Whose Sustenance?

by Dimitra Vladimirou

“And where is my will?

It stopped over there, on the other side of the collective voice.”

Mahmoud Darwish, Memory for Forgetting

It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged. There’s some irony to this with a blog title that emphasizes “Voices…” I guess one way to talk about silence, or silencing, would be to try to describe why it’s hard to speak (or write) at times. I don’t write very quickly to begin with and in the midst of so much continuing social trauma trying to express the unraveling is daunting. I was telling a friend how weighted down I get when I try to put words to this overwhelmed sense. He nodded, and made a gesture of putting his palms together – a kind of bow or homage to the impasse of failed speech. Maybe it feels insufficient or premature or the self itself is so caught in the world it can’t separate enough to articulate how it is being shaped. When I came back to Athens in February after being away for a short while, I had some distance, but since then, on every level of the social and political the country and city has been spiraling in a free-fall. The stories are dire, and the news often more so.

“You understand why someone would jump from a balcony. I mean we’re actually living in a time when people are doing that every day.” T was saying 108 was the latest count in the last month and a half.  A, over the phone, put it more bluntly, “Yes. We could. I could. But the fucking state is not worth my body.” The state, like the troika ( the mnhmonio) loan terms, has become cannibalistic. In Yanis Varoufakis’ July 28 blog post “23 crucial days for Greece”

http://yanisvaroufakis.eu/2012/07/28/23-crucial-days-for-greece/ he notes: “On 20th August, the Greek government will have to borrow 3.2 billion from one arm of the Eurozone (from the EFSF) in order to repay another (the ECB). Yet Greece is insolvent. The very idea of an insolvent entity borrowing more from a community, like the Eurozone, in order to repay that same community is obscene.” The leeching of the nation body, or “to shift the burden from the Central Bank to the taxpayers of Germany, Holland, Austria and Finland” has been a constant in Greece since 2010. And Greece will, indeed, lose “all its remaining assets [including a great number of its bodies]” if it doesn’t find a way to stop the free-fall. So what do ailing bodies do when the surrounding bodies continue to destroy its chances for recovery? Perhaps trying to name, or diagnose, some of the actual causes of the illness in the most factual terms possible is a way to deal with the trauma. Another is to create alternatives.

A month ago a group of HAUniv faculty and students went to Telaithrion in Evia where an eco-sustainable community, creators of The Telaithrion Project http://telaithrion.freeandreal.org/ put us up for the weekend and showed us what they were doing in their various projects from water preservation (they had a dry toilet… & its sawdust scent was surprisingly pleasant) to their plans for using wind energy, and building a resource-sharing society. Their agricultural practices were especially successful; there was much talk of seeds and ways to plant, the problem with genetically modified seeds and the nightmare of corporate hegemonies destroying local agricultural communities and practices. The trip was edifying and energizing even if we didn’t all agree on the details of how to keep a community (with its differences) sustainable. The conversation always returned to the need for preserving principals that would very literally sustain us. Other recent grassroots efforts include initiatives like the International Film Festival of Patmos (IFFP), www.iffp.gr where a handful of independent film makers did a 5 day, July18-22, showing on the island of Patmos. Among the array of styles and subjects, “Bottled Life” (Nestle‘s buying up of clear water sources in North America) and “The End of the Line” (the tuna industry and fisheries’ role in destroying marine life) were two investigative documentaries that again brought home the reality that our collective body is increasingly prey to the commodification and gradual devastation of the resources we are dependent on.

From Lagarde to Schaüble, to the average and not-so-average foreign journalist the body of Greece, and the state of its body have been laden with problematic (and racist) assumptions regarding the culture and its citizens. As Mario Draghi, president of the ECB, made the recent statement that the ECB was committed to doing “whatever it takes to save the euro,” an article in the Herald Tribune pointed out that while the ECB had to find a way to “stop treating itself as a privileged creditor — something it did during the Greek bailout by refusing to absorb losses on Greek bonds as private creditors were required to…” public opinion, and debate (in Germany in particular) “is still focused on teaching Greece a lesson…” Yet the lesson for the state of Greece, the state of the body its people now find themselves in, is not the result of those citizens who have paid their taxes, of cuts in now hardly sustainable pensions, the austerity has critically wounded that body and unlike the privileged (and privileged creditors) it is that body that is dying.

T writes of a US journalist’s remark on a need for more (Greek) civic sensibility:”it’s easy to say that people should develop a sense of civic responsibility. But say that to a friend of mine, to whom the state owed 500,000 euro (he sold machines to hospitals and hadn’t been paid in years), who was paid finally in bonds which were “cut-down” to 25% of their value. So he has in his hands bonds worth 125,000 euro for machinery sold at a worth of 500,000 euro, for which he took loans to buy. And now is being sued for money which is owed him.” The cannibalism (and incest) that has brought on Greece’s current, perhaps terminal, state won’t be cured by those who infected it to begin with, though these are the people, maybe necessarily, we — the state’s body — are dependent on, as Greece, as one of the 17 member states of the EU, and its most vulnerable, is similarly dependent on the ECB and EFSF (Europen Financial Stability Fund) now ESM (Europe Stability Mechanism). For example while I have no personal dislike of Lucas Papademos, the prime minister of the provisional coalition government after George Papandreou was forced out of office, it seemed darkly ironic that he was so warmly embraced by all the EU leaders. Papademos was the Governor of the Bank of Greece through the years in which the euro was introduced and was one of the architects for Greece’s entrance into the euro economy. So why, in layperson terms since I’m no financier, after the high profile reprimanding of Greece’s compromised entrance into the so called privilege of the euro economy, of having “cooked the books” as many a journalist put it, did one of the main cooks of that recipe receive such a warm welcome by the likes of Ms. Merkel and Mr.Schaüble? I suppose if everyone’s suffering from food poisoning you might want to know what went wrong with the food, but don’t blame the people eating it, especially if they’re hungry.

Addendum

“Economic Genocide”

This is an article by P. Panayotou, a financial analyst. Πάνος Παναγιώτου Χρηματιστηριακός Τεχνικός Αναλυτής Διευθυντής GSTA Ltd, WTAEC Ltd.

(translated by Maria Pesmazoglou)

The depression of the Greek economy is already the third longest lasting depression in history, having surpassed the depression following 1929 in the USA. Going back to 1700, there have been only two examples of longer depressions in history: In Liberia (West Africa)  from 1980 to 1997 and in Tazikistan (bordering Afganistan) from 1989 to 1997 (according to BBC). The depression in Greece is expected to last for at least one more year and possibly longer.

Not only does the duration of the Greek depression constitute a historic record in the Western world, but its cost is inconceivable. Beside its being banned from the markets, the restructuring of its debt and the need for years long borrowing from the troika with loss of national sovereignty, the country has suffered a total reduction of 20% in its GDP.  Just from this loss in GDP, the reduction in the value of basic property (buildings, shares, cars) and the reduction in bank savings, the cost surpasses half a trillion. This is bigger than the 200% of the Greek GDP. The economic cost of the Japanese earthquake and the tsunami that followed was 4% of the GDP of Japan.

In addition, Greece is now in the 4th worst position globally in unemployment by losing job positions at the greatest rate internationally, has (among the developed nations) suffered the second biggest drop in the housing market, the biggest reduction in salaries and pensions (internationally), the biggest rate of  the closing of businesses, the biggest increase in social and economic hardship, the biggest increase in pessimism, the biggest fall in the value of property, the biggest increase in indirect taxation. 

The property of the average Greek person has been attacked. His  buying power has been decreased by at least 50%. An employee with a salary of 1000 euros needed 30% of his salary to buy 1000 liters of petrol in the year 2000. He now needs 100% of his salary to buy 1000 liters of petrol.

Since the memorandum unemployed have increased by approximately 700000 with the prediction that this will rise to 1 million in 2013, putting the total of number of the unemployed at 1.6 million. The economic consequences of unemployment are huge. The need for benefits, the reduction in consumption, the reduction in government income from taxes and contributions, the increase in private bankruptcies, the inability to repay loans, taxes and pension funds, are only a few examples.

The social cost of unemployment, such as illness, family and social violence, political instability, reduction in education levels, etc. should be added to the economic costs. Studies show the relationship of the crisis to the reduction in birth rates, the average life expectancy, the increase in disease related deaths and suicides. If the following two years of the memorandum cause similar damage to that caused within the first two years, then in 2014 Greece will have 2.4 million unemployed and the cost from the reduction of wealth will surpass 1 trillion euros.

In this circumstances we can talk about an economic genocide of the Greek people.

Η ύφεση της ελληνικής οικονομίας είναι ήδη η τρίτη μεγαλύτερη σε διάρκεια στην ιστορία, έχοντας ξεπεράσει αυτή των ΗΠΑ μετά το κραχ του 1929. Πηγαίνοντας πίσω μέχρι και το 1700, μόνο σε δύο άλλες περιπτώσεις έχουν υπάρξει μακροβιότερες υφέσεις: από το 1980 μέχρι το 1997 στη Λιβερία, μία χώρα στη Δυτική Αφρική και από το 1989 μέχρι το 1997,στο Τατζικιστάν, μία χώρα στα σύνορα με το Αφγανιστάν (στοιχεία BBC UK). Αμέσως μετά ακολουθεί η ύφεση της Ελλάδας, η οποία αναμένεται να συνεχιστεί τουλάχιστον για ένα χρόνο και πιθανό για δύο ή περισσότερα. (Του Π. Παναγιώτου)

Δεν είναι, όμως, μόνο η διάρκεια της ελληνικής ύφεσης που αποτελεί ιστορικό ρεκόρ αλλά και το κόστος της που είναι ασύλληπτο.

Πέρα απ’ το γεγονός του αποκλεισμού της απ’ τις αγορές, της αναδιάρθρωσης του χρέους της και της ανάγκης για πολυετή άντληση δανείων απ’ την Τρόικα με παραχώρηση εθνικής κυριαρχίας, η χώρα έχει υποστεί μέχρι στιγμής αθροιστική μείωση του ΑΕΠ της κατά 20%. Μόνο από τη μείωση αυτή του ΑΕΠ, τη μείωση της τιμής βασικών περιουσιακών στοιχείων (ακινήτων, αυτοκινήτων, μετοχών) και των τραπεζικών καταθέσεων, το κόστος ξεπερνά κατά πολύ το μισό τρις ευρώ. Αυτό είναι μεγαλύτερο από το 200% του ελληνικού ΑΕΠ. Το οικονομικό κόστος του σεισμού και του τσουνάμι που ακολούθησε στην Ιαπωνία το 2011 ήταν της τάξης του 4% του ΑΕΠ της χώρας.

Επιπλέον, η Ελλάδα έχει βρεθεί στην 4η, πλέον, χειρότερη θέση στον κόσμο στην ανεργία, χάνει θέσεις εργασίας με το μεγαλύτερο ρυθμό διεθνώς, έχει υποστεί τη δεύτερη μεγαλύτερη πτώση μεταξύ των αναπτυγμένων κρατών στην αγορά κατοικίας, τη μεγαλύτερη μείωση μισθών και συντάξεων διεθνώς, καταγράφει το μεγαλύτερο ρυθμό στο κλείσιμο επιχειρήσεων, τη μεγαλύτερη αύξηση στους δείκτες κοινωνικού και οικονομικού πόνου στα αναπτυγμένα κράτη, τη μεγαλύτερη αύξηση στο δείκτη απαισιοδοξίας, τη μεγαλύτερη αθροιστική πτώση στις τιμές των περιουσιακών στοιχείων (ως ποσοστό του ΑΕΠ) όπως μετοχές, αυτοκίνητα, ακίνητα, τη μεγαλύτερη αύξηση σε έμμεσους φόρους κλπ.

Η περιουσία του μέσου Έλληνα έχει υποστεί συντριπτικό πλήγμα. Η αγοραστική του δύναμη έχει μειωθεί τουλάχιστον κατά 50%. Ένας μισθωτός των 1000 ευρώ χρειαζόταν κατά μέσο όρο το 30% ενός μισθού του για να αγοράσει 1000 λίτρα πετρέλαιο στη δεκαετία του ’00. Από την αυγή της νέας δεκαετίας μέχρι σήμερα απαιτείται το 100% ενός μισθού για την αγορά 1000 λίτρων πετρελαίου.

Απ’ την υπογραφή του Μνημονίου μέχρι σήμερα οι άνεργοι έχουν αυξηθεί περίπου κατά 700.000 με κίνδυνο ο αριθμός αυτός να φτάσει στο 1 εκ μέχρι τις αρχές του 2013, ανεβάζοντας το σύνολο των ανέργων στο 1,6 εκ. Οι οικονομικές συνέπειες της εκτόξευσης της ανεργίας είναι τεράστιες. Η ανάγκη καταβολής επιδομάτων ανεργίας, η μείωση της αγοραστικής δύναμης τόσο για τον άνεργο όσο και για την οικογένεια του, η μείωση στα έσοδα του κράτους από φόρους και εισφορές, η απογείωση των ιδιωτικών πτωχεύσεων, η αδυναμία αποπλήρωσης δανείων, κάλυψης ασφαλιστικών εισφορών, πληρωμής φόρων και τελών είναι μόνο μερικές απ’ αυτές.

Στα παραπάνω πρέπει να προστεθεί το κοινωνικό κόστος απ’ την ανεργία. Μελέτες δείχνουν πως κάποια απ’ τα προβλήματα που συνδέονται με την ανεργία είναι η αύξηση ασθενειών εξαιτίας αδυναμίας κάλυψης ιατρικών αναγκών, διατάραξη της ψυχικής υγείας των ανέργων, αύξηση των περιστατικών ενδοοικογενειακής έντασης και βίας, ενίσχυση της κοινωνικής και πολιτικής αστάθειας, αύξηση της εγκληματικότητας, υποβάθμιση του επιπέδου ζωής, υποβάθμιση του επιπέδου μόρφωσης, ανασφάλεια, απαισιοδοξία κλπ.

Ιατρικές μελέτες συνδέουν την κρίση με τη μείωση των γεννήσεων και του μέσου όρου ζωής, την αύξηση των θανάτων, των αυτοκτονιών και των λοιμώξεων. Αν τα δύο πρώτα χρόνια του δεύτερου Μνημονίου προκαλέσουν αντίστοιχη βλάβη με αυτήν των δύο πρώτων ετών του πρώτου Μνημονίου, τότε το καλοκαίρι του 2014 η Ελλάδα θα μετρά 2,4 εκ ανέργους και το κόστος απ’ την απομείωση των περιουσιακών στοιχείων θα έχει ξεπεράσει το 1 τρις ευρώ. Σε μία τέτοια περίπτωση θα μιλάμε για οικονομική γενοκτονία των Ελλήνων.

Πάνος Παναγιώτου Χρηματιστηριακός Τεχνικός Αναλυτής Διευθυντής GSTA Ltd, WTAEC Ltd

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About akalfopoulou

Author of two poetry collections, and most recently, a book of essays, Ruin, Essays in Exilic Living.
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