Greece: When anger goes beyond despair

Story highlights

  • For the last three years Greek society has suffered a prolonged period of economic and political crisis
  • The crisis has caused social destabilization, sociologist Athanasia Chalari says
  • She argues ongoing turbulence during the 20th century caused delays in social, political and economic development

For the last three years Greek society has suffered a prolonged period of economic and political crisis, which has been magnified by unprecedented austerity measures.

The crisis has caused social destabilization, and dramatically affected the everyday lives of Greeks.

Read more: Will Greek crisis leave banks stronger?

Such measures have never before been implemented in any European Union country, and their political and social consequences have not been effectively calculated or, in many respects, even anticipated.

Modern Greece suffered ongoing turbulence during the 20th century, from the Balkan wars and conflict with Turkey to the Nazi occupation, civil war and the military juntas.

Read more: Austerity anger drives Europe strikes

Europe-wide protests
Europe-wide protests

    JUST WATCHED

    Europe-wide protests

MUST WATCH

Europe-wide protests 02:21
Greek politician: We need money now
Greek politician: We need money now

    JUST WATCHED

    Greek politician: We need money now

MUST WATCH

Greek politician: We need money now 02:27
Tsipras: Austerity killing Greece
Tsipras: Austerity killing Greece

    JUST WATCHED

    Tsipras: Austerity killing Greece

MUST WATCH

Tsipras: Austerity killing Greece 03:47

These all caused significant delays in social, political and economic development, and did not allow Greek society to form and organize freely.

After the fall of the last military junta in 1974, democracy in Greece was rapidly restored but it was not done so systematically nor thoroughly. Inevitably, structural dysfunctions formed.

Read more: EU-IMF feud erupts over Greece

Today, Greeks are experiencing a different social reality, characterized by uncertainty, insecurity, distress, disappointment and the inability to map out any form of future for their lives.

Last year I conducted thirty five in-depth interviews with Greeks aged between 20 to 65, who are still living in the country.

Participants expressed negativity, pessimism and disorientation, particularly regarding the lack of any specific plan to improve their everyday lives.

Read more: Greeks vote for more economic pain

"We see our dreams get destroyed, and our hopes for a better future disappear," said one 27-year old woman, an unemployed doctor.

Their comments reflect the overall reality in Greece: Unemployment rates have increased continuously, with the overall rate now at 24.4%. For those aged under 24, it's hit 55%.

Read more: The eurozone's reluctant leader

Rise of the Greek far-right
Rise of the Greek far-right

    JUST WATCHED

    Rise of the Greek far-right

MUST WATCH

Rise of the Greek far-right 03:58
Austerity anger fuels violence in Greece
Austerity anger fuels violence in Greece

    JUST WATCHED

    Austerity anger fuels violence in Greece

MUST WATCH

Austerity anger fuels violence in Greece 01:52
Greece adopts tough austerity plan
Greece adopts tough austerity plan

    JUST WATCHED

    Greece adopts tough austerity plan

MUST WATCH

Greece adopts tough austerity plan 02:52

Everyday life for many people has become more challenging, as crime increases, inflation remains high and redundancies become an everyday occurrence.

Even those who have an income cannot escape, as cuts continue and salaries and pensions are sliced by 40%. The monthly basic salary has now dropped from 739 euros in 2009 to 586 euros in 2012. In contrast, the price of essential goods has not dropped, and taxes have continued to rise.

Participants in the study felt cornered and cross as they explained that they were trapped by a government system that was only concerned about maintaining power without offering anything in return.

Read more: Euro crisis opens old wounds for Greece, Germany

"We lived part of our lives in a way we didn't deserve, but the system allowed us to do it," a 37-year old electrician explained.

"They didn't stop us. They even encouraged us. So if the system works in a certain way you have no option but to follow."

Greeks are progressively losing their trust in a political system which consists mainly of the parties and politicians who have governed the country during the last 30 years.

Read more: Greeks fearful of what will follow U.S. election

The elections earlier this year resulted in a coalition government in which the two significantly weakened opposing parties -- who have governed Greece since 1974 -- joined forces in order to renegotiate financial aid.

But the most damaging aspect remains how Greeks collectively and repeatedly fail to identify any possibility of future improvement as their faith in current government drops.

Editor arrested for naming rich Greeks
Editor arrested for naming rich Greeks

    JUST WATCHED

    Editor arrested for naming rich Greeks

MUST WATCH

Editor arrested for naming rich Greeks 02:37
Chinese business thrives in Greek port
Chinese business thrives in Greek port

    JUST WATCHED

    Chinese business thrives in Greek port

MUST WATCH

Chinese business thrives in Greek port 02:42
Can exports save Greece's economy?
Can exports save Greece's economy?

    JUST WATCHED

    Can exports save Greece's economy?

MUST WATCH

Can exports save Greece's economy? 02:56

Instead, they perceive the implementation of austerity measures as an ongoing punishment, even revenge, from the European Union which will have no positive result and have no end in sight.

Read more: Barroso: Europe federation 'unavoidable'

"The situation is tragic, not because of the economy but because of the fact that there is no future," a 55-year old journalist said. "We have been convinced about that. There is no prospect. This is killing us."

Other people explained that the lack of an inspirational politician or party, coupled with the realization that the worst is yet to come, has made them alarmed how they can face each day.

For many the main priority is how to make a living, not lose their jobs or how to get a job. They are grateful if they are still employed, although some note that employment conditions are becoming more exploitative.

As a 46-year old teacher put it: "Professionally, I don't know if I will have a job tomorrow and, personally, I have no desire to do anything joyful anymore. There is so much insecurity about everything."

Read more: Give Greece more time, says French PM

As Greek society experiences unparalleled social, political and economic crises, it is still uncertain what peoples' tolerance levels will be once further austerity measures -- and their consequences -- are implemented.

Participants expressed agony about the future of their country, although they have also realized their own part of responsibility in this crisis (even if it was passive). Many are mindful of passing on their harmful mindset to their children.

Until there are improvements to everyday lives, the structure of the state or political life, then Greeks will continue to feel angry, cross and cornered. This has led to the popularity of extremist groups such as the right-wing Golden Dawn.

This crisis has triggered an unpredictable domino of incalculable social consequences -- and when and how it will end is still unknown. It remains to be seen if other European societies will follow the Greek path or if social stability can be restored.

      Europe's financial crisis

    • German Chancellor Angela Merkel talks with Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble during a session at the Bundestag (lower house of parliament) on June 25, 2013 in Berlin.

      Schaeuble: 'Don't see' bailouts

      German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble says the eurozone's problems are not solved, but "we are in a much better shape than we used to be some years ago."
    • IBIZA, SPAIN - AUGUST 21:  A man dives into the sea in Cala Salada beach on August 21, 2013 in Ibiza, Spain. The small island of Ibiza lies within the Balearics islands, off the coast of Spain. For many years Ibiza has had a reputation as a party destination. Each year thousands of young people gather to enjoy not only the hot weather and the beaches but also the array of clubs with international DJ's playing to vast audiences. Ibiza has also gained a reputation for drugs and concerns are now growing that the taking and trafficking of drugs is spiralling out of control.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

      Spain keeps partying

      Summer could not have come soon enough for Lloret de Mar, a tourist resort north of Barcelona. Despite the country's troubles, it's partying.
    • The Euro logo is seen in front of the European Central bank ECB prior to the press conference following the meeting of the Governing Council in Frankfurt/Main, Germany, on April 4, 2013.

      OECD: Slow recovery for Europe

      The global recovery has two speeds: That of the stimulus-fed U.S. and that of the austerity-starved eurozone, according to a new report.
    • The flags of the countries which make up the European Union, outside the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.

      Europe's new threat: Slow decay

      The "rich man's club" of Europe faces economic decay as it struggles to absorb Europe's "poor people", according to economic experts.
    • Packed beaches and Brit pubs? Not necessarily. Here's what drew travelers to one of Spain's most beautiful regions in the first place

      Spain aims for big tourist summer

      Spain's economic crisis is in its sixth straight year yet tourism, worth 11% of GDP, is holding its own, one of the few bright spots on a bleak horizon.
    • Photographer TTeixeira captured these images from a May Day protest in Porto, Portugal, Wednesday by demonstrators angered by economic austerity measures. "People protested with great order, but showed discontent against the government who they blame for this economic crisis," she said. "They want the government to resign and the Troika [European Commission, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank] out of this country."

      May Day protesters flood Europe

      As European financial markets close for the spring celebration of May Day, protesters across Europe and beyond have taken to the streets to demonstrate.
    • Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic delivers a speech in Mostar, on April 9, 2013. Prime Ministers from Bosnia's neighboring countries arrived in Bosnia with their delegations to attend the opening ceremony of "Mostar 2013 Trade Fair".

      Croatia PM: We need Italy to recover

      As Croatia prepares to enter the 27-nation European Union, the country's Prime Minister says Italy must return to being the "powerhouse of Europe."
    • Anti-eviction activists and members of the Platform for Mortgage Victims (PAH) take part in a protest against the government's eviction laws in front of the Popular Party (PP) headquarters in Mallorca on April 23, 2013.

      Spain's unemployment hits record

      Spain's unemployment rate rose to a record high of 27.2% in the first quarter of 2013, the Spanish National Institute of Statistics said Thursday.
    • People protest against the Spanish laws on house evictions outside the Spanish parliament on February 12, 2013 in Madrid, Spain.

      Welcome to Madrid: City of protests

      Spain has seen hundreds of protests since the "Indignados" movement erupted in 2011, marches and sit-ins are now common sights in the capital.