'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Friday, April 06, 2012

The Death of Dimitris Christoulas 

If you haven't heard, Dimitris Christoulas killed himself on Tuesday evening in protest of the policies of austerity that are brutalizing the people of Greece:

An elderly man who took his life outside the Greek parliament in Athens , in apparent desperation over his debts, has highlighted the human cost of an economic crisis that has not only brought the country to the brink financially, but also seen suicides soar.

As Greeks digested the news, with politicians clearly as shocked as society at large, mourners made their way to Syntagma square, where the retired pharmacist shot himself with a handgun.

The 77-year-old pensioner pulled the trigger as people were emerging from a nearby metro station in the morning rush hour. One witness told state TV that before shooting himself he had shouted, I'm leaving because I don't want to pass on my debts.

As the YouTube video report indicates, Christoulas isn't the only person who has recently killed themselves because of their personal and economic distress. In his handwritten statement, he concluded:

. . . . One day, I believe, the youth with no future will take up arms and hang the national traitors at Syntagma square, just like the Italians did with Mussolini in 1945 (at Milan’s Piazzale Loreto).

According to the Guardian:

A picture of the man who has come to embody the inequities of Greece's financial crisis has begun to emerge, with friends and neighbours shedding light on the life of the elderly pensioner who killed himself in Athens on Wednesday.

Named as Dimitris Christoulas by the Greek media, the retired pharmacist was described as decent, law-abiding, meticulous and dignified.

The 77-year-old had written in his one-page, three-paragraph suicide note that it would be better to have a decent end than be forced to scavenge in the rubbish to feed myself.

With his suicide he wanted to send a political message, Antonis Skarmoutsos, a friend and neighbour was quoted as saying in the mass-selling Ta Nea newspaper. He was deeply politicised but also enraged.

Until 1994 Christoulas was a local chemist in the central Athens neighbourhood of Ambelokipoi. A committed leftist, he was active in citizens' groups such as I won't pay, which started as a one-off protest against toll fees but quickly turned into an anti-austerity movement.

Christoulas planned his action so meticulously that he paid all of his debts in advance. Meanwhile, suicides continue to skyrocket in Greece, and so many children are going hungry that some of them are fainting in class:

The serious economic crisis that has gripped Greece for the last four years could have serious repercussions for even the youngest swathes of the population. The physical and psychological development of youngsters in the country is at risk because of malnutrition caused by poverty, and so, therefore is their very future. The alarm has been raised in a report on the situation of young people in Greece drafted by Unicef's Greek committee and by the University of Athens. The report, entitled The condition of youth in Greece, 2012 says that 439,000 children in the country are currently living below the poverty line - underfed and in insalubrious conditions - in families that represent 20.1% of Greek households

. . . . The report also cites a number of cases of children fainting in class because of malnutrition. These cases were given significant media coverage in December when the director of the Athens orphanage, Maria Iliopoulou, complained that around 200 cases of malnourished newborns had been registered in the space of a few weeks because their parents had been unable to feed them appropriately. Iliopoulou also claimed that teachers from schools close to her institution would queue up every day for a plate of food for their neediest pupils. In many schools in Athens the situation is even more dramatic, Iliopoulou said at the time, because some children have fainted from hunger in classrooms. The Ministry of Public Education, which initially dismissed the claims as propaganda, was forced to recognise the seriousness of the problem and subsequently decided to hand out to pupils from the poorest families meal vouchers with which to buy breakfast from the school canteen. The Unicef report ends with an estimate from the Ombudsman for children, who says that there are around 100,000 minors working in Greece to contribute to the meagre and often non-existent family budget.

No wonder Christoulas believed that the young are going to hang the politicians.

Hat tip to Louis Proyect, The Unrepentant Marxist.

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