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When a coffee break turns into a modern Greek nightmare

Suicides have become an epidemic in crisis-hit Greece while SYRIZA claims the country is “recovering”

Having stopped off briefly for a coffee break near the Dafni metro station in Athens to catch up with some work e-mails, I noticed a crowd had developed at the entrance to the station for some unknown reason. It was clear the station had closed, but no one initially knew why. What happened next is a microcosm of a society in terminal decline.

Suddenly police, ambulance, and fire crews arrived and the crowd in front had to make way. It was stated someone had fallen on the tracks. No one initially knew the cause or the age of the victim. After more than thirty minutes, a mobile stretcher arrived on wheels and it was positioned eerily at the entrance. It epitomized what happened next. Authorities brought out a black body bag fully wrapped and wheeled it away. It was then revealed that a 75 year old Greek man who had jumped in front of a train.

The mythology that Greece has “turned the corner,” that “development is back,” and that “unemployment has been reduced from 27 percent to 19%,” are words that don’t relate to the human dramas unfolding in front of everyone’s eyes on a daily basis. With the massive expansion of part time work, the destruction of full time employment, and wages that could end up as low as €250 a month, one can understand how easily figures are manipulated.

Quite a few Athenians, the majority of which arrived from the villages in the 1950’s and 1960s, built their houses with cash without the necessity of mortgages or loans from the banking system. When the Great Crash of 2010 arrived, the IMF imposed property taxes. Many families had an ancestral home in a village and possibly one in four had built small holiday homes that were never properly legalized as they were built in designated “forest” or non-planning areas (Editor’s note: for more about the absurdities of Greece’s land and “forest” registry, click here). The irony of this is that one cannot then sell a property of such nature but the government does tax it!

With the massive expansion of part time work, the destruction of full time employment, and wages that could end up as low as €250 a month, one can understand how easily figures are manipulated.

With the collapse in pension payments by at least 50 percent, which has not been reversed by SYRIZA, as originally pledged, but instead has continued, a retired pensioner could end up being liable for two or three property tax payments and and to be placed in the “wealthy” tax bracket (Editor’s note: In Greece, the tax system is such that if one owns property or a car, a certain income level is assumed, even if one is now unemployed or even if the property was inherited). When added all together, the reduction in fixed income could be as high as 70 percent, and without the capacity of reducing overheads or transferring assets to ones children (who have their own problems) many seek the option of suicide.

It is alleged more than 10,000 people have committed suicide in Greece since the onset of the crisis, but many such incidents aren’t registered as such, as suicide is considered to bring shame upon the family. In actuality, the figure could be much closer to 30,000. The most infamous case is that of the pensioner Christos Soulas, who hanged himself in 2012 publicly in Syntagma Square in central Athens.

It was only a few years ago when then-government minister Andreas Loverdos stated on live television that the problem with Greek pensions “is that Greek pensioners live too long.” Taken literally, one understands how a short coffee break turns into a modern Greek nightmare…

When one adds to this the rash of robberies of pensioners inside their homes or on the streets, it is evident that this economic war against the third generation has as an aim to destroy Greek families and break the nation apart. Social justice has been erased from the lexicon of the modern mass media and the political parties that govern. It’s all forecasts and targets with made up figures.

It was only a few years ago when then-government minister Andreas Loverdos stated on live television that the problem with Greek pensions “is that Greek pensioners live too long.” Taken literally, one understands how a short coffee break turns into a modern Greek nightmare…

Originally published on http://imfoccupationgreece.blogspot.gr/2012/04/greek-pensioner-commits-suicide-in.html.

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