Societal bankruptcy: Part 2, the rise of disorder

December 11, 2012 | Bankruptcy, Economics, Euro, Global news, Greece, Sovereign bankruptcy, Speculation

By:David A. Smith

 

[Continued from yesterday's Part 1.]

 

Yesterday’s post on the societal collapse of Greece, under forced austerity to preserve its connection to the euro currency, as shown in this Associated Press (November 1, 2012) story, demonstrated that the established institutions by which citizens judge their government – hospitals, courts, public services – are one after the other failing in their duty.

 

When a government abdicates its responsibility to citizens, the people do two things: form their own societies (often called slums or informal settlements), and they take revenge on the government that betrayed them.

 

So much for civility: Greek rioter beating cop

 

In September, gangs of men smashed immigrant street vendors’ stalls at fairs and farmers’ markets.

 

There is also the time of demagogues.

 

Alexis Tsipras, leader of the radical left party Syriza

 

Videos posted on the Internet showed the incident being carried out in the presence of lawmakers from the extreme right Golden Dawn party.

 

The radical right: Golden Dawn rally

 

Formerly a fringe group, Golden Dawn — which denies accusations it has carried out violent attacks against immigrants —

 

A careful non-denial denial – what about your supporters?

 

Not responsible for his supporters? Golden Dawn leader Michaloliakas

 

— made major inroads into mainstream politics. It won nearly 7% of the vote in June’s election and 18 seats in the 300-member parliament. A recent opinion poll showed its support climbing to 12%.

 

Support for Golden Dawn will continue climbing.

 

Easy enough to blame the foreigners, isn’t it?

 

Immigrant and human rights groups say there has been an alarming increase in violent attacks on migrants. Greece has been the EU’s main gateway for hundreds of thousands of illegal migrants — and foreigners have fast become scapegoats for rising unemployment and crime.

 

They probably are.

 

Illegal-immigrant graffiti on the pedestals of the Athens Academy

 

While there are no official statistics, migrants tell of random beatings at the hands of thugs who stop to ask them where they are from, then attack them with wooden bats.

 

Assaults have been increasing since autumn 2010, said Spyros Rizakos, who heads Aitima, a human rights group focusing on refugees. Victims often avoid reporting beatings for fear of running afoul of the authorities if they are in the country illegally

 

 

Sadly, having an underclass of illegal immigrants actually benefits many countries; these shadow people form a ready supply of low-skill, low-wage labor for whom one does not have to provide benefits.  It’s cynical and heartless and inhumane, yet it’s economically rational … at least in the short term.

 

– while perpetrators are rarely caught or punished even if the attacks are reported.

 

Why would they be, when the court system is already jammed and the workers routinely go on strikes?

 

“There is no right to strike against the public safety by anyone, anywhere, anytime.”  – Calvin Coolidge

 

Silent Cal

 

In response to pressure for more security and a crackdown on illegal migration, the government launched a police sweep in Athens in early August. By late October, police had rounded up nearly 46,000 foreigners, of whom more than 3,600 were arrested for being in the country illegally.

 

So they cast the widest possible net, and 8% of those whom they caught were illegal.

 

Greek immigrant hospital, not open for business

 

Police say that in the first two months of the operation, there was also a 91% drop in the numbers of migrants entering the country illegally along the northeastern border with Turkey, with 1,338 migrants arrested in the border area compared to 14,724 arrested during the same two months in 2011.

 

Perhaps – though if I were a Turk, why would I want to enter Greece except to cross it as fast as possible and work my way west and north, to Italy or Austria or Hungary?

 

At a demonstration by the disabled in central Athens, tempers were rising.

 

“When the pharmacies are closed and I can’t get my insulin, which is my life for me, what do I do? … How can we survive?” asked Voula Hasiotou, a member of an association of diabetics who turned out for the rally.

 

The disabled still receive benefits on a sliding scale according to the severity of their condition. But they are terrified they could face cuts, and are affected anyway by general spending cuts and the pharmacy problems.

 

The story has no happy ending.  All the possible endgames are apparent, and they all end in tears.  One endgame is emigration:

 

Fishmonger Tsiknopoulos’ patience is running out.  “I’m thinking of shutting down,” he said, “I think about it every day. That, and leaving Greece.”

 

One endgame is anarchy:

 

“Our society is on a razor’s edge,” Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias said recently, after striking shipyard workers broke into the grounds of the Defense Ministry.

 

Do I look like a spymaster?  Don’t answer that.

 

The Ministry of Public Order and Citizen Protection runs the national police, fire departments, coast guard, and spy services.

 

“If we can’t contain ourselves, if we can’t maintain our social cohesion, if we can’t continue to act within the rules … I fear we will end up being a jungle.”

 

One endgame is the military coup, with which Greece is incredibly familiar:

 

Nobody voted for us.  You don’t vote for a junta!

 

“Haven’t we learned anything from history? What we are seeing is a situation that is falling apart, the social fabric is falling apart,” Rizakos said. “I’m very concerned about the situation in Greece. There are many desperate people … All this creates an explosive cocktail.”

 

The other possible endgame is secession.  Sooner or later, Greece will have to exit from the euro, if only to save the nation by saving its economy by regaining control over its currency.

 

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