Friday, April 6, 2012

A Greek Tragedy named Dimitris Christoulas

 Dimitris Christoulas is the 77 year old retired pharmacist who two days ago stood in front of the Greek Parliament building in downtown Athens and blew his brains out because he couldn't bear being reduced to  foraging for food in garbage cans.  He was Mr. Everyman-- an ordinary citizen who worked hard, supported his family and saved for retirement.  He was us, part of the worldwide 99%, and that is what has shaken everybody up so badly.We all identify with the desperation of the man. He could be us, or our father or grandfather.

We haven't heard much about this modern Greek tragedy here in the United States because we've been busy with Newt and Mitt and the rest of the Republican clown car, but we really should pay attention to Dimitris Christoulas and his story. His suicide and the ensuing riots just may be the tipping point that galvanizes a nation and an example to the world, if not to the World Bank.  It was a fruit peddler setting himself on fire in Tunis that set the Arab Spring in motion after all.

 He left a note.  Here's a photo of the original in Greek. (H/T to for both the image and the translation) as well as for the heart rending photo above.

and here is the English translation:

The Tsolakoglou [a reference to a wartime Nazi collaborationist in Greece] government has literally wiped out my ability to survive, based on a decent pension which I paid for myself over 35 years with no help from the state.
If one Greek had taken a Kalashnikov into his hands, I might have followed him and done the same but because I am of an age that makes it impossible for me to take strong action on my own, I can find no other solution than to put an end to my life before I start sifting through garbage cans for my food.
I believe that young people with no future will one day take up and hang this country’s traitors in arms in Syntagma Square just as the Italians hanged Mussolini in 1945.

 The note is a testament to the anger and despair of one old man, but it is also something else.  It draws a parallel between  the EU imposed austerity measures that are beginning to bite and the humiliation of German occupation of Greece under the Nazi's during World War II.  Connecting those dots provides an emotional flashpoint for national rage.  It's what they've been doing in Europe for centuries and why the creation of the EU was such a miracle in the first place.  This blame game is why nobody ever thought Europe could function as a united entity with a common currency.  This suicide is a human tragedy but it also shines a light on the inherent weakness of the European Union not to mention the vulnerability of the Euro.

 Blaming Germany for Greece's current financial  problems won't help and the fall of the  Euro will help even less.   But here we go again.  This suicide has touched a nerve and I smell a tipping point. I don't know what's next.  I seem to have mis-placed my crystal ball, but I don't see this ending well. Do you?


Pamela Grundy said...

No I don't see it ending well. I think the banks and corporations here don't see it ending well either, which is why they are systematically stripping our rights and making it more and more dangerous to protest or speak out. But yes, it will most likely start in Europe. It amazes me that things have stayed as calm as they have for as long as they have.

Doug B said...

I read about this story and was greatly saddened. If certain trends are not reversed we could soon be seeing the same thing here on a widescale basis. So many people are uniformed and unwilling to get informed. So many don't connect the dots and look at the big picture. Greatly troubling to me!

pinkpackrat pinkpackrat said...

There is definitely more to come. We are all connected and the world is a global village connected by the internet. What happens to one, affects us all.