Some of the Greeks I talk to on the phone tell me Greece now is reliving some of the harsh realities of WWII German occupation when hundreds of thousands of Greeks starved to death. Nazi Germany included famine in its extermination policies.
Once again, in 2013, a huge number of Greeks are without work. Many of these people are so impoverished they eat sporadically and, some of them, go hungry. Increasingly, the children of these destitute people eat little or not at all, fainting in schools.
Two basic reasons explain the return of hunger in Greece.
First, bad policies nearly emptied Greek villages, luring peasants to the cities. I will never forget my anguish in visiting Mahairas, a lush village in Central Greece. I asked the elementary school teacher about her students. Embarrassed, she said she only had four pupils, all children of Albanian farm workers. All young Greek families left Mahairas for Athens and other cities. Those still farming are raising cash crops.
Greek authorities justify this detrimental rural policy on the basis of foreign models of development. After all, the U.S. emptied rural America of small family farmers and gave all their land to giant farmers who converted the countryside into very few massive industrialized farms and agribusiness corporations. Then the European Union, copying the U.S., has been funding large farmers as well.
The toxic industrial farming model and European agricultural subsidies destroyed Greek food security. Now bankrupt Greece borrows money to import food. A country blessed by sunlight and modest water, ideal for growing fruits and vegetables, even imports fruits and vegetables. Sometimes, Greece also imports olive oil -- the gift of goddess Athena to the Athenians.
Most Greek milk comes from Holland; beef is imported from several European countries. You go to buy groceries in Greece and the grocery is probably German. The Italians buy Greek olive oil and repackage it for export. I visit the village of my birth in Kefalonia, a Greek island in the Ionian Sea, and no one is growing wheat -- the real stuff of life for millennia all over Greece. Every day villagers buy French-like soft white bread!
Second, the current asphyxiating "austerity imposed on Greece by the troika: America's International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission is converting Greece into a colony that lives or dies at the whim of its masters.
These masters demand repayment for Greece's debt, no matter the social and ecological costs. But instead of helping Greece to create jobs and wealth so as to repay her debt, the foreigners demand higher taxes, the elimination of social services, and drastic cuts in pensions, salaries and government spending. They also require that the Greek government privatize all state enterprises, including drinking water.
Rich Greeks, like the rich everywhere, park their wealth into foreign banks.
The violence of this colonial policy has nowhere to go but foster resistance, anti-foreign sentiments, and more violence. Desperate people protest and, eventually, revolt. Hungry children are proof Greece will blow up.
No one, least of all the United States, would benefit from the coming upheaval in Greece. A peaceful or violent overthrow of the Greek government, which the overwhelming number of Greeks consider a foreign collaborationist government, will mean an overthrow of most Greek links to the West, especially a rejection of NATO and the European Union.
My hope is that non-violent but constructive alternatives prevail for the resolution of the continuing degradation of Greece. The policies of the despised troika are simply cannibalistic and unacceptable. Imagine the European Union, for example, causing hunger in one of its members, Greece, and still calling itself "union"?
A much more civilized approach towards Greece, the very country that brought light and civilization to the West, would be the forgiving of debt and a Marshall Plan for reconstruction and humane development.
America should lead such an effort because America did it before in the post-WWII reconstruction of Europe. In addition, the U.S. controls the IMF and Germany. The United States can simply order the IMF out of this barbarism parading as austerity in Greece. The U.S. can also direct Germany to take a constructive rather than destructive role in enabling Greece to stand on her own feet.