Friday, December 12, 2008

Is it any wonder young Greeks are rioting?

There is an appaling lack of context provided by media coverage of the rioting in Athens. All we are told is that they are "anarchists". (And what do anarchists do? They riot.) The Economist provides more context, and notes that the conservative government has ignored
the pressing case for social reform, particularly in education, health and policing. But as the global slowdown takes effect, young Greeks see their parents struggling to pay the bills. If they cannot afford to study abroad, they get lousy tuition at a Greek university and, unless their family can pull strings, few chances of a good job. The unemployment rate for young graduates is 21%, compared with 8% for the population as a whole.
I recently blogged about how the Greeks had all but abandoned their highly-praised (and delicious) Mediterranean diet in the past five years and adopted a diet based on American fast-foods. As a consequence, the NY Times noted that rates of obesity and diabetes are skyrocketing:
In Greece, three-quarters of the adult population is overweight or obese, the worst rate in Europe “by far,” according to the United Nations. The rates of overweight 12-year-old boys rose more than 200 percent from 1982 to 2002 and have been rising even faster since.

. . . . “In the last five years it’s become really bad,” she said. “The children are all quite heavy. The market is pushing a lot, and parents and schools seem unable to resist.”
If our lauded global economy is stripping bare places like Greece of the very things most worthwhile in their local culture (things that have made Greece the envy of the world), propagating an unhealthy and unsustainable way of life, is it any wonder the Greeks are rioting? In Greece, globalization literally has made the population sick.

What is the vehicle of all the destructive marketing? The same organizations that profess to "report" on the rioting -- newspapers, television networks -- are dependent on the very advertisers who help to sell a ruinous way of life.

Meanwhile, The Times (London) reports that the rioting is spreading across Europe:
Suspected anarchist protests which have dogged Greece for the last week spread outside the country today, with mobs causing violent scenes in Italy, Spain, Russia, Denmark and Turkey.

A similar AP story notes that one incident "might have been carried out by youths unhappy with globalization and economic difficulties in France."

I expect there will be more riots.

UPDATE: In this video, Chomsky talks about the meaning of Anarchism and its practice in the United States during the 19th Century.


  1. Of course Jotman, Greek riots are McDonald's blame, of course Jotman, of course... In the same way you are a political analyst.


  2. The NY Times article on the obesity epidemic among Greeks did not mention McDonald's. To what extent McDonald's bears responsibly in the case of Greece, I do not know.

    Anyway, it's important to keep things in perspective. Whereas the rioting has caused damage to property, the drastic change in the Greek diet has proved ruinous to the health of millions of Greek children.

  3. To the extent that most, if not all 'multinationals' are reactionary if not outright fascist (and wasn't it Mussolini who stated that fascism was when the interests of industry and government were the same?), it can be said that the current unrest and dissatisfaction with the fabled capitalist utopia can be laid squarely at the feet of the corrupt, repressive, unrepresentative governments and the corporations who succor them. And as for Jotman's abilities as a political analyst; to quote, I believe, Bob Dylan: "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows...".


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