With Greece suffering the biggest economic depression in decades, all so a few rich men can preserve their wealth and not have their EUR-denominated savings wiped out (even if the alternative means finally being able to rebalance externally using the Drachma instead of forcing internal rebalancing via unemployment and plunging wages), it was only a matter of time before we found out just how humiliating the conversion of the entire economy to a "gray", non-tax paying one would be for the citizens of Greece.
As the NYT reports, in just the past two years, the numbers of Greeks engaging in prostitution as a last course source of income has more than doubled: according to the National Center for Social Research, the number of people selling sex has surged 150 percent in the last two years.
Furthermore, with every business in which there is exploding "competition" and rich client scarcity, it is not just any prostitution, but very deflationary prostitution:
“Five euros only, just 5 euros,” whispered Maria, a young prostitute with sunken cheeks and bedraggled hair, as she pitched herself forward from the shadows of a graffiti-riddled alley in central Athens on a recent weeknight.
Many prostitutes have been selling their services for as little as 10 to 15 euros, a price that has shrunk along with the income of clients afflicted by the crisis. Many more prostitutes are taking greater health risks by having unprotected sex, which sells for a premium. Still more are subject to violence and rape.
Now a new menace has arisen: a type of crystal methamphetamine called shisha, after the Turkish water pipe, but otherwise known as poor man’s cocaine, brewed from barbiturates and other ingredients including alcohol, chlorine and even battery acid.
And with a surge in prostitution come the drugs, and the danger of an epidemic of blood-transmitted diseases, like HIV:
A hit of shisha, concocted in makeshift laboratories around Athens, costs 3 to 4 euros. Doses come in the form of a 0.01-gram ball, leaving many users reaching for hits throughout the day. They include prostitutes, whom Mr. Tzortzinis photographed in a seedy central neighborhood of Athens called Omonia, next to a large police station.
Shisha is most often smoked. But it is increasingly being taken intravenously; because of the caustic chemicals it contains, a rising number of users are winding up in the emergency room. Health experts say the injections are also adding to an alarming rise in H.I.V. cases around Greece, which surged more than 50 percent last year from 2011 as more people turn to narcotics.
For Mr. Tzortzinis, who grew up in the area, seeing women give themselves for as little as 5 euros underscores one of the many horrors of Greece’s drawn-out crisis.
Unfortunately for the country which is terrified to just say no to Europe due to the indoctrinated dread of what would happen if it left the Eurozone, this is only the beginning as the problem is far deeper, and it goes to the root of everything: an entire generation going to waste.
But while the Greek still soaring unemployment rate is no surprise to anyone, it is the youth unemployment that is the problem. And as the Telegraph reports, in some areas of Greece, youth unemployment has now hit a inconceivable 75%.
Western Macedonia in Greece had the highest level of youth unemployment in the European Union, with the number of 16 to 24 year-olds out of work jumping to 72.5pc in 2012 from 52.8pc in 2011, according to Eurostat. Total youth unemployment in Greece stood at 55.3pc last year, more than double the EU average of 22.9pc.
The region, located in northern Greece, has been hit hard by the economic crisis, with total unemployment rising from 12.1pc in 2007 to almost 30pc in 2012 due to de-industrialisation and the migration of labour intensive industries to neighbouring countries, where wage demands are lower.
According to a report by the European Commission in December, more than a fifth of firms stopped trading in the region between 2008 and 2011.
Europe's response to this pandemic of unemployment?
Europe's leaders have called for more action to tackle joblessness in Europe. Earlier this month, European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso urged Europe's leaders to come up with "a more ambitious plan to fight youth unemployment" at a next month's EU summit.
"We must give revive hope, specially for young people," he said. "We cannot wait for long, we are all aware this is urgent."
And when hope is not enough, and when these same young people end up as prostitutes, drug addicts or, worst, infected with HIV, maybe they should also hope that a cure for the disease is somehow discovered (and which they can afford).
Why? Just so the 0.001% uberwealthy can continue to get richer and richer courtesy of a year after year of flawed monetary and fiscal policy, even as the real world around them burns.