A terrible piece on either the Today programme or Women’s Hour on Radio 4 today (I wasn’t awake enough yet to recall unfortunately, the links are here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/programmes/schedules/fm ) has reminded me of the horrific plight of many people in Greece.
A Greek women – on whichever Radio 4 show it was – was talking about her and nearly every young person she knew being stuck living with parents – who apparently won’t let them have boy/girlfriends over (if there’s even room) as she mentioned the issues lack of privacy was causing for relationships, and that some young people couldn’t even afford condoms (which surprised me since they’re available free in Britain).
Another woman – I think, I was having an unemployed person’s lie-in with Radio 4 on and wasn’t quite awake – told a story of a woman who conceived through IVF, then went back to the doctor in tears asking for am abortion because both her and her husband had just lost their job. And I’ve already read before of young Greeks who’ve concluded they’ll never be able to afford children.
This has prompted to pull one of my never-finished embryonic blog posts out of my laptop and tweak it a tad. But perhaps not properly, because I know if I don’t publish this blog post today my procrastination will get the better of me and it’ll sit on the backburner for a year or more, whilst I go into another tab and read better-written, properly updated blogs written by other people.
I am puzzled how a country that has had such a collapse in living standards, and has somewhere between 50 and 60% of its under 24s out of work is still functioning – at least in theory – as a Western liberal democracy.
Not only that but a lot of the young unemployed aren’t even entitled to social security – and for those that are it’s time limited – in contrast to most young unemployed in Britain, who unless they are living “as though husband and wife” with someone working, at least get income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance without a time limit regardless of previous work history.
I know there are constant riots, the rise of the far right, constant disorder, formerly middle class people scavenging for food (you can tell the Guardian journalists are shocked to see “people like them” doing this), apparently a nascent barter economy in some areas – but I’m genuinely surprised they haven’t ended up like Egypt in its years of instability since the 2011 revolution and 2013 coup, and don’t really think there is that much standing between our apparently civilised and democratic Western Europe and political instability and chaos – after all Greece and Turkey were ruled by the military in the last few decades, Spain and Portugal were under far-right authoritarian regimes until the late-70s/early-80s. And
the United Kingdom had its own low-intensity nearly 30-year civil war in Northern Ireland.
I am not puzzled about Greece because I am in some way insulting Greeks or southern Europeans, or implying those pesky continental Europeans are more chaotic than us “superior” Brits. Quite the contrary – I’m surprised because I think if Britain had a youth unemployment (and over-24-year-old unemployment) rate as high as Greece’s we’d be up shit creek without a paddle, and would probably have left behind all but a façade of liberal democracy behind – I suspect England might have become polarised between far right and far left (I’d fear the right would win), and Scotland might try to break away again.
Perhaps part of the reason for the comparative stability of the state (for now) are mainly the family, and the high residential property ownership rate I read somewhere I’ve now forgotten.
At 80%, it’s far higher than Britain, by the way, despite our all-consuming obsession of the generation before mine and our political élite with property. Much of this property is apparently scattered on little islands and in small villages, owned by families of many young Greeks who moved to cities for university or work. If they’re lucky enough to have paid the mortgage off, it at least allows family members to flee back to these properties and eke out some kind of precarious existence without having to worry about landlords.
Perhaps this – along with mass emigration (which is also happening in Ireland) – provides a safety valve which is basically preventing an absolutely massive level of homelessness? Since if nearly two thirds of young Greeks are out of work and social security is being ever-more slashed, then that would be the logical outcome if these young adults’ families couldn’t accommodate them. And having over half the young urban population homeless – after being used to a typical Western European standard of living – would surely make a country near-ungovernable. I may be wrong on this, of course – they may flee the country (as Greeks already are) or be too apathetic, hungry or scared to revolt, but I think enough of them would to Tahrir Square look light a small picnic.
I guess if Syriaza win the upcoming elections we’ll see if they have the guts to disobey the Eurozone élite and pursue radical change, or will end up continuing the economic death spiral.