Large demonstrations have been frequent in Athens since 2010. Police repression, violence and irrational use of tear gas. 3,500 suicides, massive unemployment (26%) and unpaid work – two out of three young people are unemployed. Abolition of health structures in the public sector, closure of treatment units for the mentally ill, hundreds of pawnshops mushrooming all over the country. Huge increase in drug addicts, prostitution, homeless people and people who find themselves in the streets. All these are the consequences of the economic crisis in Greece.
This crisis is not just a financial one. It is a systemic crisis with multiple dimensions: political, social and cultural. It is, in fact, a historical breakthrough and all options for the future are open. The country lives in war-like conditions.
I have been reading about Weimar Republic in Germany in the 1920s, the financial crash of 1929 in America, the oil crisis of the 70s. Now, in Greece, history seems to be repeating itself in variations.
Half of my friends are unemployed. My parents kept themselves warm with a little stove as they couldn’t afford heating oil this year. My father, in poor health, will soon complete 50 years of work, most of them spent at two jobs. My sister emigrated after having been unemployed. An elderly man I met in the center of Athens sold his gold teeth for a few euros. In my neighborhood, workers in one of the largest steel mills of the country went on strike for 272 days after the dismissal of 110 colleagues and a 50% pay cut.
I have traveled and seen countries full of misery, poverty and violence. I have always been moved, but I couldn’t really empathize. In Egypt, where I traveled in 2009, youth unemployment was 90%. In Greece youth unemployment has now reached 65%.
It begins from my surroundings and
ends up on me. Burnout has to do with my own crisis too: I know it is a part
of my life. This series is deeply experiential. Although it started four years ago, I still do not
know when and how it will end.
Editor's note: We discovered Dimitris Michalakis' work at the excellent Biel-Bienne Festival of Photography in Switzerland.