Economic despair plagues Greece

Lately, news of Greece has been nothing but tales of woe, misery and economic despair. The economic downfall of the country has garnered worldwide attention as many are left to wonder how a once prosperous nation could fall on such hard times.

The most recent news from these Mediterranean islands is no less disturbing for both residents and observers alike. Plagued with colossal debt, many Greek citizens have found themselves unable to afford burials for family and loved ones.

Tensions have now reached a boiling point as protests and riots run rampant throughout the country. The inability to provide proper burial services proves to be a critical matter in these protests.

Greek citizen Vanna Mendaleni formerly ran a funeral parlor in Greece, but had no choice but to close it down due to policies instituted by the Greek government, plunging citizens into the depths of grave destitution.

“After three years of non-stop taxes and wage cuts it’s got to the point where nothing has been left standing,” said Mendaleni in an interview with The Guardian.

“It’s so bad families can no longer afford to even bury their dead. Bodies lie unclaimed at public hospitals so that the local municipality can bury them.”

The large majority of Greeks are Greek Orthodox church, and thus believe death separates the soul from the body. A key component of a Greek Orthodox funeral is to greet the family with the phrase, “Memory Eternal” and to provide an open-casket service in which mourners celebrate the life of the deceased.

Daniel Diaz, assistant director of the study abroad program and international student advisor, sees this lack of funding for funerals as a cause for major religious-based strife.

“From a religious point of view, there is a sense of anxiety and fear about properly caring for and handling the death of a family member or a loved one,” said Diaz.

Death affects the living in many ways as well, and funerals can be used to foster closure and offer condolences. According to Diaz, if citizens are incapable of providing funerals for loved ones, it may diminish the very fabric of society.

“It shows to me that the economic and government functions of Greece are breaking down in drastic ways,” Diaz said. “You see the protests and the outlash and my anticipation is that perhaps without the right steps taken, things will get worse.”

Protests resisting the austerity of Greece have resulted in large-scale clashes with Greek police. Protestors are hoping for a government intervention as well as a movement away from cuts to pensions and wages.

In an interesting turn of events, one of Greece’s cash-strapped amateur soccer teams has turned to two local brothels for funding. While that source of finance is completely legal, compromised morality becomes a concern.

Junior Julia Sheehan is amongst those who believe that perhaps the funding could be used somewhere else.

“When you have loved ones unable to provide funeral services for family members, and then you see a brothel funding a soccer team (it) is a bit off-putting to me,” Sheehan said. “I would have rather seen the brothel do the right thing and maybe sponsor funerals.”

For the time being, funeral homes have begun to offer some support to grieving loved ones. Payment plans for Greek funerals have now become more readily available. While this does not fully mitigate the economic despair; it does offer citizens a chance to have that final opportunity for closure.

In time, the economic troubles in Greece may see resolution. Until then, the country remains locked in a tight battle between citizens and government.

It is in the best interest of global economics and the social structure of Greece that the country expeditiously rights itself and steers back onto the track of economic success.