Thursday, 19 December 2013

The Economic 'Crisis'

As all English speakers know or ought to know, a crisis is something instantaneous or nearly so: some process continues until it reaches its zenith or nadir, (the 'crisis'), and then there is a sudden change and things are completely different. Illnesses are commonly said to reach their crisis; the patient, or his fever, gets worse and worse, the crisis is reached and then he either dies or starts to get better. A crisis is like the sharp edge of an escarpment, or the point at which an aeroplane, rising steeply, suddenly stalls and swoops downwards. Thus what is happening in Greece and other third world countries that happen to be in Europe can not properly be said to be a crisis. 'Properly'? Nowadays majority usage is what determines meaning, and as usual ignorance rules OK, so crisis is the word we have to use for the worsening states of affairs in these places. Another good word done gone.
In small isolated communities, where everyone knows everyone else, things have not been so bad. No-one is allowed to starve or to have no roof over their heads. Such a place is this island where I spend most of my time, with a population of around 2,000, so that we rarely have need of the formal Σας rather than Σου, equivalent to the French Vous and Tu. We all know each other well enough; only too well in some cases.
What is noticeable here though is how empty of goods the shops are getting. Wholesalers now demand payment in advance even from long-established customers; all too often businesses have collpased and the owner become bankrupt or simply disappeared, perhaps to be found later shivering in an Athens underpass waiting for some charity to pass with a cup of soup. Suicides, especially of previously successful businessmen with families they are too ashamed to admit they can no longer support, have increased. But I'm getting too sad and serious for what I wanted to say, which was just about the downward spiral of available foods for those who have the money to buy them:
Because of that demand for advance payment, shopkeepers are slow to replenish depleted shelves. They haven't got the money to pay for things that might take a while to sell, and, especially in places like the islands, where everything comes by ship, orders must be large before the wholesaler will bother to deliver. So as the shelves of their favourite shop empty, people stop going to that shop - which therefore gets even less money - and go to another better-stocked one. Until the same thing happens there. So shops close, one by one, the smaller ones first, and only the big well-off ones survive. The little shop where one was a close friend of the owner, and she always made sure to keep a bottle or two of the special ouzo you liked but few others bought, or your favourite but unfashionable cigarettes, (Note that I am speaking here just of essentials) has gone; you will have to drink the mass-market ouzo the big shop has, and smoke Marlboro.
It's called Capitalism.

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