By Wolf Richter, San Francisco based executive, entrepreneur, start up specialist, and author, with extensive international work experience. Cross posted from Testosterone Pit.
“I’m wondering how much this society can endure before it explodes,” said Georg Pieper, a German psychotherapist who specializes in treating post-traumatic stress disorders following catastrophes, large accidents (including the deadliest train wreck ever in Germany), acts of violence, freed hostages…. But now he was talking about Greece.
He’d spent several days in Athens to give continuing education courses in trauma therapy for psychologist, psychiatrists, and doctors—for free, this being a country in crisis. He was accompanied by Melanie Mühl, an editor at the daily paper Frankfurter Allgemeine. And in her report, she decries how “news consumers” in Germany were fed the crisis in Greece.
It was “no more than a distant threat somewhere on the horizon,” defined by barely understood terms, such as bank bailout, haircut, billion-euro holes, mismanagement, Troika, debt buyback…. “Instead of understanding the global context, we see a serious-faced Angela Merkel getting out of dark limos in Berlin, Brussels or elsewhere, on the way to the next summit where the bailout of Greece, and thus of Europe, is to be moved forward another step” [also read… The Curse Of The “Irreversible” Euro].
But what is really happening in Greece is silenced to death in the media. Pieper calls this phenomenon a “giant feat of repression.”
And so they report their findings that cannot be dressed up in the by now normal euro bailout jargon and acronyms. There were pregnant women rushing from hospital to hospital, begging to be admitted to give birth. They had no health insurance and no money, and no one wanted to help them. People who used to be middle class were picking through discarded fruit and vegetables off the street as the stands from a farmers’ market were being taken down.
[I have seen that dreary activity even in Paris; if Mühl spent some time looking, she could see it in Germany as well. It’s not just in Greece where people, demolished by joblessness or falling real wages, are deploying desperate measures to put food on the table. And the largest consumer products companies are already reacting to it: The “Pauperization of Europe”.]
Heart-breaking, the plight of the Greeks. There was an old man who’d worked over 40 years, but now his pension had been cut in half, and he couldn’t afford his heart medication any longer. To check into the hospital, he had to bring his own sheets and food. Since the cleaning staff had been let go, doctors and nurses, who hadn’t been paid in months, were cleaning the toilets themselves. The hospital was running short on basic medical supplies, such as latex gloves and catheters. And the suicide rate doubled over the last three years—two-thirds of them, men.
“Collective trauma” is how Pieper described the society whose bottom had been pulled out from under it. “Men are particularly hard hit by the crisis,” Pieper said, as their pay had been decimated, or their jobs eliminated. They’re seething with anger at the utterly corrupt system and a kleptocratic government that have done so much damage to the country; and they’re furious at the international bailout politics whose money only benefits big banks, not the people.
These men take their anger to their families, and their sons take that anger to the street. Hence the growing number of violent gangs that attack minorities. The will to survive in humans is enormous, Pieper points out, and so humans are able to overcome even incredibly difficult situations. To do that, they need a functioning society with real structures and safety nets. But in Greece, society has been hollowed out for years to the point where it is collapsing.
“In such a dramatic situation as can be observed in Greece, the human being becomes a sort of predator, only seeing himself and his own survival,” Pieper said. “Sheer necessity pushes him into irrationality, and in the worst case, this irrationality transcends into criminality.” At that stage in society, he said, “solidarity is replaced by selfishness.”
And so he wondered, “how much this society can endure before it explodes.” Greece is on the brink of civil war, he went on, and it seems only a question of time before the collective desperation of the people erupts into violence and spreads across the country. A ricocheting indictment of the euro bailout policies.
As the Eurozone flails about to keep its chin above the debt crisis that is drowning Greece and other periphery countries, and as the EU struggles to duct-tape itself together with more governance by unelected transnational eurocrats, Sweden is having second thoughts: never before has there been such hostility toward the euro. Read…. Sweden’s Euro Hostility Hits A Record.
NOTE Lambert here: I’m leery of Pieper’s simple schema of a deterioration from solidarity to selfishness; I think that people, and history, run in more complex channels. Not to deny the brutishness of austerian policies everywhere, which this post effectively describes, or the shape of things to come. I think of Ian Welsh’s policy prescription, “default to kindness,” which I wish somebody would write on Angela Merkel’s bathroom mirror so she sees it, first thing in the morning.
Greece is the canary in this coalmine. Whatever happens there will not be restricted to there, it will spread.
Gangs are attacking scapegoats, Golden Dawn is showing the ‘eternal return’ of Authoritarianism, and the Left is being, the Left. Beware the rise of any charismatic figure. The Eurocrats have shown their lack of vision or social conscience. I would only suggest that Greece isn’t going into a period of Civil War so much as one of Armed Struggle style Class War. Let’s hope that Athens and Piraeus don’t end up looking like 1918-19 Bavaria.
“The Left is being… The Left.”
LOL! Nice. So true, unfortunately.
I mean, Syriza, the far left party looking to get into power next election, is just going to continue the failed policies, and we know it. Only leaving the goddamn euro will do anything to abate this crisis. Or at least say no to Austerity. But of course like in many other countries, Syriza mainly is used to pacify the left and the unions and keep them from actually organizing politically.
Golden Dawn is the only alternative to the status quo in greece. And when fascism is the only remaining alternative, society is fucked.
Greece is doomed. But the same things happening now will happen in 2 years or so in Spain and Italy. Its only a matter of time before new Francoist and Italian Fascist parties follow Golden Dawns lead, though as always, all Fascists ever do is attack societies weakest and most vulnerable links.
The Golden Dawn scares the shit out of me… Fascists, in a 21st century European country, getting 15% of the polls! Ridiculous!
What would leaving the euro solve? Greece will still have its debt, denominated in euros. So it will still be forced to rely on autarky like measures. The people of the Soviet Union lived through the collapse of the State. It didnt matter who decided their monetary policy, misery was still happening.
The Greeks committed suicide 20 years ago, we are just watching their death spasms. The only smart thing for them to do is start learning German and English and move.
If Greece leaves the Euro it can pick and chose what their debt is denominated in. It can also try to make everyone happy, while destroying their currency.
That will for sure put MMT to rest.
If there wasn’t long-standing animosity between Greece and Turkey (sigh), the Greeks could switch to their own currency, watch it depreciate, and become a satellite country to the booming Turkish economy.
Yes, if it still had the same Euro-denominated debts, they would of course be worse off than if they defaulted. And because of interest, the Greek debts may now be absolutely unpayable.
But a Greece off the Euro can pay off Euro debts better than a Greece on the Euro, because the government could at least be free to fully employ its resources; to run its economy at full employment. Virtual enslavement to the EU? Perhaps. But better than what they have now.
Greek debts ALWAYS were absolutely unpayable. As is any government debt in currencies that don’t have an issuer that can issue without creating more debt.
Greek debts ALWAYS were absolutely unpayable. As is any government debt in currencies that don’t have an issuer that can issue without creating more debt. This is not true. The US would have no trouble paying off debts denominated in Canadian dollars say, unless they were large in comparison to the US economy, so even far larger compared to Canada.
Such debts are unpayable only in some circumstances, not unpayable in basically all, as are Greece’s now.
What would leaving the euro solve?
Leaving the euro would let astute governors to ease quantitetively as much debt as it is needed in order to allow the private sector to recover from debt servicing slavery. Or do you think that quantitative easing should be a privilege of the US, UK, Japan or Eurocore countries?
Greece can also default. Simply, we won’t pay you jack. This is what will end up happening anyway.
I dont know if these countries realize they are on a path to a major war. The longer they wait, the more painful it will be.
Greece can also default.
A more accurate statement might be Greece will default. To quote Michael Hudson: “Debts that can’t be repaid won’t be repaid.”
I find it incredible that the Eurocrats don’t realize how precarious the security situation will soon become. Even though the Scylla (tearing up the Euro) is really scary, the Charybdis (the endless downword spiral of society-destroying depression) is much, much worse. And, as the myth makes clear, you must choose one or the other.
Really, I wouldn’t be surprised if Greek terrorist groups start planting bombs in Berlin in the next year or two. The longer the half-baked Euro stays alive, the more likely we are to see the bad old days of European ethnic warfare return.
Do you think the US security state has thought through the implications? Or are they concentrating too much on entrapping clueless Muslims and Occupy protesters to notice?
In answer to the question about the US security state, the US security state is a many-headed operation. There are a few competent divisions — mostly in the FBI and NSA — who have been seriously studying and warning about these problems.
But from the top, anyone warning about it has been suppressed, while the wackos who just want to harrass Muslims and drug users have been promoted.
This happened for 8 solid years under GWB, and as far as we can tell, Obama did nothing to change the upper tiers of the security state. Whenever the actually-good reports come out, such as the one on right-wing terrorism, the Republican Noise Machine comes out to prevent anyone from following up on it.
So the answer is: on the whole, no, the national security state is completely blind to the society-corroding danger of pauperizing the majority while coddling rich criminals; but there are smart groups of people within it who are screaming about it and tearing their hair out.
The rise of nationalist ideologies seems inevitable.
To begin with, with the Eurocrats you have the worst sort of supranational tyranny possible, as Hannah Arendt explains in “On Violence”:
Then layered on top of that you have the other problem that Arendt identified in The Origins or Totalitarianism:
Nationalist ideologies are not the exclusive domain of the right. The Left is also capable of articulating nationalist creedos. Here’s an example:
Yes, and Hannah also wrote:
“The extreme form of power is All against One, the extreme form of violence is One against All.”
“Power corresponds to the human ability not just to act but to act in concert. Power is never the property of an individual ; it belongs to a group and remains in existence only so long as the group keeps together” (Long live Occupy)
“Strength…of even the strongest individual can always be overpowered by the many….It is in the nature of a group and its power to turn against independence, the property of individual strength.”
“Force …should be reserved…to indicate the energy released by physical and social movements.”
“Authority…Its hallmark is unquestioning recognition by those who are asked to obey; neither coercion nor persuasion is needed.”
“Violence …is distinguished by its instrumental nature….the implements of violence, like other tools, are designed and used for the purpose of multiplying natural strength until, in the last stage of their development, they can substitute for it.”
(On Violence, part 2)
It’s the usual political problem. We’ve seen this happen repeatedly.
When people are being pauperized, they will, preferentially, vote for genuine Socialist or Communist policies.
However, what happens is that the status quo parties close ranks and use all the money of the 0.1% to propagandize against that — and they may actually violently suppress the Socialists and Communists, as happened in Italy and Germany in the 1920s. This is exactly what’s happening in Greece, where the status quo parties have been saying by their actions “rather Golden Dawn than Syriza”.
At that point, with Socialism eliminated, people will vote for Fascism as the next-best available option.
It’s a really stupid move on the part of the elites, because even though the fascists will undoubtedly butter up the elites, fascists tend to be *crazy* and usually blow up the country like Mussolini and Hitler did. (Franco was different. Franco was not crazy. The last Spanish Civil War was a different situation, which is interesting to look at.)
The correct move for the elites is to support the Socialists, as the various Whig and Labourite peers in the UK did over the decades when the country started approaching crisis. But they don’t seem to understand that most of the time.
So if there were any real doubt, we all will soon understand much better the relation between the debt burden of WWI war reparations on Germany and the rise of the Nazis. I laugh at all you foolish humans.
Hopefully this time around history will play as a farce instead of a world war tragedy…
Greece is on the brink.The Colonels took over Greece in 1967 and Greece quietly provided for her citizens.Colonel Papadopoulos,passed away in prison,no bank account was ever found in his name.Papandreou[senior],Papandreou[junior],Karamanlis will be tried for treason against the Greek nation.They mismanaged her economy,borders,internal security.Papandreou now hides at Harvard,Karamanlis has 42 bodyguards..what does he fear??he knows what he did.A Golden Dawn government will convict them.Life in prison will be a lenient sentence for those aholes.
Greece could simply default on its debt. Greece could re-Drachmafy and use the new Drachma as an internal medium of exchange for Greek people to do whatever low level bussiness they can with eachother within the borders of Greece. What they could do beyond that is unknowable to me.
I still wonder whether the only reason a large-to-vast majority of Greeks don’t choose Leave and Default. Could the shame-of-it-all be the explanation?
If I was Greece, I would leave the Euro. And I would “leave ugly”. I would do my best to toss a match on the fucker on my way out the door in hopes of getting to watch it burn all the way down.
What wil they use to buy oil? Al economies exist in the biophysical world; they are now entering the era of the limits to growth and the costs of overconsumption of the earth’s resources.
Currently, no one will touch them with a ten foot pole.
If they leave and print their own currency, they’ll be in front of the pack in the coming currency war… global investors with money burning a hole in their pockets will be bending backwards to invest there….
You have to look no further than Argentina to see a demonstration of that.
Investors are throwing their money at high-yield basket cases for less than 4-5%… why would they not give their money to a country with a “clean slate” that has better prospects than the others for a few years?
What will ANYone use to buy oil when there is no more oil left to buy? Greece would simply be forced to adapt to the “no more oil” future sooner and could even offer lessons to others who will forced to adapt to the “no more oil” future later. They have enough land and re-peasantisable people that they won’t lack food at any brute-starvation level. Of course nonPeasant urban Greeks would have to do something for the growing ranks of back-to-the-land Greek neopeasants valuable enough that the neopeasants would exchange their food for it. And it would have to be something more valuable than giving lectures on Modern Monetary Theory in exchange for food, for example.
Cuba diddit. Greece can doit.
“Of course nonPeasant urban Greeks would have to do something for the growing ranks of back-to-the-land Greek neopeasants valuable enough that the neopeasants would exchange their food for it. And it would have to be something more valuable than giving lectures on Modern Monetary Theory in exchange for food, for example.”
Don’t make assumptions like that. Accounting is one of the oldest professions in the world, dating to the early days of Egypt and Sumeria; economic projections and planning seem to have appeared soon afterwards. I think the people giving lectures on Modern Monetary Theory might be considered quite valuable by the neopeasants.
No you wouldn’t.
The Greeks are getting valuable Euros for producing nothing. If you were a Greek you would drag this out until you get free Euros.
A new currency will be a la weimer anyway, even if Greece defaults. Skills, work ethic, industry has left the country and won’t come back until reality strikes.
And Greece is just the beginning.
Actual Greeks aren’t getting any Euros: so called “bailouts” are a simple pass through to mostly German banks.
Greeks work significantly more than Germans: http://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?DatasetCode=ANHRS If German banks had properly underwritten the debts Greece owes them we would have seen Greek productivity grow to something much closer to Germany’s with Greece being able to pay it’s debts.
Instead corrupt German banks made dud loans to corrupt Greek politicians and are now using the ECB to bail themselves out.
We have a winner…
Yeah, but Greeks only work, on average, 600 more hours per year than Germans. That’s only an extra 75 eight-hour work days per year…not that much. (Isn’t it strange that all the laziest countries on that list; France, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, and West Germany (?); are also among the wealthiest? Kinda puts the lie to the old, work-hard, get-ahead meme, dunnit?)
And I don’t see what the big fuss is about with the German banks. So they made a bunch of purposefully bad loans, got bailed out and stuck the citizens with the bill…so what? I mean, all the cool kids were doing it.
Do you know what caused the hyper-inflation in the Weimar Republic?
No I wouldn’t? Oh yes I would. The actual Greece may not do it. I don’t know Greece.
But would I do it? Yes I would. You don’t know me.
A Civil War requires two or more ‘sides’ with reasonably clearly defined but inimical objectives, and it’s hard to see that in today’s Greece.
Too, a society that ‘explodes’ needs something to ‘explode’ against – ‘The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,the pangs of despised love, the law’s delay, the insolence of office and the spurns that patient merit of the unworthy takes,…” but in Greece these are ephemeral, shifting targets.
More likely is an implosion of society against itself as ‘civil’ society collapses. Law becomes unenforceable except with a 10 metres of an armoured police-car. Money ceases to be a medium of exchange and is replaced by barter or violence. Survival becomes a matter of joining with the local power-base/gang and fighting for/holding territory and resources.
Expect to see a return of the Army to power in Greece, supported by NATO and the enforcement of martial law with a new Marshall Plan taking years to rebuild the country to a semblance of democracy and a First-world standard of living – all of which will cost the people of Europe ten times what it would cost its banks now to help the Greeks avoid the whole catastrophe.
The fact that local self-government ‘gangs’ haven’t properly organized in Greece is actually a really bad sign.
In a country with a healthy civil society, as things collapse, *people start organizing their own institutions*. Yeah, the rotting corpses of the old institutions may send in troops to try to break the new institutions, and they may be successful. But the people *spontaneously* organize new governments, if you see what I mean.
In my politically active university town, I’m quite sure what would happen if the upper levels of government stopped functioning; we’d step up and start organizing co-ops, unions, thinktanks, working groups, delegations to other regions, etc. The hospital isn’t operating due to lack of outside money? We’ll figure out a local socialist scheme for supporting just enough doctors and nurses, though perhaps not in the style to which they are accustomed.
If the people are not doing that, that is a sign of an unhealthy civil society.
Ah yes, selfishness. Supposedly the epitome of capitalism as supposedly everyone doing the selfish option will paradoxically lead to life improvements for everyone.
Smith, Rand, Nash, all claim this to be true…
Honestly, it seems that a whole lot of what is wrong with the western mentality right now can be traced to RAND…
Rand was an idiot, a hypocrite and sometimes a sort of psychopath.
She was also a great social critic and the amusing part is that if the people who worship her were to have an actual conversation with her, she would have completely rejected them.
She would have called Romney and Ryan looters and moochers, and lot of what is wrong with the western mentality was precisely what she was complaining about.
In “Atlas Shrugged”, her “heroine” Dagny Taggart was the one who could run the railroad. Her brother James Taggart, the president of Taggart Transcontinental, was the one who figured how to use government power to move the money from other peoples pockets to his own pockets. He was not one of Rand’s heroes.
She had some deluded idea that there were “heroes” out there that represented her highest values. But none of the corporate executives of the time came even close to her impossible and illogical standards.
There was very little in her ideas that had anything useful to do with running a fair society, but she could spot a moocher at fifty paces.
And the left and the right seem determined to have an ongoing debate about what she didn’t say.
It would seem that when it came to how wealth can have a corrupting influence on the creativity that drives entrepreneurs, Rand was a complete ignoramus. In missing this piece of knowledge and wisdom about the human psyche her writings were fiction through and through. It always appeals to the young and naive and unfortunately if they become rich without going through painful learning experiences, belief takes root and never leaves.
That Ayn Rand would be taken seriously as anything other than a novelist and Hollywood screenwriter is beyond the imagination of any investment professional of the 1960s. But I do remember the John Birch fanatics.
Its a tribute to the power of the John Birch society, a radical right wing bunch of screwballs who managed by stealth thanks to Evangelical Church membership databases, to carve out a substantial and influential power base in this country.
ugly, creepy screwballs I might add.
thinking about that ugly creepy remark -that it may be excessive. Begin with Alan Greenspan …
“Its a tribute to the power of the John Birch society, a radical right wing bunch of screwballs”
NOT screwballs – but dedicated to the destruction of the middles class as we know it today – The Koch Brothers Father was one of the founding members of the JB Society – his Father as well was extreme right wing who enlisted Edward Bernays in the 20’s – who was the Father of the Advertising industry and Propaganda Theories who Goebbels worshipped and used as basic principals
these people are dangerous serious people screwballs they are not
see Propaganda by Edward Bernays (1928) It begins:
[The] American business community was
also very impressed with the propaganda
effort. They had a problem at that time. The
country was becoming formally more
democratic. A lot more people were able to
vote and that sort of thing. The country was
becoming wealthier and more people could
participate and a lot of new immigrants were
coming in, and so on.
So what do you do? It’s going to be harder
to run things as a private club. Therefore,
obviously, you have to control what people
Presumably Rand had never read _Theory of the Leisure Class_, which is all *about* the psychology of wealth.
“Austerity – At Whose Cost?”
Everywhere, austerity is the demand of the day. To be sure, there are seeming exceptions for the moment in a few countries – China, Brazil, the Gulf states, and possibly a few others. But these are exceptions to a demand that pervades the world-system today. In part, this demand is absolutely phony. In part, it reflects a real economic problem. What are the issues?
On the one hand, the incredible wastefulness of a capitalist system has indeed led to a situation in which the world-system is threatened by its real inability to continue to consume globally at the level at which the world has been doing it, especially since the absolute level of consumption is constantly increasing. We are indeed exhausting basic elements for human survival, given the consumerism that has been the basis of our productive and speculative activities.
On the other hand, we know that global consumption has been highly unequal, both among countries and within countries. Furthermore, the gap between the current beneficiaries and the current losers has been persistently growing. These divergences constitute the fundamental polarization of our world-system, not only economically, but politically and culturally.
This is no longer much of a secret to the world’s populations. Climate change and its consequences, food and water shortages and their consequences are visible to more and more people, many of whom are beginning to call for a shift in civilizational values – away from consumerism.
The political consequences are indeed quite worrisome to some of the biggest capitalist producers, who are realizing that they no longer have a tenable political position, and therefore they face the inevitable shutdown of their ability to command resources and wealth. The current demand for austerity is a sort of last-ditch effort to hold back the tide of the structural crisis of the world-system.
The austerity that is being practiced is an austerity imposed on the economically weaker parts of the world populations. Governments are seeking to save themselves from the prospect of bankruptcies and to shield mega-corporations (especially but not only mega-banks) from paying the price (lost revenue) of their egregious follies and self-inflicted wounds. The way they are trying to do this is essentially by cutting back (if not eliminating altogether) the safety nets that were historically erected to save individuals from the consequences of unemployment, serious illness, housing foreclosures, and all the other concrete problems that people and their families regularly face.
Those who seek short-term advantage continue to play the stock market in constant and fast trading. But this is a game that is dependent in the middle run upon the ability to find purchasers for the products on sale. And effective demand is steadily disappearing, both precisely because of these cutbacks in safety nets and because of the massive fear that there are still more cutbacks coming.
The proponents of austerity have been regularly assuring us that we are turning the corner or will soon do so, and that a revived general prosperity will return. However, we have not in fact been turning this mythical corner, and the promises of revival are becoming ever more modest and projected to take ever longer.
There are also those who think that a social-democratic solution is available. Instead of austerity, we should augment government spending and tax the wealthier segments of the population. Even if this were politically realizable, would it do the trick? The proponents of austerity have one plausible argument. There aren’t enough world resources to sustain the level of consumption everyone wants as more and more individuals demand politically to be among the higher consumers.
This is where the exceptions to which I referred come in. They are at the moment expanding the numbers of high consumers, not merely shifting the geographic location of high consumers. The countries that have been “exceptions” are thereby increasing the economic dilemmas, not resolving them. There are only two ways out of the real dilemma involved in this structural crisis. One is to establish a non-capitalist authoritarian world-system which will use force and deception rather than the “market” to permit and augment the inegalitarian world distribution of basic consumption. The other is to change our civilizational values.
In order to realize a relatively democratic and relatively egalitarian historical system in which to live, we do not need “growth” but what is being called in Latin America buen vivir. What this means is engaging in continued rational discussion about how the whole world can allocate the world’s resources such that we all not only have what we really need to survive but also preserve the possibility for future generations to do the same.
For some parts of the world’s populations, it means their children will “consume” less; for others, they will “consume” more. But in such a system, we can all have the “safety net” of a life guaranteed by the social solidarity that such a system makes possible.
The next twenty to forty years will see an enormous political battle, not about the survival of capitalism (which has exhausted its possibilities as a system) but about what kind of system we shall collectively “choose” to replace it – an authoritarian model that imposes continued (and expanded) polarization or one that is relatively democratic and relatively egalitarian.
I agree with most of what you said. I think that your assertion about the struggle of the next 20-40 years needs to be understood within the context of where we are today.
I would say instead that possibly in 20-40 years we can escape the repressive system we currently have that is getting even more repressive to the point of genocide.
As I have said multiple times before, sadly:
As goes Greece, so goes the 99%.
You forgot, “Mission Accomplished” and a flag lapel pin.
Just to clarify, these are I Wallerstein’s most recent comments. Not mine. I leave the link at the end so you can go to his site. Of course, he is not the only scholar whose methods of scholarship and age grant him such a valuable position among writers who deserved to be widely distributed in order for all of us to gain valid perspectives. Greece is not far behind Syria. I am amazed, not just here on NC, but in so many other media sites, how patterns regularly emerging in the general media are not put together into a large picture describing exactly what direction we headed towrards.
Certainly the Arab spring shows a social order collapsing. But precisely what relationship does it have to Greece, the EU, NATO, the American economy? Using Wallerstein’s model, and in this case, not his words but my mine this time, the entire system has already begun to collapse the social order, starting in the peripheral areas and now moving towards the semi-periphery.
Next link is a brief Powerpoint explaining the World Systems Theory, and is relevant to understanding the social processes that we discussing here.
The least developed, in terms of industrial capitalism, the peripheral states are the most unstable in many ways. The semi-peripheral states, Greece would be among them, have some aspects of the production which provide for wealth and power, but they are still dependent upon the strongest areas, the CORE of the World System. And even within the strongest and wealthiest of the CORE, such as America, there have always been peripheral areas, rural Appalachia and the Urban Ghettos, for example.
As the World System deteriorates, the weakest peripheral areas within the US as well as within the EU will show the signs of stress and the breakdown of the social order. Syria at the periphery shows the worst example of collapse with civil society disappearing altogether in widespread civil war. The widespread mass violence during street marches showing political disapproval can result in mass rioting, as in London or Paris in the past few years. All of these signs of stress show a process of deteriorating conditions. Just as a geodesic dome over a sports stadium will not collapse until its structural integrity is breached at the point of 20% or so damage, resulting in collapse of the covering dome, so peripheral civil war, widespread rioting in Greece and periodic flare ups of rioting in London, Paris, Barcelona, Rome etc have not reached a critical point. But how much more austerity will be delivered to the populace before the critical point has been reached? Fiscal cliff austerity jousting will point to the direction that America will go with inflicting pain and consequential social unrest. Awareness is very high among the population about exactly who is doing what to them.
I’ve been devising a similar theory. I think Spain is “the big one”. First, I’m not sure how it’s lasted this long *without* a revolution. Second, its revolutionaries are far better organized, and have a far clearer understanding of their situation, with far fewer internal conflicts, than anywhere else — as far as I can tell, anyway.
The implications of the revolutions working “from the periphery inward” means the US is going to go last. Could take decades.
FWIW, I don’t think there is any sense in which Syria’s civil society collapsed. The opposition organized very quickly; the leftover dictator decided to be gratuitously violent and brutal, and that drove mass defections. Unfortunately the dictator had been left with a very large arsenal thanks to the Merchants of Death, so it was very nasty. But Syria is a Civil War proper, which is not the same as the collapse of society seen in Somalia, for instance.
I agree,we all will have to join in the discussion to maximize what resources we use.Obviously,those whose job it is to “sell as much crap,as cheaply as possible” are going to have a different take on this.Each and every one of them.the end of cheap crap that fills up landfills,for a resumption of well made products that last,will be a part of it.recycling, of all the good resources,is another. Even making things,SO they can be recycled.Clean sources of energy,must also come into this equation.The road from austerity, must be towards a sustainable economy.The elegant use of natural laws and resources.Maximizing, public participation,as opposed to corporate monopolization,has to be incorporated.
None ,of that is in our current paradigm.
But,I guess that is a different topic.
Does Greece even have anything to capitalize upon ,other than tourism?olives and artisan specialties.What about the shipping magnate families.Those 3 families,alone seem rich enough that they could write a check, and pay off greek debts.?Are they paying a fair share of taxes?
Recently, I read an article on the skilled labor shortage… this business owner had a insatiable demand for PhDs (or other workers requiring expensive education)at 10$ an hour… and this lack of labor supply was hampering his growth prospects.
Obviously, our entire system is completely out of whack and no easy solution will fix it. Unfortunately, only a shock will correct the imbalances.
Ten dollars an hour? Let the dogfucker go all the way out of bussiness, then.
“There are also those who think that a social-democratic solution is available. Instead of austerity, we should augment government spending and tax the wealthier segments of the population. Even if this were politically realizable, would it do the trick? ”
Yes, done right, it would do the trick. It would have to be spending focused on two things: switching the entire economy over to solar power, and promoting contraception.
The political problem is the *only* problem. The tech problem is straightfoward if annoyingly work-intensive, and the policy problem is even more straightfowrard.
The political problem — how to convince people to do the obviously correct thing — is the hard one!
That is a heartbreaking narrative, and I’m sure one can really witness these very things he is describing in Greece right now. It’s just that the conclusion from all this is not as clear cut as he would make you believe. As others have already commented, a civil war requires reasonably well-defined sides – and these just aren’t there. What you are seeing in Greece is more a “Somalia-zation” of a country that never hat that much societal cohesion and morals to begin with.
Take the thing about the hospitals, for instance. Sounds horrible, that he had to bring his own sheets, right? Well, the problem is that in Greece this could have happened to you even in the times of plenty. Perhaps the chances of it happening were not as large as they are now, but it could still happen to you. It all depended (and probably still depends) on how much the management of the particular hospital you ended up in were stealing at any given point in time. Even in the good times before 2008, people almost always relied on additional care provided by relatives when they were in a state-run hospital. Otherwise, you could simply not rely on being fed and washed, and being properly taken care of. It could work out all right (some hospitals were, and are, run and staffed by decent folk), but then, it might not.
And this is not your normal Greece-bashing from uninformed sources: I got these stories from friends who are both Greek and doctors, so this is a second hand account from insiders who eventually left in disgust about all the stealing and chronic mis-management, and now work elsewhere in Europe.
So what you are seeing right now is a deeply flawed society that saw stealing from the state as a national pastime falling apart. Or not. Maybe they will get their act together, now that they are seeing what this eventually leads to.
But please don’t go around pretending that the problems started with Greece not being able to finance their deficits any longer when the crisis started. They were already down the road to hell much earlier.
I can plainly see, aw70, that you never learned empathy at your mother’s knee. No country, no people, no one deserves the kind of treatment that the Greeks are getting. You cannot label a whole country as “not moral.” At least the children did not ask for the kind of austerity they are going through.
Do not blame the victims for their plight. It IS the banks and bad government that led down the path the Greeks are on. The banks want their pound of flesh no matter how it is obtained.
Dig deep into your psyche and try to find some tidbit of sympathy for those worse off than you.
Unfortunatelly this is all true.
Greece has long been the most corrupt country in Europe, worse than italy, or the “gangster economy” states of eastern Europe or the former Soviet Union.
To get a medical operation in the past, for example, you would have to pay a sliding scale of bribes to the doctors and nurses who were about to operate. Everyone understood this. Doctors are supposedly the worst tax dodgers in the country.
Greece isn’t a meriticratic place- it’s run according to patronage networks, like the Russian BLAT system. Jobs in the public sector get divvied up according to the political balance-this is still going on…..
There’s always been a huge reluctance to get to grips with the open corruption within Greek society- because the sort of people who might be able to reform it (the type of articulate middle class people who, for example, formed anti-mafia groups in Italy, or campaign for various good causes in the US or UK), have instead looked for an opportunity to get THEIR ladle into the soup bowl. It’s not just the wealthy, not the 1-3% who loot and plunder most western countries. In Greece, it’s more like the top 30% who’ve shafted the place.
I don’t want to sound unsympathetic, because I deeply pity the majority of unconnected, unhooked-in Greeks, but it’s a pretty sick society in a lot of ways.
IF! . . . this is really true of some Greek persons . . . this corrupt exploitation of other Greek people in no position to beat the corrupters out of this behavior . . . THEN! ( and ONLY then) . . . I hope that those individual Greek corruptionists you describe end up as poor as the homeless mole people in the deepest darkest subway tunnels of New York City.
Of course I hope the same thing happens to the architects of corruption here in America too. Is there anything we little people can do to drive the Dimons and the Blankfeins and the Pews and the Mellons and the Scaifes into the abandoned subway tunnels of New York City for the rest of their lives?
Here’s the thing — patronage machines can work, if they’re “done right”. Look at Chicago. It’s been run on patronage and bribery since it was founded, and it’s actually a pretty decent place to live *even for the lower classes*.
“As others have already commented, a civil war requires reasonably well-defined sides – and these just aren’t there. What you are seeing in Greece is more a “Somalia-zation” of a country that never hat that much societal cohesion”
The question of why Greece does not have societal cohesion, and why the patronage system is not working in Greece, is a good question.
In Chicago, one aspect is that everyone is allowed in the patronage system — in response to the white “machine”, there is a black “machine”, and they get along now. Another aspect is that the patrons are really expected to hold up their end of the deal — and are also expected to show off their charitableness, to prove their worthiness.
Sounds feudal, doesn’t it? Well, the feudal system can work. It’s when the elite stop understanding that *they have responsibilities* in the feudal system that it fails.
This Therapist is doing expensive Seminars on Lesbos..
but not for the greek traumatized but for rich Germans
Thanks and congratlations on your “note”, Wolf!
Aw70 says: “It’s a heartbreaking narrative”
Different Clue says: You say: “Greece could simply default on its debt….…….” And, “I still wonder whether the only reason a large-to-vast majority of Greeks don’t choose Leave and Default……”
Unfortunately, the paths that leads to a point where the vast majority of Greek people can default requires nothing short of a revolution – and, right now, not even a popular revolution at that. Because, who are these Greeks you mention that, apparently, have a sweeping manifesto to “just default”? The last time I looked the Greek voters simply didn’t want to default on their debt (though, admittedly, the majority may be ignorant enough not to fully comprehend it) and they proved it!
In May of 2012 the Greeks democratically elected the same technocrats and plutocrats that have been running the country, post WWII, for decades: New Democracy (29.66 per cent), followed by the Syriza radical left coalition at (26.89 per cent – a ‘coalition’ at that) and the extreme far-right Golden Dawn party, with just 6.92 per cent.
The majority of Greeks have neither been sufficiently enlightened as to the decades of pain they face as an indentured people or been beaten down, trodden upon and suffered sufficient enough pain for any one party to be voted into government so as to “just default”.
The Greeks are fucked, not just because government in Greece is the same business it’s always been, but because the vast majority of the people don’t behave/vote in a manner that shows they give a damn. They just cow their heads, mumble Αλίμονο μου είναι ,get about their ever diminishing business, then vote and vote and vote…… for more – giving power and legitimacy to the people who advocate (in Troika-speak) openly that they will make life for the vast majority of Greeks an austere misery.
So, unfortunately, it’s not the case that the Greeks can “simply default” – there’s no one with a popular mandate to make it happen – and there’s a lot of blood and tears yet to come before the majority of Greeks are in a position or the right mental state to make that collective proclamation. But, God help them when they do, because while it’s a heartbreaking narrative now it will be life and death narrative when the majority of Greeks have suffered enough.
Very well put. It seems the Greeks, like the Italians and Spanish and Portuguese and French and definitely the British, and lots of others are just copying the Americans. Don’t question. Don’t breath. And God, don’t rock the boat! Just keep clutching at what remains. Opps, I mean what remains now, Opps, I mean what remains…
And while thinking unhappy thoughts, I wonder if “revolution” is even possible now-a-days.
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
Did the Greeks have a political party running on “Leave and Default”? How can we know how they would have voted on such a choice if no one gave them that choice to vote for?
Golden Dawn might eventually give them that choice to vote for, but it is so repellent otherwise that decent center-to-leftward Greeks won’t vote for it. How many of those Greeks would vote for a center-left Leave And Default Party if such existed?
Exactly the point! You are right there was no party with an explicit “Leave and Default” manifesto (The closest the Greeks came to any party running on such a platform was Syriza, but even they were hedging their bets lest they make the money markets skittish).
Comment of “I don’t understand why they don’t just leave the euro….”, “default” and “get back to the drachma and deflate out of trouble…” is impotent rhetoric from outraged third party observers who believe the Greek people are somehow imbued with powers of post –election telepathy – able to change their government’s Euro-philic attraction by mentally projecting how they feel about the majority who voted them into power and the impact it’s had on their daily life.
The Greek government is not Euro skeptic, and there is no opposition party running for Government standing on a ‘Leave and Default’ platform. Moreover, there is little chance that there will be such a party manifesto, at least until the Greek nation is actually suffering a national trauma.
Because, until that happens – when a majority of Greeks are really feeling the pain and wake up to reality – the 2012, properly elected Greek government will continue to govern as mandated by the will of its people.
“In May of 2012 the Greeks democratically elected the same technocrats and plutocrats that have been running the country, post WWII, for decades: New Democracy (29.66 per cent), followed by the Syriza radical left coalition at (26.89 per cent – a ‘coalition’ at that) and the extreme far-right Golden Dawn party, with just 6.92 per cent. ”
And Floridians reelected Rick Scott, known medicare/caid fraudster.
USA has this disease too!!
Florida is unbelievable. I mean, we have trouble in a lot of states in the US, but usually it’s these squeakers of elections where the right-wing nut wins by lying about his policies, pouring a gazillion dollars in, and still getting 50.6% of the vote.
Florida, Rick Scott ran on his “business record”, which is to say his record of defrauding the government (!!!) and won without spending much money. It’s like Floridians weren’t even paying *attention*.
Which may be the case. Lots of elderly people in Florida who retired there because they didn’t want to be involved in their communities.
I remember reading some years ago a comment in a Hullabaloo thread by someone named “Benmerc” who described himself as a native Floridian. He noted that many Floridian Southerners were tending in a sort of progressive direction, electing modestly semi-liberal governors like Reuben Askew, and so forth. But meanwhile huge sticky masses of Midwestard Retirees moved to Florida to turn it “into their own personal ashtray” (his phrase) and made Florida the reactionary TeaTard Potty Paradise it has been becoming till this very day. (He didn’t mention the Miami Cubans, but I am sure they helped in that rightward push).
“People who used to be middle class were picking through discarded fruit and vegetables off the street as the stands from a farmers’ market were being taken down.
[I have seen that dreary activity even in Paris;”
This is what caught my eye in this article. What ought to be seen as a positive- elimination of waste, frugality, recycling, practical- is defined as low class, dreary. This is part of what’s wrong, all our produce has to be perfect, we’re too lazy to chop off a bit of rot on our peppers, too proud to do what has to be done if it means looking a little less than respectable. Let’s cut off the financial parasites from our throats. They’ll survive, they’ll scavenge.
A few months ago, I went on my due diligence tour in Toronto to meet with multiple money managers.
Smugly, each one explained to me how the whole mess would get papered over, that Europe would stick together as the bankers would win.
Maybe I’m deluded, but my belief is that the currency war is only beginning. I just can’t believe that this union will survive.
The bankers, as a group, are incapable of winning. Apparently they have not realized this yet.
Individual bankers may be able to extract their loot and transform it into mansions and private islands before the whole thing collapses, but as a group the bankers are in a Ponzi position where anything they do just gets them deeper into trouble. Eventually it blows up.
I’m leery of Pieper’s simple schema of a deterioration from solidarity to selfishness…
-Lambert, up there in God’s country keeping warm (I hope)
I’m not so sure it’s a simple schema, but it does seem generally reflective of what goes on under great social stress. Just look at our very own peanut galleries for Rethuglicans, not to mention those for the money grubbing Dim-O-crats (silent ‘c’, big hopium O). I’m not talking the OWS’ers or visitors to this or other enlightened blogs which add up to less than the 1%ers. I’m talking main stream America which seems to be getting pretty damned whacked out itself on self interest if not on down right selfishness.
That is the very crux of where the attack on the safety net will win or fail; our own selfishness.
Make safety net preservation a primary goal for survivalist selfishness. Harness peoples’ selfishness about their SS/Mcare/Mcaide towards the preservation of their SS/Mcare/Mcaide.
I PAID for that entitlement!
I am ENTITLED to that, dammit, it’s my right!
How on earth did right-wing propagandists make “entitlement” sound like a bad word? I am entitled to my basic human rights, for example.
Euronews.net (broadcasting from Lyon, France, but usually the loudspeaker of the European Commission) had a report from Greece recently.
(Includes opinions from olive tree growers, from Economics Prof.at Uni Athens, from a 94 y.o. war hero who wrote a book about War Reparations in billions due by Germany.)
“I’m leery of Pieper’s simple schema of a deterioration from solidarity to selfishness.”
That is an unfair way to make a fair comment. I am pretty confident that Pieper is aware of the difference between averaged abstraction (e.g. for publication) and the complexity of the real world. It is also irrelevant – while “uplifting” examples of heroic and even suicidal altruism will abound from Greece and elsewhere, it does not mean that more and more of the survivors will match the lawless selfishness he cautions of. The question is not whether co-operation is more effective as a means of survival – if survival is tribal, it is still fiercely selective in its co-operation, and fierce in the physical exclusion of The Other – the question is, how many of us, in desperate times, with traumatized minds, will still be able and willing to reason or feel our way through the trade-offs and dilemmas.
Whatever the merits of specifics of a “deterioration from solidarity to selfishness”, if Greece is the canary in the global US coal mine, it should be pointed out that The People come pre-selfished and un-solidarized, with their guns being both a cause and a symptom of that predisposition. Of course, the armed-to-the-dentures US citizen might just be an expression of a cargo cult of “individualism” conveniently and profitably ruggedized by a consumer market for firearms – it is hard to predict what would happen, except that it will most likely be very different from Greece.
The question is tribal allegiance. The key scheme by the 0.1% is to implant *false consciousness* in the 99% so that they will have tribal alligiance to the very criminals who are trying to screw them over.
If they instead had class-consciousness and had tribal allegiance to the 99%, these governments would be overthrown in a trice.
Or even if they had class consciousness to the 99% of their own tribe. That was called “Populism” in the 1880s and 1890s in America.
” Two, Three, Many 99 percents”.
As I understand the fiat money system the world runs on, money is created by debt. The only way the interest can be paid back on the debt is by growth. Since the world has finite resources, is not capitalism eventually doomed to failure as an economic system? Should the great economic brains be thinking about changing the world system now, before it is too late? Or is it too late already?
Peter Turchin in his book “War and Peace and War” pretty well sums up what happens when selfish-individualism destroys the trust in a country or a region. He argues that decay and re-birth is cyclical. The pressing task for the human race is to understand why and how to balance self-enhancing and self-transcending behaviour to stop the cycles.
Or even just moderate and modulate the cycles and make them survivably shallow . . .
Wolf Richter wrote: ‘“I’m wondering how much this society can endure before it explodes,” said Georg Pieper, a German psychotherapist who specializes in treating post-traumatic stress disorders….”’.
I agree with Quince’s sentiment, apparently the Greeks (the Spanish, French, Italians, Lithuanians, Europeans in general and Americans in general) can endure quite a lot (probably a lot more) before they explode (societal). And, Georg Pieper is extrapolating – it hasn’t morphed into a collective phenomenon, just yet. Greece is not yet traumatized nationally – but certainly Greeks are suffering individually.
It has been thirty years (since 1981) of the Greek electorate’s collective political passivity (naiveté, ignorance; whatever) that has brought them to a place where the politicians they democratically voted for are now so indifferent to their electorates’ welfare. Nonetheless, let’s not be confused; no one forced austerity upon the Greeks, they voted for it! It’s not as if Greece (or any other European country) is a junta, these governments have all been democratically elected – and in cases such as Greece, elected on more than one occasion since 2008 (even in Italy the ‘non-elected’ president was appointed, democratically.)
So, collectively, Greece (and other European countries) voted ‘yes’ to austerity and a mild “maybe” to the alternatives. As such, these elected governments are simply doing what they have been elected to do – serve the best interest of a pan-European confederation and subordinate the interests of individual nations and nationalism.
So, let’s not equate the many cases of individual hardship and deprivation with national trauma (it’s not like Greece has lost a war); collectively, Greece is not even close – it has no collective will to change the status quo because, simply, there is not plurality suffering a sufficient degree of misery to make it so.
Like so many in Europe (and America) the nostalgic idea that passively elected governments intuitively and altruistically serve the best interest of you, your family or your nation, is dead – maybe, long dead. And, the Greek electorate are in a state of denial – hoping the consequences and actions of their elected governments will just go away, pass quickly and be over and done with. But, until we reach a point where the Greek electorate actively vote out (or even force out) the disinterested representatives of their own government –they are not, as a nation, yet suffering enough (we have a long way to go before that point is reached in Greece/Europe), and you can count on the Greek/European Governments knowing that all too well.
This same article was @ ZeroHedge yesterday so here is the same comment:
A civil war in Greece would be a tragedy and unnecessary.
Greece and the rest are bankrupt b/c of their automobiles and ‘American Style’ suburbanized way of life obtained from Big Business, financed by Wall Street.
The Greeks have borrowed tens of billions of euros to buy cars and fuel for the cars. Neither the cars nor fuel pay for themselves. The only collateral for new loans is used cars and smog. Nobody will lend any more to the Greeks because the costs have become excessive
The doctors and the nurses are cleaning toilets, doing for themselves. Cleaning toilets is the first step. Next is for all the Greeks to figure out what else they can do for themselves with the resources they have … without the fuel, the cars and the lifestyles. This can be done because Greeks — and others — have done these things quite well for thousands of years.
As soon as the Greeks start figuring this out their crisis is on the road to ending. Until the Greeks — and others — start figuring this out the pain will intensify. Greece is too poor to fight wars, it can slowly disintegrate and its people starve or emigrate. For what is such a price being paid?
To drive a car. There has been the choice presented to citizens in modern countries since peak oil … which occurred in 1998 (!) You can either drive a car … or have a job. You can drive a car or have a competent government. You can drive a car or have a pension or get a good education. The choices become more existential as the wrong choice is made over and over: drive a car or have medical care. Drive a car or live in a house.
The choice is always made to drive the car, drive the car, everything else is thrown to the wolves and the country disintegrates. Greece is destroyed by peak oil: unaffordable cars, unaffordable fuel … and the unaffordable credit needed to gain these things.
The choice to come: Drive a car or have something to eat. At the end of this road there are no cars and no food, either. No country, nothing, a void filled with ruin and despair. Life is simple: you get to repeat your mistakes until you learn not to do so.
Get real Greeks, get rid of the cars. All of them. Now.