The specter of social upheaval

The December riots were triggered by the killing of a youth, but they turned into rebellion because of underlying social, economic and political factors. Now, the global crisis is exacerbating these factors. This does not mean we will see a repeat of the violent incidents that shook the country a few months ago. What it does mean, however, is that the grass is so dry that even a small spark could start a huge blaze. People are anxiously watching a crisis unfold that, at best, threatens to lower their standard of living. Indicators suggest that the worst is yet to come. An economic crash would hurt what people value most: jobs, pensions, healthcare. The gradual erosion of Greece’s social fabric is taking place in a different environment than before. Athens has evolved into a multifaceted metropolitan center with many insurmountable obstacles. More and more migrants are having trouble finding a job, which adds to the strain. Crime and terrorism – of all levels – are also on the rise. Of course these are not products of the crisis, but the latter is surely to blame for the escalation. A prolonged crisis will further strengthen the trend. Terrorist groups believe that they gain moral legitimacy from the crisis which is also pushing some of the rebels to adopt such practices. At the same time, the crisis encourages law-breaking among certain segments of society. If terror attacks cultivate a feeling of insecurity, thefts and robberies constitute a very real threat for most ordinary people. At present, most people are finding it harder to make ends meet, but they haven’t quite reached the point of desperation. If the crisis transforms regular folk en masse into desperate figures, the social unrest will take on explosive dimensions without precedent in postwar Greece. Some will yearn for the time when the organized left ran the show.