OPINION

Shopping therapy?

We are the biggest consumers in Europe. We spend the most on food, clothes, shoes and entertainment, but we are also the poorest. Recent figures show that 60 percent of Greek workers live below the poverty line. And we know how we manage – by resorting to excessive borrowing. Currently, we owe 26.7 billion euros (19 percent of GDP) in consumer loans and mortgages. But the debts don’t stop our frenzy of consumption – on the contrary, we «treat» our anxiety by spending even more. The fact that in times of economic crisis, or social and psychological pressure, we resort to small luxuries and pleasures to alleviate the tension, does not explain our constant purchases. Often when we want to relax, we don’t meet a friend for coffee or escape with a good book; we sweep the supermarket shelves, go on frenzied spending sprees, spend a fortune at the hairdresser or raid the pharmacy for vitamins or pills to treat stress, hair loss, and lack of concentration. We believe all this relieves stress, but actually it draws us into a narrow universe made up of objects and brand names. It also costs money, and widens the gulf between us and our friends, creating a void which we try to fill with more purchases. It is a vicious cycle which leads to cynicism, confusion, pessimism, and a life without prospects. We don’t save, we don’t invest, we only fulfill our needs. And today’s streetwise Greek keeps creating more artificial needs for himself, which hinder rather than help his ability to cope and to survive.