The grapevine speaks of thousands arriving daily at the bank counter to withdraw their savings in cash in order to either send them abroad or return them to a strong box at home. Safety deposit boxes, once a habit of a minority of bank customers, are now the hottest item, with most banks having run out of boxes to lease.
The mood may be stunned, almost morose, but flare ups cannot be ruled out. During Mayday demonstrations in Athens, a veteran member of the ruling socialists was spotted by protesters walking in the thick of the crowd. Within seconds, the septuagenarian former speaker of the Greek parliament, coming from among the original "historic" generation of socialists who inaugurated Greece's head-over-heels borrowing en route to "growth," was surrounded by hooded youths frothing at the mouth and others with less than polite intentions.
Television footage showed the hapless old man seeking sanctuary in a cafe, some of whose patrons stood to boo and heckle him. He eventually locked himself in the bathroom to avoid the worst. It was not until half an hour later that a strong contingent of shield-bearing, truncheon-wielding, helmeted police arrived to rescue him. Surrounded by anti-riot squaddies three deep, and amid a sea of chanting demonstrators in ugly mood and with raised fists, Mr. Former Speaker of the House was taken to hospital as a precaution.
Amid this "rescue package" typhoon, Greek politicians have showed little willingness to either openly apologize to a society they steadily led in the wrong direction or simply shut up and lay low in light of their staggering success of driving the country into the bottomless pit.
A prominent example of how the protagonists of Greece's unhinging feel they exist in a hallowed world of no guilt was the re-appearance of former prime minister Simitis, with no less than a prominent newspaper article "analyzing" how we got where we are now and ruminating on the ills of Greek politics.
Mr. Simitis presided over socialist governments from 1996 until 2004 -- when he quickly passed the baton to the incumbent prime minister after seeing clearly that his enlightened "leadership" was leading his party to an electoral train wreck.
While the jury is still out on his premiership, there is ample evidence that Mr. Simitis's tenure marked a less than pristine time in Greek government, to put it neutrally, which was then compounded by the catastrophe ushered in by his conservative successors.
(Readers with little exposure to things Greek would honestly believe that the Simitis article came from an impartial senior statesman, at the least. They would be rather surprised to discover the article was actually the handiwork of a former government head, who would be best advised to avoid "interventions" against the backdrop of his years at the helm that pointed the ship straight at the sandbar).
Experts are divided on what lies ahead for Greece. All of them though seem to agree that the country is headed straight into controlled disaster to last well into the future. The support mechanism, concocted by Germany and some of the European partners and with the IMF lending a helping but deeply hated hand, is a stopgap measure which, even Greeks have begun to suspect, is in place more in order to "correct imbalances" and restore the buffeted euro's reputation than to help this country's population avoid unprecedented impoverishment and all-round economic failure.
With Germany taking the lead in the prevarication over "support," the Greek crisis was led from one disastrous record to the next -- and the true aim of the whole ludicrous exercise was spelled out publicly, and with little "solidarity" to the collapsing Greeks, by no other than the all-too-disciplined Frau Merkel, who said: "When Greece accepts these tough [austerity] measures, not for one year but several, then we have a chance for a stable euro" (emphasis added).
A "stable euro," one would say, is really of little concern to people who stand to lose, on average, 30 to 40 percent of their income; told to accept crippling unemployment indefinitely; and confront returning to, and getting locked at the level, of living standards slightly above those of the 1960s in one swift move. However, the Greeks, in many ways, are now paying the dues of their own folly, compounded by their politicians' reckless borrowing and cooking of data to enter the "European Monetary Union," knowing full well that a fixed-rate currency and its in-flexibilities, plus an explosion in retail prices and the general false appreciation of a non-performing semi-developed economy that can only produce shiploads of loafer civil servants, spelled disaster down the road.
Soon, however, the Greeks' individual plight could be small print in what appears to be in store for the much vaunted, but clay-legged, "Eurozone." As Rebecca Wilder put it recently: "Greece – GIIPS [Greece, Italy, Ireland, Portugal, and Spain] – Eurozone - Big Problem." It is now sinking slowly across the stronger capitals of Europe that just like US politicians pushed their lenders to build an enormous house of cards with mortgage loans that could never be repaid by customers generating little, if any, income, Europe's "leaders" cajoled their big and smaller banks "into lending vast amounts to ClubMed governments with no track record of fiscal responsibility," Professor Copeland rightly observed.
The arithmetic of such dangerous, mindless games is simple -- and Greece is currently experiencing its unavoidable terminal impact.
Greek politicians, faced with the Armageddon, appear way below the circumstances. Glowing reports about "thinkers," like this, demonstrate either willingness to be nice and fluffy or having no clue really of what is going on in this country and the quality of "leadership" we are so fortunate to have at this time of national calamity.
Greece walking the plank will be the last cliff hanger in a series of disaster movie episodes that opened in the early 1990s. Debt "restructuring," the more polite term for "default," appears coming ever so closer fast for those who understand their economics, correctly assess Greece's productivity and "competitiveness" potential, realize the hopeless limits of tragically failed Greek politics and society, and have a rational perception of time constraints.
As Eric Margolis put it in his May 2 comment: "The bouzouki music has stopped. Club Med’s credit cards are maxed out. The repo men are at the door."