Wednesday, 21 April 2010

the IMF lands in Athens

Are they here already? They should be by now!
Most Greeks consider the IMF some sort of monster that will from now on dictate their lives, axe their life savings and pensions, make them work till they drop, and permanently taint their children's future with black ink.
The irony of the EU/IMF delegation arriving for talks in Athens the same date as the Greek junta back in 1967 is not lost on anyone either.
But what I find most interesting is that at the moment Greeks, regardless of who is to blame or why, are living in a situation of extreme stress and insecurity, treading on murky waters and dominated by a sense of doom, a sense that the worse is yet to come.
How about some examples from other countries that in the past found themselves in or close to bankruptsy and were forced to also deal with massive collective anxiety? I found a very good article from the Guardian back in 2001 referring to the Argentinian case.
I will quote from the start of the article by Sophia Arie.
"Andrea Pena is 33 but she wears a brace. So does her partner. Otherwise their teeth would not fit the moulded gadgets Argentine dentists provide to stop the grinding that was keeping them awake at night. 'I am lucky this is the only physical symptom I have because of stress,' said Andrea, a graphic designer at a Buenos Aires bank. 'Other people have gastritis, hypertension, panic attacks, whatever. Everyone is living in permanent fear because no one knows what the future will be.'
Ha! I think we all recognize some of these symptoms don't we? A friend was telling me the other day that she could not sleep at night because she was worried about the future, another one is ready to flee the country. For the 30something generation this sort of behaviour is virtually unheard of.
To continue quoting from that 2001 article story. "Nobody knows if they will have a job tomorrow or when they will be paid. People are almost paralysed by fear and a sense of impotence. There is a sense that the country is in free fall,' said Jacquie Lejbowicz, a psychologist in Buenos Aires."
Why does this continue to sound familiar? How much are we all aware of this constant stress that we have all had to live under for the past 6 months?

I want to end this today on a positive note. What can we do as individuals to protect ourselves against bankruptsy stress and collective anxiety? Well, we can talk about it, rather than suffer in silence. Protest, if that helps. Reflect on what has happened and learn from our mistakes. Acknowledge that this situation is painful and that this era for many Greeks means the end of innocence - and with a bang.
For me, running, reading, writing, they all help. People around me, family, friends and colleagues, people who care for my well-being, they all help.
Is this enough? Frankly, I don't know. The pessimist in me suspects it is not. But it is good enough for today.

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