Rethinking the humanitarian crisis

At a time when words are acquiring a whole new level of significance, maybe we should explore the concept of “humanitarian crisis” more carefully. Almost two years after foremen at a strawberry farm in the area of Manolada in the Peloponnese opened fire on dozens of migrant workers demanding back pay, injuring several, we have had a new shooting, this time at a poultry farm in Achaia, also in the Peloponnese. The 51-year-old Greek boss and his 42-year-old Romanian partner were arrested after being accused of the incident by Romanian laborers. The latter told investigators of the horrendous conditions in which they lived and worked: without sanitation, food, heating or wages. The boss also liked to shoot his gun into the air or at the ground in order to frighten them, as they said.

The health of Greek society is not at all in good shape. If we were to add up just the more widely reported instances of attacks against both Greeks and foreigners in this country (with far-right Golden Dawn becoming more than just a party since the start of the crisis, transforming in an prevalent ideological presence), cases of bullying at schools and universities (some with tragic consequences) and other shocking crimes that come to light, both the government and we as a society should be taking this cancerous and widespread disease more seriously.

Local communities often choose to maintain their silence or even to work quite actively with the authorities to cover up all sorts of barbarities. In rural parts of the country especially, communities have effectively been abandoned by the official state while at the same time being kept firmly under the wing of one local politician or another, be it a region’s MP or a party branch president. They have become a separate world to the urban centers and live by their own rules.

When we talk about the humanitarian crisis in Greece today – and we have been talking about it a lot recently – we link it exclusively to poverty. We lament the plight of migrants, for example, but the abhorrent terms of their detention are no worse than the conditions under which they are forced to work every day, for years and years. We keep inventing enemies and new conspiracy theories, such as the Europeans who are trying to impose their will on us. We are recreating the conditions that led to the split of society and civil war. Fear alone should be making us ask ourselves what’s going on both around and inside us. Police searching the poultry farm in Achaia found 1.5 million euros. Nevertheless, what we are experiencing is a crisis, which is mainly one of humanity.

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