German trauma expert warns Greek society is about to explode
posted on 2012-12-20
Georg Pieper witnessed first-hand the plight of the homeless, poverty-stricken, uninsured and the jobless in Athens
Greece is on the brink of civil war, according to Georg Pieper, a German clinical psychologist who specializes in post-traumatic stress disorders.
He recently visited Athens to speak at a training seminar organized by the Greek Association of Pscyhologists. And, what he saw - the plight of the homeless, the uninsured, the jobless the poor - made him question how much more Greek society can endure before it "explodes".
Pieper, who has followed catastrophic events like the 1988 mine disaster in Borken, Germany in which 51 coal miners lost their life after an explosion, and the twin terror attacks on Norway last year - the worst peacetime massacre in the country's modern history, was shocked by what he saw in Athens in October.
“I’m wondering how much this society can endure before it explodes?” he said.
Greece, a debt-crippled country, is still reeling from several years of deep recession and more than two years of harsh austerity. The rate of unemployment has soared, leaving one in four Greeks jobless. The situation is getting so bad that the government has even announced plans to distribute coupons worth several euros to public school students so they can buy a sandwich from their school's cafeteria. An increasing number of parents are reportedly sending their children to school without a lunch or money to buy something to eat.
Pieper, who spent several days in Athens, said he witnessed pregnant women being turned away from state hospitals because they were uninsured and could not afford to pay for treatment. He also saw poor and homeless people scavenging garbage bins for anything edible like half-rotten fruit and vegetables thrown out near the city's open-air markets.
Pieper also heard an elderly man tell a reporter how he could no longer afford to buy medication for his heart condition.
“Greek men have been particularly hard hit by the crisis,” Pieper told the the Frankfurter Allgemeine, a top-selling German newspaper with the highest circulation. Traditional male jobs such as manufacturing or physical labour have been lost. Factories have shut and the construction sector has shed an estimated 200,000 jobs over the past two years.
According to Pieper, a man’s identity is bound up in employment. So, no one should be surprised when (one day soon) three-quarters of all people in Greece who commit suicide are men.
“Mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety are spreading in Greece now,” Pieper explained.
As regards Greek society, Pieper says it has collapsed. The economic crisis has devastated the welfare state. “In such dramatic situations man turns into a kind of predator,” he said. “He sees only himself and his own survival... In place of solidarity occurs selfishness."
As reported in the Pappas Post, Greece is the most corrupt nation in Europe, according to anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International. It's also ranked lower than countries like Colombia, Benin and Zambia.