Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Watch Greece, it won't be long until this happens here.

Spiegel Online International
The Revolt of a Disappointed Generation
December 15, 2008
By Manfred Ertel and Daniel Steinvorth

The violent unrest that followed the shooting of a 15-year-old boy has driven Greece to the brink of a political crisis. The rioting marks an explosion of rage by the country's young people who have few prospects of carving out a place in a society where all initiative is stifled.

By "young people," as you see from the rest of the article, they seem to mean those who are in their 20s and low-to-mid 30s: Late Generation x-ers and early Generation y-ers, who have little prospect of having their parents standard of living. Sound familiar?

...It is day five of the intense rioting by young people in Athens. The protests began in the district of Exarchia -- a traditional haunt of artists, anarchists and left-wing intellectuals -- and rapidly spread throughout the entire country. They have also sparked violent unrest in the large cities of Thessaloniki, Patras and Heraklion -- and in 20 other Greek towns.

...In Athens alone hundreds of stores have been destroyed and looted, schools have called off classes and universities have canceled lectures. Just a few days before Christmas, "the city has come to a grinding halt," says government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros.

Over the past week, the wave of protests has even spread to Europe's major cities. Sympathizers occupied the Greek consulates in Berlin and London, anarchists rioted out of solidarity in Barcelona, Rome and Copenhagen, and the sense of outrage has even reached New York.

Athens Polytechnic, in the heart of Exarchia, is the focal point of the protests and a place steeped in symbolism for Greek leftists. This is where students barricaded themselves inside university buildings in 1973 to protest against the military junta. When tanks crushed the gates on Nov. 17 and put and end to the leftist uprising, at least 34 young people died and some 800 were injured.

Today's sizeable Black Bloc anarchist movement in the Greek capital strongly identifies with the tradition of those young 1970s rebels. For years, they have been setting fire to police stations, banks and state institutions. "From a statistical perspective, there are attacks like this every day," says a security expert.

...Sure enough, the riots, which continued until the weekend, and particularly the obvious sympathy for the young protesters, are an expression of the Greek people's overwhelming disappointment with their government and political system. The country's political class has been losing credibility for years due to graft, kickbacks and "widespread corruption," says an EU diplomat. Over the past few months, a series of ministers have had to step down in the wake of corruption allegations, most recently the predecessor of government spokesman Antonaros and the mercantile marine minister, both of whom are close associates of conservative Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.

To make matters worse, Greece faces a shaky economic situation. Although growth has averaged 4.3 percent since 2000, Greece has one of the highest inflation rates in the euro zone, at 4.5 percent. The unemployment rate of 7.5 percent remains within European norms, but the prosperity gap between the older generation -- senior workers and civil servants -- and young people who are fresh out of school continues to grow. Nearly a quarter of all adults under the age of 29 are unemployed.

I'll bet those are the "official" figures. The real figures are probably much higher.

The current crisis has not only hit the traditional losers of modernization, such as individuals from educationally disadvantaged social strata or immigrants. This time around university-educated young people from well-off middle-class families also have to work odd jobs to keep their heads above water. Due to a lack of income, many young Greeks live with their parents until well into their thirties. The system is "tailored to the needs of established and older individuals," says sociologist Stratos Georgoulas from the Aegean University on Lesbos, "and young people are suffering from this."

Hmmm, kind of like a social security system that's going to require young people giving up half their income to support all those retired people because the AARP refuses to acknowledge that they have voted themselves "benefits" unheard of in the history of mankind?

"We have tens of thousands of young people who are rebelling and the government doesn't know how to respond to the situation," says Nikos Belavilas, an urban planning professor. "The political system has failed to integrate young people," adds sociologist Georgoulas, "and that's why things are exploding."

...The ensuing escalation of violence reminds many older Greeks of the civil war period between 1946 and 1949. And it actually looks like civil war: Young people form mobs on streets and squares, or under the protection of mass demonstrations, and they throw stones, bottles and pieces of wood at advancing police. Small groups of marauding hooligans, including children, march through the busy shopping districts. Armed with hammers and steel pipes, they smash shop fronts and car windows, and set vehicles and barricades on fire. The darker the night, the more violent the rioting.

Because even surveillance cameras need a bit of good light to give a picture that can identify the rioters.

...Petros Markaris is sitting in his armchair and he is outraged -- but not because of the destruction. The 71-year-old author, whose novels describe the underlying reasons why young people are rioting in Greece, says he could see these protests coming. "We are all responsible for this outbreak of violence," he says, "because we cultivated it ourselves."

Then he vents his anger, a deep-seated resentment that his country produces an endless series of scandals, and that "corrupt cliques" in politics, the church, associations and trade unions are free to skim off the top as they see fit. He says that no one from the two dominant political camps -- neither the center-right conservatives nor the socialists, both of whom are dominated by family clans -- will allow young people to take their place in society.

..."German tourists love us for the Acropolis and our history," says the writer, "but the days when Greece was an advanced civilization are long gone."

At least in Greece health care is a human right instead of a privilege of the wealthy, and basic utilities are provided regardless of ability to pay. We are about to be far worse off than they - and the riots will include the disenfranchized middle class without access to health care who are likely to be the instigators of our civil war - those and middle-aged men whose jobs got trashed so the Robber Barons could make more Billions-with-a-B in profit by exploiting slave labour in third world nations. Young people may have to take a back seat to the angry grown-ups here - but the violence and destruction will be the same.

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