Gargage flows into the Aegean Sea

There are many terrible consequences of the “austerity” plan forced on Greece by the International Monetary Fund and the European Union. But there’s one I can’t get off my mind: the destruction of the Aegean Sea.

The Aegean – the ancient Greek word for it meant “chief sea” – is, of course, the body of water Agamemnon, Odysseus, Achilles and the other Achaeans crossed in their assault on Troy. Odysseus sailed its waters at the outset of his journey home.

In other words, it was Aegean waves that washed the shores where Western history began. And it’s hard not to think of the ancient sea’s destruction at the hands of greed-soaked cyclopean giants of finance as, at the very least, a symbolic end of that history.

Here’s how Iannis Carras describes the plunder of Greece by the powers that be, in his article, “A Farewell to the Aegean: the EU, the IMF and the destruction of an ancient sea”:

To meet the demands of the EU and the IMF, Greece is supposed to raise 50 billion Euros from privatisation proceeds. As a report in the Financial Times (based on research by Privatisation Barometer) makes clear (Greece faces ‘fire sale’ shortfall, 28 June 2011), Greece has only 13 billion Euros of assets ready to be sold. The shortfall has to be covered through the sale of state land; in particular Greece needs to add “more prime land and cultural heritage to its sales list”. In other words, the EU and the IMF are requesting the sale of coastal land on an unprecedented scale throughout the Aegean. These will be fire sales at a tiny proportion of the actual value of the properties concerned. They will be used to reduce the rate of increase of Greece’s debt as a percentage of GDP. Once sold and constructed, the nature of the Aegean will change for ever.

Carras, who said the mandatory privatization and Aegean construction plans would lead to “the worst man-made environmental destruction in the history of the Aegean,” explains the motivation:

In short, EU and IMF policies on the sale and construction of the Aegean constitute a form of colonialism: primary resources (in this case land) are being extracted for the benefit of foreign interests served by a highly corrupt class of state servitors.

It is startling that great numbers of regular folk in America and around the world are buying into the con that the economic crisis was the fault of the little people.

I don’t mean to wade into waters over my head, but it is the case that: 1) the financial crisis was facilitated by the deregulation of financial markets; and, 2) the very same people who did the deregulating, caused the crises, and were made whole by the taxpayers are trying to use the crisis to further enrich themselves by privatizing Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, by forcing the sale of public assets (national parkland, Aegean coastal areas), etc.; and, to disguise their piracy, they are, 3) spreading the propaganda that it was all our fault, they’re just saving us from ourselves.

It is disaster capitalism’s shock doctrine at work. First you cause the disaster, then you capitalize on it. That some would do this is no surprise. That so many support it – and support it in the name of freedom – is maddening.

We might remind the pirates of what happened to Odysseus when he set sail from Troy across the Aegean. He and his men sacked Ismarus, stronghold of the Cicones. Distracted by their plunder, Odysseus’ men refused his order to leave. The Cicones regrouped and killed six from each of Odysseus’ ships.

Escaping with his survivors, Odysseus sailed on to the land of the Lotus-Eaters, which, if I believed in time travel, I’d say looks an awful lot like 21st Century America.

The photo above pictures tons of human garbage collapsing into the Aegean. It is from the Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation. Archipelago was the original Greek name for the Aegean. It means “chief sea.” You can visit the Institute here.

Glenn W. Smith

Glenn W. Smith