Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The hopelessness caused by insane economic thinking

The subject of suicide has never been written about very well in the big papers.  For someone who has a nice job at somewhere like the Washington Post, suicide is the ultimate in irrational acts and the "answer" is, you know, anther petty bureaucracy like "suicide help lines" staffed by well-meaning folks who have no answers at all for the economically desperate.  For such people, suicide is simply a mental-health issue.

‘Economic suicides’ shake Europe as financial crisis takes toll on mental health

By Ariana Eunjung Cha, August 14, 2012

ATHENS — Antonis Perris, a musician unemployed for more than two years, was desperate. Perris wrote in an online forum late one night that he had run out of money to buy food and cursed those responsible for the economic crisis in Greece. “I have no solution in front of me,” he typed.

The next morning, Perris took the hand of his ailing 90-year-old mother. They climbed to the roof of their apartment building and leapt to their death.

The double suicide in a working-class neighborhood in the Greek capital in late May is one of thousands this year that have shaken European societies as mounting job losses, cutbacks in public services and shrinking government pensions due to the continent’s financial upheaval take a toll on mental health.

In Greece, which is in its fifth year of recession, such suicides have sparked violent protests between police and those opposing austerity who have held the victims up as martyrs. In Italy, the death of entrepreneurs such as builder Giuseppe Campaniello, who set himself on fire outside a government tax office in Bologna on March 28 after his company collapsed, has triggered demonstrations by widows of businessmen who have committed suicide. And in Ireland, where citizens are jumping off quays in Dublin, Cork and Limerick in alarming numbers, the mobile telephone company Vodaphone volunteered to give up the stadium advertising space it bought at soccer and hurling games for a suicide prevention campaign.

So many people have been killing themselves and leaving behind notes citing financial hardship that European media outlets have a special name for them: “economic suicides.” Surveys are also showing increasing signs of mental stress: a jump in the use of anti-depressants and illicit drugs, a rise in depression and anxiety among workers worried about salary cuts or being laid off, and an increase in the use of sick leave due to psychological problems.

“People are more and more uncertain about their future, which is leading to a sharp rise in mental health problems,” said Maria Nyman, director of Mental Health Europe, a multinational coalition of mental health organizations and educational institutions based in Brussels.

In recent years, researchers in the United States and elsewhere have repeatedly identified a correlation between suicides and unemployment or other economic distress. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last year that suicides increased during periods of economic stress, including the Great Depression, the oil crisis of the 1970s and the double-dip recession of the 1980s. Other studies have estimated that individuals with employment difficulties are two to three times more likely to commit suicide than the population as whole. more
Writing from the north where suicides have long been considered an option for desperate people seeking to make political and social statements, Spiegel doesn't see economic suicide as so much a mental health crises but a political one.  BIG leap of consciousness.
Troubled Times

Wave of Suicides Shocks Greece

By Barbara Hardinghaus and Julia Amalia Heyer in Athens

Greece has always had one of the lowest suicide rates in Europe, but its economic crisis has triggered a disturbing increase in the number of people killing themselves. Are the deaths the result of personal desperation or are people making a political statement with the only thing they have left to sacrifice?

On July 16, a businessman and father of three hanged himself in his shop on the island of Crete. A 49-year-old man from Patras was found by his son. He had also hanged himself. On July 25, a 79-year-old man on the southern Peloponnese peninsula hanged himself with a cable tied to an olive tree. On August 3, a 31-year-old man shot himself to death at his home near Olympia. On August 5, a 15-year-old boy hanged himself in Pieria. And, on August 6, a 60-year-old former footballer self-immolated in Chalcis.

These are also reports from Greece, reports that, at first glance, seem to have nothing to do with the economy. They come together to form a grim statistic, raising questions of what is triggering the suicides and whether the high incidence is merely a coincidence.

Or do people see suicide as a way out of the crisis that has taken hold of their country and their lives? Are they bowing out before things get even worse? Germany and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are opposed to a new bailout package for Athens. The country faces a shortfall of at least €40 billion ($49 billion). Greece could very well be officially bankrupt by the fall.

Greece, a country whose Orthodox Church does not condone suicide, has always had one of the lowest suicide rates in Europe. But now, there were 350 suicide attempts and 50 deaths in Athens in June alone. Most of the suicides were among members of the middle class and, in many cases, the act itself was carried out in public, almost as if it were a theatrical performance.

On April 4, shortly after 9 a.m., a 77-year-old pharmacist shot himself to death on Syntagma Square in downtown Athens. Dimitris Christoulas, a short man, stood against one of the large trees on the square, held a pistol to his temple and pulled the trigger.

"My father was a political person, a fighter," says his daughter, Emmy Christoulas. Weeks after her father's death, she is sitting in her living room in Chalandri, a northern suburb of Athens. She is a slim 42-year-old wearing oversized jeans, her short black hair streaked with gray.
Her father was politically active, a member of the "We Won't Pay" movement. He repeatedly called for an international review of Greece's national debt because he was convinced that it wasn't the fault of the people. He had come to beleaguered downtown Athens every day last summer to take part in rallies and to lend a hand, usually in the Red Cross tent.

When he went to Syntagma Square for the last time, on April 4, he sent his daughter a text message consisting of one short sentence: "This is the end." Then he switched off his cell phone. "It was at exactly 8:31 a.m.," says Emmy, pulling a cigarillo from a crumpled pack. When she was unable to reach her father by phone after receiving the text message, she and two friends drove to his apartment.

She heard a news report on the radio that someone had shot and killed himself under a tree on Syntagma Square. "First the text message, and then that report," she says. "I was sure it was him."

Since her father's death, Emmy Christoulas has taken the subway to the square, nine stops from her apartment, many times. She visits the memorial to her father two or three times a week, usually in the evening. When she does, she stands a short distance away from the tree.

It's become quiet in the square, where a band is playing and the sound of guitar music is wafting through the warm air. Christoulas crosses her arms over her chest and looks at the people who stop at the memorial. It consists of wreaths and a few stuffed animals leaning against the tree, as well as notes pinned to the trunk. "Don't walk like a robot! Open your spirit!" one note written in red letters on a piece of cardboard reads. The lines that Dimitris Christoulas wrote in a suicide note are engraved into a marble plaque.

The government has annihilated all traces for my survival, which was based on a very dignified pension that I alone paid into for 35 years with no help from the state. I see no other solution than this dignified end to my life so that I don't find myself fishing through garbage cans for my sustenance.

The words "Dimitris' gesture cannot be repeated" are written on a piece of paper above the plaque. But his gesture is repeating itself on an almost daily basis. The newspaperTa Nea describes the mood among Greeks as a "society on the verge of a nervous breakdown." The uncertainty over what the next day will bring is growing by the day.

Christoulas ended his farewell letter with the words: "I believe that young people with no future will one day take up arms and hang the traitors of this country on Syntagma Square."

The sadness brought on by her father's death is not diminishing, says Emmy Christoulas, as she sits in her apartment. She twists the silver ring on her thumb and says: "When I don't think about it for a moment, I realize that I am no longer merely playing the role of his daughter." When she thinks about Greek society and the suffering around her, she says she wants to send her own messages to the country. One of them is: "Progress and change come through loss."

The way she describes it, it almost sounds like her father's suicide had been a political necessity - and that she has realized she has to make the best of it and continue the fight he began. more
Of course, young people often have enough spark of life to proclaim, "Our lives are so desperate, we don't care if you kill us.  But we intend to go out in a blaze of pure rage."  Of course, Hollande claims this is just a problem of criminality proving that "Socialist" ruling class twits are just as clueless as their "right-wing" counterparts.  This is the sort of thinking satirized in West Side Story (1961) in the song "Officer Krupke."  Not much has changed in a half-century of lefty thought.


Amiens riots spark French fears of economic unrest

Overnight rioting in the French city of Amiens Tuesday left 16 police officers wounded, damaged a school and destroyed a sports centre. The violence has raised fears of more youth unrest as France's underprivileged face a bleak economic future.
By News Wires (text)

AFP - A deprived area of the city of Amiens has been left devastated by rioting that has raised fears of a wave of unrest as the economic outlook for France's underclass worsens.

Described by the local mayor as the product of mounting social tension in an area where the rule of law has broken down, the Amiens riot cast a shadow over President Francois Hollande's celebration Tuesday of 100 days since his election victory.

Overnight violence in the historic city left 16 police officers injured, a primary school severely damaged by fire and a sports centre completely destroyed, local officials said.

Clashes involving around 100 local youths and up to 150 police erupted late Monday in the rundown northern quarter of an otherwise prosperous city that is known for its university and 13th-century Gothic cathedral.

Police used tear gas and rubber bullets and deployed a helicopter to quell the unrest after suffering injuries caused by buckshot, fireworks and other projectiles thrown by rioters.

The violence followed lower-scale clashes 24 hours earlier which were triggered by the arrest of a man for dangerous driving.

The arrest was seen as insensitive as it came as many residents of the neighbourhood were attending a wake for a local 20-year-old who had died in a motorbike accident.

Gilles Demailly, the mayor of Amiens, told AFP the violent response to the incident reflected a descent into lawlessness orchestrated by ever younger troublemakers.

"There have been regular incidents here but it has been years since we've known a night as violent as this with so much damage done," the mayor said.

Demailly, a member of Hollande's Socialist Party, added: "For months I've been asking for the means (to alleviate the neighbourhood's problems) because tension has been mounting here.

"You've got gangs of youths playing at being gangsters who have turned the area into a no-go zone. You can no longer order a pizza or get a doctor to come to the house."

Hollande's government has identified the northern quarter of Amiens as one of 15 "priority security zones" across the country which will be established from September.

The emphasis will be on tougher policing rather than on schemes to alleviate the impact of record unemployment and falling real incomes for the poorest sections of society.

Figures released Tuesday showed the French economy flat-lining in the second quarter of the year and most economists expect a further deterioration as Hollande's government cuts spending in most areas in order to reduce its budget deficit in line with eurozone requirements.

Trade unions battling job cuts across French industry have already warned of a "hot autumn" of protest unless the government eases up on the austerity drive.

But Hollande on Tuesday made it clear he regarded the unrest in Amiens as primarily a problem of criminality and promised a tough response.

"The state will mobilise all its means to combat these violent acts," Hollande said. "Security is not only a priority for us, it is an obligation." more

No comments:

Post a Comment