“I preferred a dignified end before I start looking in the garbage,” writes a 77-year old ex-pharmacist in his note before committing suicide opposite the Greek parliament, in Athens’ most central square.
His suicide appears to be yet another protest against the country’s economic tragedy, which has doubled the suicide and mental illness rates. Just like hundreds of thousands of Greeks, the man was in apparent despair over his financial debts, shouting just moments before killing himself: “So I won’t leave debts for my children!”
Tsolakoglou, Mousolini and Why Young Greeks Will Hung Greek Politicians Upside Down
The note the 77-year old left pretty much resembles what the majority of crisis-hit Greeks feel right now.
“The Tsolakoglou occupation government (the Greek government to Second World War administration led by army officer Georgios Tsolakoglou that collaborated with Nazi occupiers) has destroyed my chances of survival, which solely depended on my pension that I earned after working hard for 35 years. Due to my age, I don’t have the ability to react dynamically. That doesn’t mean that if a Greek would grab a Kalashnikof, I wouldn’t be the second (to grab one and react). I don’t see another solution than the decent end before I start searching in the garbage for food.
I believe that one day the Greek youth who have no future whatsoever, will take the arms and hang upside down right at the Constitution Square the national traitors as the Italians did with Mussolini in 1945 (Piazza Poreto in Milan).”
Over the past few months, Greek media have rebaptized ex-Greek PM George Papandreou, current Greek PM Lucas Papadimos and PM wanna-be Antonis Samara, calling all three of them the new “Tsolakoglous.” “Tsolakoglou” has the negative connotation meaning “traitor.” George Tsolakoglou was a formal army officer who, just like contemporary Greek politicians, went against Greek national interests and sided with foreigners against his own people, surrendering the Greek Army to the Axis Occupation in 1941-1942. He signed the armistice treaty with the Wehrmacht and was appointed as chief of a new Nazi puppet collaborationist regime in Athens during the 1940s. His betrayal led to the German looting of Greece’s resources, which in turn, caused massive inflation, food shortages, hunger, and a famine that killed tens of thousands of Greeks. So it’s obvious why Greek media makes comparisons between the current loan agreements and Memorandums of Understanding, and the Greek politicians who “collaborate” with the country’s lenders, the Troika of IMF, EU and ECB to Tsolakoglou and the Nazis.
A Loud Death
The pharmacist was a typical example of the Greek middle-class that gave its position to the new underclass. He was married and had a daughter. He was a member of the Greek Pharmacists’ Association. He had sold his pharmacy in 1994 and had gone into retirement. But for the past two years, PASOK and ND, in an attempt to “save the country,” butchered his pension and his quality of life.
Speaking to Newsit, Kostas Lourantos, president of the Pharmaceutical Association of Attica, said “I remember him as a decent man with great courtesy and with tact. I think it was his dignity that led him to this dreadful act. He would not be able to live under these new conditions…His name or his profession is of no significance. It doesn’t matter who did it. What really matters is why.”
Passing Athenians flocked to the spot where the 77-year old committed suicide, less than two hundred meters away from the Greek Parliament, and left flowers, candles and notes full of anger against the brutal austerity measures.
More than 1,500 anti-austerity protesters gathered in the square, responding to social media calls for peaceful demonstrations accusing Greek politicians of driving people to despair with harsh cutbacks implemented to secure vital international bailouts.
Limited scuffles broke out between the protesters and riot police, who used a small amount of pepper spray to repel youths throwing bottles of water at them.
If it hadn’t happened right in front of the parliament, no one would notice. Before the financial crisis first began to bite three years ago, Greece had the lowest suicide rate in Europe at 2.8 per 100,000 inhabitants. But the collapse of the economy has swept like a wave from Thessaloniki to Crete, and middle-class Greeks keep killing themselves at a double rate since last year. No news there. But a suicide right outside the parliament has never happened before. For Greeks, this is a symbolic suicide and it brings Greek politicians into a very awkward position. Right before the elections, the same people who have squeezed this country dry by their corruption, the same people who have turned the Greek middle-class into a new underclass, the same people who drove the 77-year old to commit suicide, act as if none of this has happened and ask the Greek people to trust them again, because this time they are really going to save them and they will secure yet another bailout. But it has become crystal clear that the bailout has nothing to do with helping the citizens of Greece; it’s all about protecting external debt holders and the markets.
Greeks Can’t Take Any More “Saving”
For the past two years, “saving” meant increasing number of the homeless and the hungry and the drug addicts. It meant that psychiatric patients were forced out from institutions that can no longer afford them. It meant that thousands of shop owners were forced to close their businesses and that the once proud pensioners like the 77-year old wait for the fruit and vegetable markets to close so they can dig in the leftovers and find food. And the worst has yet to come. After the elections, whichever parties come to power, Greece’s commitment to cutting 150,000 public-sector jobs by 2015 and further butcher wages and pensions means that Greeks are bound to suffer even more.
Greeks Have Lost Their Identity
Psychiatrists warn that Greeks who lose their jobs or are underpaid, are more likely to suffer from mental problems, or even die younger and their children are likely to do worse in school. “The life and personality of the contemporary Greek man are grounded on employment and financial status. It is not just about money. Making a living contributes to both identity and self-image formation and those who are unemployed or underpaidd face not only obvious practical issues, but an equally important ‘symbolic’ collapse,” says G. Bouras and L. Lykouras from the University of Athens, in a research study they conducted on the Greek crisis and its impact on mental health, published in Encephalos Journal.