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.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
steve from virginia's picture




In New Orleans after Katrina, "The locals mostly whined, ate, watched, protested and got in the way."


You obviously never spent any time in New Orleans after Katrina. The locals were back and working to clean up as soon as the incompetent national authorities allowed them to come back ... to repair the damage that was the result of the same incompetent national authorities.


The hurricanes were not particularly destructive, the poorly designed and built 'flood control' was. The damage in New Orleans and neighboring parishes was the responsibility of the Army Corp or Engineers.


BTW: the most devastated area by Katrina/Rita in Louisiana was and is Saint Bernard Parish which has none of your 'locals'.


FeralSerf's picture

I think it's different in the smaller islands than in Athens.  But they're more used to doing things their selves.

SafelyGraze's picture

and that's why botus is worried that his private armory might be taken.

it's the newerer, more oniony, harderer hitting onion

otto skorzeny's picture

really? the MSM media complicit in suppresssing the lot of the common people- I'm shocked. do you really think the media is going to bite the hand that feeds? although-from what I have read Greece is socialism taken to the extreme. I do admire them for their total scorn for paying taxes-but how do they expect to live lavish socialistic lives when no one wants to foot the bill. they should hire The Bernank to bring over his printer and make it rain Benny Bucks on them.

john39's picture

Well done Goldman sux.

falak pema's picture

well done PAx American export of financial mayhem to all of first world.

Euro zone is a surrogate state to this corrupt  financialised network. Its time for people to reformat world governance, by imposing local priorities, but by avoiding the sirens of war; which ONLY feeds the Oligarchy war machine.

Its one tough shit game we are in. 


Augustus's picture

It has nothing to do with any export of financial mayhem from the USA.  The Greek problem results from their early and continued adoption of the European disease of Socialism and Communism.  They believed the state could always take care of them.

Euro zone has been fed a belly full of the corrupt socialist concept and suffers from the control from the bureaucrats who implement these programs.  Socilaist Oligarchies have destroyed the economies.  The Roach Motel aspect of how these countries and governments ended in this collapse is worth studying.

joe90's picture

Really? ....  In the absence of the petrodollar system, the extension of easy credit, and paid off politicians, the pain would have been encountered sooner and would have probably been manageable.

Umh's picture

     "It has nothing to do with any export of financial mayhem from the USA.  The Greek problem results from their early and continued adoption of the European disease of Socialism and Communism".


Definitely not trying to say they didn't cause or contribute to their own problems, but are you really so sure the money monkies didn't make problems all around the world with their QE?

Popo's picture

Kyle Bass (and many others here) have it right:  War is coming.  

But while this crisis may be similar, the Greeks are not the Germans of 60 years ago.  This plunge from first-to-third world status will not result in a highly mechanized, state-run war machine bent on conquering Europe.   This crisis will result in a new form of war that the world has not yet seen before.  This new conflict will likely consist of terrorism from sources previously unconsidered, and on a scale previously unimagined.  I'm guessing that in about 10 years Al Qaeda will be a quaint memory of an era when enemies were "over there" and attacks were rare, newsworthy and caused little in the way of actual disruption.  

This is not only going to get very bad, but it's going to spread in a way that scares the bujeezus out of governments everywhere -- because governments everywhere have never had to deal with any scenario like the one that is now upon us.  The game of making promises and distributing debt "from the future" is officially over.  Now comes the far more difficult challenge (actually, it's impossible in any peaceful sense) of distributing "not nearly enough" wealth to entire populations of seething, angry and increasingly violent peasants.  

Europe is beyond fucked.  Anyone thinking this is going to blow over is smoking truckloads of hopium.   Promises far exceed underlying wealth.   Prosperity, comfort and the Western lifestyle are a mirage that is evaporating rapidly.  

War is definitely coming.  And anyone thinking that this will be settled peacefully needs to make the (IMHO impossible) argument that this time in history will be different from all previous times. 

BandGap's picture

What is hitting Greece will not be confined to the Greeks. The war will start elsewhere.

Notarocketscientist's picture

Indeed.  And the first fuckers to get wasted need to be the dictators that the EU - at the behest of the bankers - put in place in countries like Greece and Italy.  

What is needed is a revolutionary who can explain to the people that their rage needs to be channeled to the true devils here.  Forget about the racist abuses - get the politicians and the bankers.