Evridiki Livada*: The anatomy of the “shock” and “shock therapy” in the midst of a pandemic
“We must have friends and enemies. Friends to remind us of our duty, and enemies to force us to do it” Plutarch
“Shock”: its concept was introduced by Milton Friedman, Nobel Prize winner, economist and professor at the University of Chicago, consultant of Pinochet, Reagan (and through him Thatcher) as well as Nixon, a proponent of neoliberalism and the father of the so-called “Chicago School”. Friedman’s principle teaches that the speed, breadth, and sudden imposition of economic changes provoke psychological reactions that facilitate the adaptation of what he called “shock therapy”. However, a sudden event (“shock”) must occur before the treatment (“shock therapy”) can be applied. From there on the word “shock” dominates any such application.
Although it is considered that this “shock” is of one category, I think that it is actually triple: the fabricated, the natural and the mixed. Everything concerning the time period of their realization – including the information of the event – is, by nature, temporary. In terms of time and place, however, the extent of their results varies. Some take a few days to a few months for the previous order to return, while others take whole years, and usually, human strategies and works of nature have disappeared.
The fabricated ones
are inventions of sick minds. The main ones are: the imposition of a dictatorship that is often carried out after a period of intense political unrest – instigated or not – the regime of foreign military occupation, terrorist attacks, all kinds of wars – including non-conventional, biological ones – the nuclear holocaust which was – and remains – a global threat.
On September 11, 1973, in Chile, Pinochet seized power by a military coup (“shock”) supported by US President Nixon, overthrowing the elected government of Allende. Following the advice of the economist Milton Friedman, he transformed the economy by implementing the “shock therapy”: tax reduction, free trade, reduction of social spending, the privatization of education and other social services multiplying the public debt. This transformation is known in history as the “Chicago School Revolution.”
The rich became richer, the gap widened, and millions of Chileans were led to utter misery and poverty.
The “shock therapy” was so strong that the people began to react in 1983, that is, after ten years of total misery and torture of those whose ideas were considered obstacles to economic transformation. “We will sell the poor for slaves because they do not have to pay their debts, we will even sell the grain scraps because they also leave a profit.”
The junta “shock” followed in Argentina after political unrest, assassinations of politicians and syndicalists (unionists), malfunctioning of the state, internal chaos in the country and finally, the implementation of the “shock therapy” of the “Chicago School” according to multinational businessmen and financial investment giants.
On April 15, 1976, in China 200.000 people gathered in Tiananmen Square to celebrate “Day of the Dead” in honor of the recently deceased Prime Minister Chu En Lai. The rally quickly turned into a demonstration against the wife of President Mao, with slogans and poems against her. Force and violence was used to suppress the demonstration.
During the ‘80s, the so-called perestroika, or modernization according to the Western capitalist standards, was hovering over the countries of existing socialism. This modernization acted like a “domino”. In Russia, however, it created the notorious oligarchs after paving the way for the sale of public property and then its privatization, and in China, economic reforms seemed unimaginable, as long as the same political regime remained. Chinese Communist Prime Minister and Secretary-General Zao Ziyang was – and still is – the person identified with modernization. The Western-style economic structure, as well as the subsequent violation of human rights and the lack of democratic institutions brought the Chinese people out again on April, 1989, in Tiananmen Square. The initial state tolerance turned violent and on 4 June an order was issued for intervention. The “shock” of the massacre in the square and the subsequent arrests and killings of thousands of people had caused a storm of protests in the West. But soon, the fans of the free and unrestricted market discovered a privileged and excellent trading partner in the face of China. Thus the authoritarian communist party which had been transformed into a very capitalist one, accepted the “shock treatment”, turned a large part of the country into a constantly expanding production and export zone, and the workers who were called upon to operate the machines in extremely destructive conditions for the environment and their own health, were so terrified that they lost their will to claim their rights. Thus, the low-cost energy spent on machines destroying the environment and raising Beijing and Shanghai on the scale of the most polluting cities in the world, as well as the cheap workforce that still labors in buildings with barred windows to prevent suicides, were the main reasons why most American and European industries have turned to China for mass production at lower cost and greater prosperity – for the western world of course.
After November 9, 1989 the German unification proved in fact to be an “attack” by West Germany against their Eastern brothers, is a “shock”, and its “therapy” was the sale of the eastern state, which left behind millions of unemployed and depression that the troika of the time provided and implemented.
The terrorist attack of September 11, 2001 (let us not forget that on September 11, 1973 in Chile during the Pinochet era took place the first “shock” of Friedman) opened the door to the USA to impose its military force followed by the compulsory implementation -decided by the international lenders- of the American version of “democracy” and the rules and clauses of the frenetic expansion of world trade through the sale of countries and the circumvention of constitutions, i.e. the “shock therapy”.
The Bush government took advantage of the “trauma” and the collective panic caused by the attacks in the heart of the World Trade Centre -whether real, verisimilar or conspiratorial- on the surface to declare war on terrorism, but in reality to spread its tentacles where the USA believe that “evil” exists, allowing thus the global trusts financed by public money, to consolidate and exploit other countries’ wealth. Of course, there is always an obvious “moral” cover for “shock therapy”: humanitarian aid, assistance in natural disasters, peacekeeping missions, police surveillance in places in turmoil, the fight against terrorism. Let’s never forget that the USA – and others – take care to poison the environment in every way, from subsoil (mining) to the atmosphere (greenhouse effect). And when the environment defends itself, the “rapists” appear as “philanthropists” to heal its wounds. Their contribution to major disasters or wars has established an industry, a complete global market for sustainable economic growth / development that covers “security” from arms manufacturing, to information and medicine.
On March 20, 2003, a military operation was launched in Iraq by the United States under President George HW Bush and by the United Kingdom under Prime Minister Tony Blair. The military tactic was called “Shock and Awe”. First came the war aimed at “controlling the will of the people and … literally making them unable to act or react”, while the inspirers of the” shock” aiming at erasing the collective memory did not prevent the looting of even libraries and museums!
Chile’s prescription, the “shock therapy” in the economy, was imposed by the US envoy appointed by George Bush, Louis Paul or Jerry Bremer, administrator of the “Provisional Authority of the Iraqi Coalition” that is, “humanitarian aid and reconstruction”. Namely: reduction of taxes (single tax rate of 15%), total imposition of free trade, reduction of public expenses, mass privatization and dramatic reduction of the role of the state. However, many resisted the economic transformation and were led to prisons and torture chambers where the weakening of resistance, the domination of fear, the oblivion, the elimination of historic events were sought. This implementation of “shock therapy” did not succeed although the USA desperately wanted and tried to carry it out persistently and in any way possible.
In general, the fabricated “shocks” are many: the Falklands War (1982) and the subsequent war (“shock therapy”) between Thatcher and the unions, NATO’s attack on Serbia (1999), the bombing of trains in Madrid (2004) and the subsequent national elections that marked the end of Aznar, the reconstruction of Lebanon after the Israeli bombings (2006) which, however, resulted in the defeat of international contractors (another failure to implement “shock therapy”). “Shock” is also the “opportunities” given on the occasion of pre-planned debt crisis of the countries that are obliged to surrender unconditionally to the control of the financially highly specialized technocrats. “To privatize, even water, or to die” (Latin America, Africa, 1980s), to be humiliated (Asia, financial crisis 1997-1998) leading to the looting of their markets characterized by the New York Times: “as the largest business sale ever held in the whole world”. After all, it is not far from us in 2012 where journalists fed by public money gigantized the problems and pathogenesis of the Greek public sector to prepare the privatization and the arrival of “saviors”, thus implementing a “shock therapy” program where the troika played the role of the occupation army, while the fate of our country was determined -only on the basis of numbers and measurements- in the main hall of the German Ministry of Finance, in the same historic and hated long and narrow room where, during World War II, the bombardments of the great democratic European allied cities, which opposed the Third Reich, were designed.
In the mixed “shocks”
where their origins are blurred -either due to human intervention, or due to nature, or both – are included wild fires that may become uncontrollable and their “shock therapy” try to turn common goods into private land for exploitation, extinction of species and collapse of ecosystems affecting economic sectors such as fishing, changing the flow of water, melting glaciers as a result of rising temperatures. For all this, there is a group of multibillionaire globalizers who have secured in their multinational companies every legal framework and every possible freedom in order to profit against all kinds of damaged places and societies.
given today’s advances in science and technology, can usually be predicted. Of course, there are always the unpredictable ones those that logic expects, but when they strike, they find states and governments unprepared.
The natural “shocks” that can be predicted
become great opportunities for the leaders of the global hyperactive economy. They are perfecting strategies by anticipating some exciting opportunity, a shocking crisis that, while the population is standing speechless, dizzy and exhausted, they will instantly make their status quo permanent and legitimize irrevocably the modus operandi of capitalism that seeks helpful methods: development “for the public good”, reconstruction for “development” while parts of the public sphere will be sold for their own benefit, and the state, weak, will shrink as a beggar behind insatiable giants of world trade.
On December 26, 2004 Nature, through the earthquake and the ensuing tsunami in the Indian Ocean, gave a good opportunity to the lovers of capitalism. The prolific researcher, journalist and pacifist Naomi Klein, author of “The Doctrine of Shock,” traveled to Sri Lanka seven months later, noting that foreign investors in good cooperation with the international lenders, took full advantage of the panic to plunder and snatch the excellent coastline to big businessmen who have set up tourist facilities, preventing the real owners, the hundreds of thousands of fishermen, from rebuilding their fishing villages. The government has transformed the collective vertigo from the devastating tsunami and the imposed coercive measures to “a unique opportunity where a world-renowned tourist destination will emerge”. In this case fear and destruction are the catalysts for “every new leap forward”. In fact the erection of facilities was misleadingly called reconstruction or rebirth, but essentially eliminated what was left of the public sphere by linking the incalculable disaster to a profitable and systematic market liberalization campaign. Once again, the triptych was implemented: privatizations, state deregulation and significant reductions in social expenses.
In Thailand, however, although willing politicians have become Trojan horses to hand over the country to “Traders of Nations”, locals have shown strong skepticism, refused to stay in refugee camps and have taken their future into their own hands, healing their own wounds: they broke the siege done by the armed guards which are paid by the international constructors, and began rebuilding on their own, after demanding the necessary tools.
In 2005 the hurricane Katrina ended in an orchestrated looting of the public sector. With the blessing of George W Bush, it gave an excuse to all-powerful predators to transfer state aid to their fund under the pretext of “supporting education”, which required “subsidized schools” that were eventually subsidized by the state. This was a “shock therapy” as well. The New York Times wrote: “New Orleans is the nation’s foremost experimental laboratory for expanding state-funded private schools”. Public school teachers, even before recovered from the “shock” of the utter destruction of their property and lives, watched unable to react the implementation of the “shock therapy”: the money intended for themselves as victims of the flood, to change destination and be used to eliminate the public education system and its violent replacement by private education.
In 2012 the “shock” of the superstorm Sandy also gave a sudden opportunity to contractors in order to implement the “shock therapy”: to collect millions of dollars from the state to build buildings in areas that had not been so badly affected but were brilliantly economically viable while others, that had been destroyed continued – and continue to be – a nightmare for the financially weak inhabitants.
In addition to floods, unbearable heatwaves and droughts have caused shocks in earth and water, as well as deaths of hundreds of people, such as the 2003 and 2019 heatwaves, and the 2008 and 2010 droughts. In spite of the high demand of armed veterans -employees of international security companies-, in spite of the destruction of small-growers whose land is handed over to construction companies or to agro-industrial groups, the droughts were business opportunities and a lucrative field of profit for international farming giants of the agro-industrial sector like Monsanto. This company has created climate-resistant and genetically modified seeds, and imposed its own agreements on the global market against thousands of growers, immersing them in debt and inaugurating the beginning of natural fertility problems, environmental ones and problems connected with the human health. Of course, the lobby of the major insurance companies, that bet on all these disasters and put into practice as “shock therapy” the internationally regulated rules of the free market, is not without responsibility.
The occasional applications of the disastrous for humanity “shock therapy” have contributed to the increase of economic inequality that is undoubtedly aided by the climate change. Therefore Credit Suisse’s annual Global Wealth Report emphasizes that only 1% of the adult population owns 51% of the world’s wealth (compared to 48% in 2015), while 10% of the total population owns 89% (min. million dollars) of the world wealth. So the wealth of rich countries and even the richest people in the world have increased even more, suffocating the 99% of the adult humanity.
In the unpredictable natural “shock”
global epidemics are listed, such as now the pandemic of coronavirus, which has fundamentally changed the self-evident data and caught the business elite literally asleep. Unforeseen disasters deregulate global billionaires as well who automatically turn to the state to cover their backs. The current confinement of the humanity -the planet’s walling- is presented to them as unpredictable booty. So they, along with the global debt boom, will try to implement some imaginative “shock therapy” in order to continue global governance through asymmetric economy and development.
However, this pandemic floats in completely uncharted waters and without a timetable. It put a brake on most of the actions, even those of the mining companies, except the giants of medicine. Accepting that the virus is a product of climatic chaos, Nature has proven to be intelligent and invincible. Like the flood which engulfs everything in its flow. Even if the virus has been invented in a laboratory -so it would belong to the mixed “shocks”- Nature still plays a key role because it “plays” by creating mutations. Only Nature can change the game in society, in economy, in the geopolitical chessboard. She was changing it throughout the course of history. And she is changing it now slowly and steadily despite the stubbornness of the economic superpowers. It is up to the smart and courageous political defenders of Morality and Values to seize the opportunity and lead their peoples to true democracy and prosperity.
The universal experience of the “shock” of the virus makes people initially powerless facing the unknown forces that awe even the most experienced and specialized doctors and other scientists. People, alone many times, are locked in their nests, away from the members of their families, waiting for the information and the end of the “evil”. Most, if not all, of the more distinct Mediterranean breeds, after overcoming the initial surprise, paralytic fear and helplessness, immediately turn to their fellow human beings providing them with help. -Especially the Greeks because solidarity is one of the virtues of the genome of the breed-. From whatever step they are. They arm themselves with vigor, rise over their own strengths, even themselves, and escape whatever may be trapping them in traumas and pettiness that degrade the human hypostasis. The invisible and visible bonds of the powerful ideology of capitalism are shaken. -If people, the numerous and cheap workers are lost, who will the economy rely on for great achievements? – Along with that, the legacy of the free market is shaken.
The global experience of this terrible “shock” of the pandemic has proved, imposed and is imposing more state intervention and reversal of the conditions of capitalism of free market, of financial companies, of international organizations, of other rules of globalization, the end of which seems to be faintly outlined on the horizon. -Economic equality can never be defeated permanently. It is only temporarily defeated-. The band of the international businessmen and lenders has lost the advantage of surprise, of sudden surprise due to immediate information. The cataclysmic “shock” of the pandemic is accompanied by widespread knowledge at least in our homeland, but also in Europe. Information, the many hours of isolation, study and thought, contribute to understanding clearly the fact. Thus, there is no room for exploitation of chaos and disorientation, to serve the interests of international companies and organizations with the “shock therapy” masks. Of course, logic dictates that they make some plans based on their own aspirations. But some societies seem quite solid, retain a collective memory of their painful past from “shock therapies”, have proven resilient in their results -like our homeland Greece- and experienced, have a “dangerous” for the anti-democratic international rulers History, while they can react maturely, of course under a proper, democratic and equally mature, determined and experienced executive power. After all, the use of bullying suppresses freedom only temporarily.
History has shown that the 18th century finished with the end of the Republic of Venice, the 19th with the end of French colonial expansion, the 20th marked the end of British imperial rule around the world. Is perhaps the 21st preparing to be connected with the end of its unbridled globalization and its super-powerful tentacles: 1) the militant ideologues-crusaders of sustainable development and runaway free economy that has circumvented democracy, 2) the autocratic, irreconcilable, weak and disordered-minded politicians leaders – pawns, 3) the powerful companies – famous “charitable and philo-environmental institutions”, whose real owners are hiding behind multi-headed accounting labyrinths?
The most powerful international organizations and businessmen, armed as space lobsters, stood naked as “kings” of the fairy tale and poor as the “Miserables” of Hugo, in front of a simple and cheap sanitary material: of paper; toilet, kitchen, but also mask, the latter that is worth a few cents and that its real value counts as much as human life – for those of course who count it -. Goliath knelt before David. Globalization itself came as a “shock” and struck its creators and inventors of “shock therapies”: the United States – and not only them, of course – in order to cheapen the cost of paper products, of masks, moved its construction to authoritarian Communist China of cheap jobs, high technology and of the non-existent value of the man’s life who is exhausted while collecting -from the rubbish heaps- computer components and he recycles in order to literally have a loaf of bread. And this, in the refuse and the poison. “Only in this way the economy will grow, the great economy of the West”.
Our over-consumptive way of living constitutes the nucleus of the problem with the wide-scale industry, the global markets, international lenders and bankers, supranational organizations. All have been proven and is one person: Evil. China, a timeless source of most pandemics, is a basic link of this chain. Now that China has “committed suicide” in Wuhan as a scorpion surrounded by fire, and mysteriously disappeared – how?- well-known local personalities that dared to speak about China’s centre of Erebus, the “kings” of the USA and EU with difficulty try to breathe fresh air in luxury hospitals in New York and London, because they just didn’t have masks, they didn’t have respirators, while cranes on the streets loaded -and load- on refrigerators lifeless bodies that carry only numbers. Like the convicts in the Nazi camps.
And in this Century of Chaos the constantly-retrogressing President Trump will take legal action against China as the cause of the spread of the coronavirus. He is openly opposed to the World Health Organization of the UN, cutting its subsidy and through his action, to the global cartel of Health and the “philanthropist” and “wise” Bill Gates, who owns 25% of Ecoland, a healthcare giant that has a direct relationship with WHO. In addition the USA President ordered in a fascist way, as if he were in a time of war, global-active companies to construct masks and respirators: “Donald J. Trump. General Motors MUST immediately open their stupidly abandoned Lordstown plant in Ohio, or some other plant, and START MAKING VENTILATORS, NOW !!!!!! FORD, GET GOING ON VENTILATORS, FAST!!!!!!”.
If these are not unconventional parts of Greek mythological Titanomachy, then what can they be?
Due to the fact that Nature has shown that in the end it always prevails, is by any chance, what we are living today, the beginning of the end of the … pure and spotless version of capitalism that will sweep off their feet, in its own Eden decline, its parents, namely the fans of the perpetual economic growth with the “shock “and the “therapies”?
I wonder whether Scylla is turning against Charybdis? Do we experience disintegrations of Colossus? Unimaginable conflicts and historical trials? Imprisonment of “respectable” people of the worldwide community? Should Greece by any chance collect her children, her great minds, from the 32 winds? Will she give birth to her industrial past and products from the ashes, even if it costs all of us a few months of strong shocks and ordeals? Do we live historic moments being confined within the four walls of our homes while we have not fully grasped them?
The Europe of Disappointment
And while these are happening in the capital of the… civilized and highly developed western over-consumptive world, the European Union has been trapped in the mentalities and ideologies of its bleak and bloody past. Unable to stand up to the circumstances in one of the three, as EU strongly declares, most basic principles, in solidarity, she was confined to the national borders of Germany. There, along with her tough puppet satellites, Germany offered …70 beds to the Italians who were in the agony of death, a denial to the tragic Spaniards, and a tightly closed door to the rest of those who had the courage, even temporarily, to ask for self-evident humanitarian aid. Europe has historically been based on universal Greek principles and values, those that the Protestant Morality, this matrix of capitalism, has deliberately taken care to conceal and highlight the devaluation of collective action, the flattening and inhuman logic of austerity, materialistic values and extreme selfishness. Who can now sit next to whom and trust him? Who can talk to anyone and understand him? What common values can now unite who, if they are not STRICTLY of ECONOMIC nature? The European politicians of the German band have neither morals nor values and therefore NO prospect of leading the EU to the promised and signed by all prosperity and justice.
Under the conditions of the multifaceted “shock” created by the pandemic, and the catalysis of the false world of Western consumption and propaganda, the well-known Axis-European version of Evil, easily renounced the humanitarian aspirations, those in front of which every free, intelligent and democratic being is kneeling, and showed, once again, how worthy of regret and contempt Germany and its lackeys are.
The EU of illusory dreams has disappeared. And if not now completely yet, the anti-European behavior of the poisonous contemporary Axis has certainly been recorded in memory. The European economy could well (as a democratic free market of products that respect and support equally all those who participate as units in the private sector but also as cooperative corpora), coexist with the development of public infrastructure, free medical care, welfare state, child welfare, public combating illiteracy, public funding of culture, and holistic development of key sectors of the economy. As an example I mention agriculture but in such a way that each state promotes all its products without blockades, and independently of the prices in global markets. In short, peace and democracy in the daily life of the European citizen, respect for every people that makes up this great geographical unit, appreciation of his peculiarities and equal support of the historical sectors of development and differentiation from other neighboring brothers, while government revenues must be used to improve living conditions in order to absorb the shocks of any lurch. But all this, it seems, could be – and must have been – the ideologies of the pioneers of the birth of the United Europe, of social, political and cultural union, which have been lost with them. Today’s partners are distant, indifferent, and often insidious and hostile -as with the immigration issue-.
We, the Greeks, have felt their moods dramatically, a fact that history has recorded and will not be forgotten. Maybe it’s time for other peoples to feel the same way. Our partners, on the occasion of this pandemic, managed once again, but so obviously, to eradicate cooperation and vertically increase competition and the erection of walls. In this way, however, they managed unknowingly to perfume the times with genuine patriotism. In an intensive way. But we need to be careful as in the dark corners the “special popular anger” keeps always watch, the “anger” that finds ways out of expression in fascism, dictatorship, violence, shouts, threatening.
If this is not the end of the United Europe of solidarity, equality, and the convergence of prosperity, then what can it be?
If this is not the victory and the restoration of the National State, the nationalities and the homelands, then what is?
The difference of the roots and the worldviews of the European peoples, their values, their priorities, cannot be bridged and will never be bridged.
… and Greece of hope and of the Second Renaissance
The advertisement of the Civil Protection (see at the end the respective video), the one accompanied by “The Orchard of Madness” by D. Savopoulos, runs in my being and makes me shudder. I convey the inspired piece that lifts us up and inspires us: “Look at the people… Look at your neighbor… Together we always do our best. And when they are over – and will be over – we may not just remember it as a bad time, but as the day we said ‘Look how good we can be’. And then maybe everyone has something to learn about us. From us. The Greeks“.
I hope that this essay will be materialised by our inspiring politicians to the end. And as History has a lot of time to talk about heroic politicians, these, the inspired ones, will be written in golden letters. Actually. We can become better. And winners. All together. This “shock” of the pandemic is our GREAT OPPORTUNITY, our own “shock therapy”, the right time, the subversive catalyst to build the GREEK TOMORROW. We Greeks of love and solidarity, altruism, generosity, democracy and the eternal struggle for freedom, the knot in the neck and the tears of pride in the realization of the greatness of our history and diversity.
*Evridiki Livada-Duca, Kefallonian author, historical researcher with a work that has been awarded and translated, highlighting unknown themes.