responsibly, and dousing the fire when the ballots are counted and the results finalized -- before the flames grow into a destructive force.

Yet, Americans have shown similar symptoms of austerity-driven desperation.

To anyone paying attention, the link between the recession and body count on Main Street, is as obvious as the wailing sirens, flashing lights, and crime scene markers that may be coming to a neighborhood near you. The stories of foreclosure driven suicide are as old as the once headline-making suicides of Raymond and Deanna Donaca, Carlene Balderama, the attempted suicide of Addie Polk, and the Karthick Rajaram murder-suicide. It’s also a new as stories of foreclosure-driven “suicide-by-cop” in the cases of James Ferrario and Kurt Aho.

As early as 2008, seven in ten Americans were worried about maintaining their standard of living in the midst of economic crisis. As CAF noted at the time, in a report titled “The Stress Test,” seven years of conservative economic policies leading up to the crisis left living standards under stress after the crisis hit. Nearly four years later, foreclosures are a symptom of our untreated economic sickness, and the American Psychological Associations Annual “Stress in America” report, indicates that money, work and the economy are the most frequently cited causes of stress for Americans -- and have been for the past 5 years. It’s also making us mad. The APA reports that “irritability or anger” tops the list of reported symptoms of stress, followed by “feeling nervous or anxious,” and “feeling depressed or sad.”

Foreclosure suicides are just one indicator. “Going postal” has been a frightening reality in American workplaces at least since the term was first coined in 1986, but experts see the recession playing a role in recent incidents of workplace violence like the 2010 shootings in Manchester, Connecticut, and St. Louis, Missouri.

Thus far, Americans have been spared a full-tilt, Euro-style austerity debacle. Instead, we’ve had the next-worst thing; what Paul Krugman called a “de facto austerity”, in the form of “huge spending and employment cuts at the state and local level.” This “de facto” austerity is largely the result of conservatives obstructing of any and all job creation bills -- including proposals to keep teachers, police officers, and fire fighters working -- and demanding cuts that would cost hundreds of thousands of state and local jobs. The result is a loss of some 440,000 federal, state, and local government jobs, accounting for more than half of jobs lost in many states.

At the state level, government accounted for more than half of all job losses for industries that lost jobs since Aug. 2010 in 27 states, and made up 100 percent of losses for industries that lost jobs in Arizona, Idaho, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Texas. Government losses also made up more than 50 percent of losses in seven of the 10 states with the largest number of jobs lost, and six of the 10 states with unemployment rates above 9.5 percent.

Of course, the private sector will absorb some of these losses and thankfully we have seen a positive net change in employment for most of these states since Aug. 2010. But make no mistake, the idea that drastic cuts to public budgets would somehow spur private-sector growth is a myth that has undermined recovery efforts both in the United States and in Europe. In reality, cuts to public-sector budgets have a significant negative private-sector impact. As my colleague Ethan Pollack has demonstrated, “for every dollar of budget cuts, over half the jobs and economic activity will be lost in the private sector.” Net change in employment since Aug. 2010 may be positive for most states, but it’s frustrating to think how much better these job numbers might be if we hadn’t spent the past 16 months shooting ourselves in the foot.

How much worse can things get if the result of the election is an economic agenda that slashes public sector spending, bleeds the public sector even more, increases unemployment, hobbles what currently passes for a recovery, and primarily benefits Wall Street and the one percent? Take a look at what’s happening in Europe, and what starting to happen here, and it isn’t hard to guess.

 

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One response to “Greek society is now stuck between neo-Nazism, racism and austerity

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