- December 19, 2011
There’s a very sad but telling piece in today’s Guardian about the rise in suicide in Greece in the last few years – a rise that appears to be a direct cause of the economic crisis. Three years ago, Greece had the lowest suicide rate in Europe at 2.8 per 100,000 inhabitants, in a country where suicides are refused funeral rites by the Orthodox Church.
Statistics from the Greek ministry of health now suggest that these figures have almost doubled, and that more Greeks are killing themselves than in any other country on the continent. A psychiatrist at the suicide hotline Klimaka, which now receives more than 100 per day compared with 10 before the crisis, says that ‘It’s never just one thing, but almost always debts, joblessness, the fear of being fired are cited when people phone in to say they are contemplating ending their lives.’
Not surprising in a country where, according to the Guardian:
As poverty has deepened, unemployment has hit an unprecedented 18% (with over 42% affecting the 25 to 40 age group) and crime has skyrocketed in a country heading for a fifth straight year of recession. Greece’s social fabric is fraying in ways once unthinkable. With the homeless now exceeding 20,000 in central Athens alone, funding cuts disproportionately affecting welfare services and drug use on the rise, the economic crisis has morphed increasingly into one of mental health with depression, neuroses and cases of self-harm also surging, according to experts.
Greece is not the only country in which the ‘social fabric’ is unravelling as a result of the global economic crisis, and as politicians never cease to reminder us, with a kind of sadomasochistic relish, things are going to get worse. The social consequences of economic ‘haircuts’, restructuring, ‘reform’ etc are rarely mentioned in the endless high-level discussions about debt repayments and austerity budgets.
For the financial elites whose demented and reckless greed have done so much to bring about this disaster in the first place, humanity is clearly absent from their considerations, and the politicians who act as their instruments also seem to share the the principle that human beings only exist in order to ‘the market’, regardless of the human cost, and regard every crisis as another opportunity to further dismantle the institutions and services that hold society together and transform them into a source of profit.
If the price of all this is homelessness, suicide, depression, the removal of the welfare safety net, rising poverty, job insecurity or no jobs at all, crime, riots, civil unrest, racism, xenophobia, and the spectre of fascism – what of it? This is just the unfortunate but inevitable price of fiscal discipline and don’t let the lily-livered sentimentalists tell you otherwise.
And as for those of you out there who can’t take it and feel you have to exit the world, well that’s just one less potential rioter, one less discontented jobless voter, one less drain on the depleted public purse, and maybe you weren’t cut out for the twenty-first century.
So instead of worrying about such things and thinking that a society that calls itself civilised should not allow them to happen, let’s all consider the sage advice given many years by Loudon Wainwright, who once sang ‘if you get the blues and you want to shoot yourself in the head/its alright, its alright, go ahead/do the monkey do the slop do the hulahoop twist/cut your throat cut your throat cut your wrists/its ok, its ok’.