OPINION

Stubborn therapists

The stunning speed at which our emotions change, day by day, even hour by hour, can prove exhausting even for the most balanced personalities. The speed is greater than stock market fluctuations each time the legendary butterfly flaps its wings in Brussels, Berlin or New York. From up to down, from warm to cold, from hope to disappointment, and back again. It feels like we are locked in a loop.

To be sure, there is still no accurate evaluation of how much this emotional turmoil has contributed to the 35 percent increase in the number of suicides recorded since 2010, a figure which was mentioned by British historian and commentator Timothy Garton Ash in a recent article that appeared in Kathimerini.

Moreover, although suicide rates are high among the most productive age group (to use cold market speak), they nevertheless do not seem to count in the ongoing negotiations with the country’s lenders.

In other words, the data do not seem to influence the thinking of people who have become used to dealing exclusively with numbers (regardless of whether their financial math has been successful in saving this nation or any other for that matter).

Suicides are simply the collateral damage of an undeclared – so to speak – social war. But the damage is no less significant than the collateral damage of a conventional war.

Ash makes another important point. Something that has been repeatedly pointed out, but which carries extra weight when it comes from a cool-headed foreign observer – not from the usual camp of local critics. What I am talking about here is the international lenders’ stubborn insistence on a failed policy. Their obsession may not be ideological, but it does have a political origin.

“Needless to say, clientelist Greek governments able to borrow at German interest rates made an already bad situation worse during the early years of the euro, in cahoots with their oligarchs; the post-crisis medicine prescribed by Germany and the IMF was almost bound to worsen the condition of such a sickly patient; the patient only pretended to take some of that medicine; and so on,” Ash writes.

“Apportion the blame where you will, the fact remains that many Greeks have suffered terribly,” he adds.

And yet the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the European Central Bank are all indifferent to the patient’s reaction or his further deterioration, and they insist on the same mix: an extra 1.8 billion euros via VAT and a 1.8-billion-euro reduction in pensions.

The medicine is starting to look more and more like poison.