The Price Of “Collective Trauma”: Greece At The Brink of Civil War

Wolf Richter's picture

Wolf Richter

“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-braking, 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.

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jldpc's picture

Why have sympothy for people who lied to get into the Euro system? refuse to paytaxes? want to live off of some one else's hard work? keep voting in politicians who lie, steal, and make undeliverable promises? who think 14 monthly payments and XMAS bonus istheir god given right? who have lived off of others for centuries? and who believe and act that whining and complaining in the streets is an effective  way to deal with their current problems? They are like kept dogs by the Germans - who do not want them to be free - for whose benefit? The Germans of course. Any group this corrupt and this stupid does not deserve to receive sympathy or handouts.

Mike in Tokyo Rogers's picture

You are kidding, right? You think these pregnant moms who can't get into hospitals or the old guy who can't get heart medicine lied to get into the Euro system? Riiiiiiight! And all Americans deserve to be tried for war crimes because they bomb women, children and old folks in the ME 24/7... What a simpleton!

jldpc's picture

No I am not kidding? are you personally ready to loan them (the government, bankers, collectively "them") more money? Or would you consider that personal stupidity? Or are you just a bleeding liberal always ready to use OPM (Other People's Money) to "help" someone you perceive in need. Long before this century, for several thousands of centuries, women of our species gave birth at home with friends and mid-wives and family. so whose money exactly are proposing to use to get them into hospitals - or pay for their medicine. Fools, and greedy selfish persons like you always want to help with OPM. Why? Just you raised wrong I guess. Or was it your slanted education? Dim bulb we owe 16 on the way to 20 or more trillion. When is it enough for your bleeding heart? Oh I forgot, you want to make me broke to salve your conscience for you and your kind  leading all of us to destruction.

Things that go bump's picture

This is of course true.  My father was born at home.  His mother bore 9 children, but only 4 lived to grow up.  The oldest died in the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918, but the other 4 died at birth or shortly thereafter and they would have been saved if born in a hospital today.  Men used to have a longer life expectancy than women, and often buried 2 or 3 wives because so many women did not survive the horrendous risk childbirth entails.  So much can go wrong.  Even if you were safely delivered you still ran the considerable risk of dying of childbed fever.  Those woman were only seaking a safe confinement and a healthy infant.  

Umh's picture

Childbed fever for the most part came along with doctors with poor hygiene.

Things that go bump's picture

Women still get infections after childbirth, but now they treat them with antibiotics.  

Notarocketscientist's picture

Here's what America is all about

Optimusprime's picture

Good to hear from you Mike--enjoyed your contributions to LRC.

andrewp111's picture

I would love to see Athens occupied by EU  (mostly German and French) troops, in EU uniforms, who are sent in to  restore order and extract repayment for all the bailout debts. They will systematically scour the country for gold held by the public, and summarily execute any household  who fails to cough up all their gold and silver to the soldiers. With millions of people dangling from every streetlight in the country, it will be just like a modern version of the Spartacus slave revolt in the ancient Roman Empire (the Romans used crucifixion instead of hanging - minor detail).

disabledvet's picture

surprised by the down arrows on this one. at least you know where this guy is coming from folks...

Umh's picture

That's why all the down arrows are there!

Burticus's picture

Did somebody say, "Spartacus slave revolt"?

Will things be different his time, when 100 million of the slaves have modern firearms & ammunition and a heritage of kicking tyrants' @$$e$?

edotabin's picture

Why exactly is that?  It is one thing to accuse them of having a completely corrupt system and being a bit on the lazy/disorganized side and quite another to wish occupation and death.

I wouldn't wish this on anyone.

Nassim's picture

The Greeks already have had their civil war. Not so very long ago, the hills around Athens were littered with trenches and "front lines". The guerillas of the various factions would descend on Athens during the night and kidnap people for ransom. Check your history.

It is sad to see that we are going back to what was happening there in the 40's and 50's. It was only because of Churchill's sentimentality that the British army was sent there to prevent Stalin grabbing it.

imbrbing's picture

To hell with the humans, save the euro. Thats what its all about isn't it?

Notarocketscientist's picture

its about saving German and French bank shareholders.  mostly jews of course

disabledvet's picture

actually that's not true. these folks are as German and French as they come. the euro-zone itself however...that goes right to the heart of Wall Street which invented the euro in the first place. he claimed that all of Latin America would be using the dollar and 50 countries in Europe would be using the euro by now. Ooooops! I wonder if he's changed his views at all now that the euro zone and USA have been plunged into the biggest economic crisis in their history? i must say find an economist who knows how to pay for a war and you will find a Nobel Prize winner indeed. He's yet another example of "backdoor central planners" who never saw a fiscal profligacy they didn't find "payable." my personal view is that dollars and euros should not be allowed to be used to discharge debts...PERIOD. this is the ONLY way to stop the "Debtocracy" from consuming the host...something that will happen and in short order...perhaps as soon as we go over the "fiscal cliff" which could happen in the next couple of weeks.

andrewp111's picture

It is about saving the Empire known as the EU. The Euro is just a tool.

cherry picker's picture

Too many people do not know what true hardship is yet, so many do not think it could ever happen to them.

They go on living their lives, ignoring the growing clouds of poverty being imposed upon them by leaders who do not have a clue or common sense.

Common sense may be an overused word, but from my perspective, once the middle class is stricken with wage cuts, high debt levels, high taxes and regulation fees, something has to give along with the decimated disposable income, and that is the economy which feeds us all, down to nothing.

Try sleeping outdoors for a few nights with no food or ability to buy food and see what it is like.  See how people treat you if you have no job or income. 

It may change your outlook.


lolmao500's picture

The greeks don't need a civil war. They need to all join the army, take the hardware and march on Brussels.

Things that go bump's picture

Play at Sparticus?  What road will they crusify them all on?  The E40?

andrewp111's picture

Yeah, that will really work out well. They will have to march through the Balkans, Germany, and France to get to Brussels. Long before they get close, a consolidated EU army will be mustered to slaughter them. This is just the excuse the EU needs to grab and consolidate the "military power" in Brussels (Brussels already has the "money power"). Then Greece will  then be scoured for its gold,  millions of its citizens will be hung by the EU army, and all the young boys will be sent to Germany as sex slaves..

Joebloinvestor's picture

They need to borrow more money and threaten to go belly up.

See how well that works?

dunce's picture

Austerity is just a plan to maintain the same political organization which has failed massively. There must be a totally new system set up that is functional. There is no free lunch, it is not Germany's duty to feed Greeks. Greeks are not helpless sick old people that can not take care of them selves, they have a large population of able bodied ,educated people that can earn their way in the world with an honest government. The problem is the government that sold the usual socialist lies to hopeful people. So much for hope and change.

disabledvet's picture

again...WESTERN GOVERNMENTS MUST DECLARE ILLEGAL THE USE OF PAPER MONEY TO DISCHARGE A DEBT. (i don't know why i make an exception for Sweden for this rule...but i am making them an exception. them and them alone of course.)

q99x2's picture

They don't have guns do they? They need guns for a civil war. They could just organize a special ops team and go after the enemy. But then they'd have to throw pasta or olives at them because they need guns. I'd say this is an opertunity in the making for some US arms dealers and banksters if I ever saw one.

Looks like a testing ground for what the NoWO chaosists have planned for the US.

TyrannoSoros Wrecks's picture

So what are the sides in this civil war? Who will be fighting who?

Will it be the "haves" vs. the "have nots"? That's not civil war, that's communist revolution.

DaveA's picture

A better question is, what will they fight with, sticks and stones? Good weapons cost money.

Things that go bump's picture

There is always someone willing to provide the weapons.  The US does it all the time.  There are others out there who might be willing to arm a revolution.

BurningFuld's picture

Actually their own Police force will fight for them. When the government can no longer afford to protect itself (pay the police/army) it is over.

El Tuco's picture

"When things look bad, and it looks like you're not gonna make it, then you gotta get mean. I mean plumb mad dog mean. Cause if you lose your head and you give up, then you neither live nor win, that's just the way it is."

SafelyGraze's picture

"clouds are like dreams floating across a sky blue mind."

-the outlaw josey wales

zorba THE GREEK's picture

Greece will go back to a military government and the Drachma as they have done before.

Greece has survived for over 2000 years and will continue to survive because they refuse

to lay down and die. This is a lesson every nation needs to learn.

Umh's picture

By that definition the place would to be uninhabited to have failed. That's what I call a low bar.

Peter Pan's picture

The Greeks do not want civil war. They want the crooked politicians to be exposed and punished and for an end to their rorting of the system.

It is telling however that the children of all the major politicians (even those of the Communist party) are getting their education abroad. That says it all. The rule is do as I say, not do as I do.

agent default's picture

The Greeks don't give a shit about corruption as long they get their handful of acorns.  The problem now is that the acorns have stopped and that's it.  If somebody somehow restored their previous standard of living, they will once again stop caring.  They have been living on borrowed money for what 10, 15 years?  Was there any outrage?  Any unrest for being buried under a new pile of debt virtually every day? They got what they deserved period.

Same for many other western countries BTW.  I have very little sympathy for those complaining over the current state of affairs. It was plain as your nose that it was coming, they didn't care, and when the time came to fix it, they kept pursuing extend and pretend and kick the can non solutions.  Now, let them take the pain, with accrued interest of course.\rant

Peter Pan's picture

Greek society not only gave birth to democracy. It has also experienced repeated periods of tyrants and dictators.

The secret however is out of the bag. The Lagarde foreign bank account list which kept on disappearing over the last two yeears now has been revealed to hold the name of the ex-Prime Minister's mother with an account having over 500 million. Europe knew this all along but gave the politicians a choice between retaining power and staying out of jail in return for doing as they were told by Europe, or doing an Icelandic manouvre and finding themselves exposed and then jailed if not hung.

Renewable Life's picture

"The will to survive in humans is enormous"

And this is the point missed by these POS main stream corporate media bastards!! The policies that are being invented and perpetrated on western civilization, by the bankers and the corporate globalist, is absolutely an assault on our ability to survive! It's NOT fiscal policy, it's not fucking economics, it's war! It's fucking rape and theft of entire societies, not just individuals!

At some point very soon, the resistance will begin, and it will spread like wild fire!! Because the will to survive in humans is enormous!

rbg81's picture

The purpose of Political Correctness is to short circuit that will to survive.  Amazingly, its working.  Especially with women.

Lednbrass's picture

With such women it provides an alternative method of survival.  The State becomes that perfect Sugar Daddy who will care and provide for them and their children without having to deal with some evil male, and after enough generations of males are turned into females with alternate parts through the government "educational" system and media hammering "testosterone bad, estrogen good" into their heads its all clear sailing for them.

Well, aside from the fact that it won't survive in the long term but its a popular lifestyle choice among urban "enlightened" females.

TPTB_r_TBTF's picture



A sheeple is a docile animal; a sheeple's "will to survive" will be exemplified by an increase of docility.

Any centralized resistance will be cut down fast:

see The Starfish and the Spider.

GFKjunior's picture

I like the paper but it's very out of date.


For example Skype is now owned by Microsoft and Craigslist's legal department is very very sue happy, not really what I would call decentralized. I also don't know how much I would trust Wikipedia considering how anyone can modify it, which the Feds have been known for doing often.

brettd's picture

Striking that Greek youth "...take that anger to the street. Hence the growing number of violent gangs that attack minorities."

They don't attack politicians and bankers who created the problem...they attack someone with even less power than them...

Pity that, eh?

Notarocketscientist's picture

Same for America.  Pity these shooters dont let rip on wall street at lunch

e-recep's picture

when was the last time you saw a muppet make an intelligent decision and act accordingly? they are what they are.

Matt's picture

And this is why the people are not yet ready to adapt and move beyond this. Tons of unemployed people sitting around or striking, while doctors are busy cleaning toilets instead of providing healthcare. Is it impossible to volunteer at a hospital? Will the Union file a grievence if an outsider voluntarily does something for free?

tango's picture

I noticed this after Katrina.  The vast majority of workers in New Orleans were outsiders.  The locals mostly whined, ate, watched, protested and got in the way. Yet in Mississippi (where whole sections of the state werer swept out to sea) it was the locals who led the effort, camping out on the building site, fixing food, coming up with new ways to get things back to normal.

We love Greece and will return next year conditions permitting.  Folks are nice but the idea that they - not the State - should pitch in and help (pick up trash, fix a roof, plant a garden for Christ sake), has been eradicated.  No, predictably, they're living off political promises spouted 24/7/365.