(Pictured: February 6, 2013: Greeks reach out to take fruits and vegetables distributed for free by farmers. Over 100,000 pounds of food was not enough to feed everyone.)
Once a bastion of European success and center of tourism, the country of Greece has become the harbinger of things to come for the rest of the world’s developed nations.
Not long ago Greeks were enjoying high paid salaries, early retirements, excess cash, and seemingly never ending economic growth.
Today, just a short time after a financial collapse that rocked global financial markets, Europe’s darling has turned into a frightening example of what happens when governments and their people take on more debt than they can ever hope to repay.
The end result is a warning to the rest of us.
Hundreds of people jostled for free vegetables handed out by farmers in a symbolic protest earlier on Wednesday, trampling one man and prompting an outcry over the growing desperation created by economic crisis.
Images of people struggling to seize bags of tomatoes and leeks thrown from a truck dominated television, triggering a bout of soul-searching over the new depths of poverty in the debt-laden country.
“These images make me angry. Angry for a proud people who have no food to eat, who can’t afford to keep warm, who can’t make ends meet,” said Kostas Barkas, a lawmaker from the leftist Syriza party.
Other lawmakers from across the political spectrum decried the images “of people on the brink of despair” and the sense of “sadness for a proud people who have ended up like this“.
People have seen their living standards crumble as the country faces its sixth year of recession that has driven unemployment to record highs.
The free food handout in Athens began peacefully as hundreds of Greeks lined up in advance outside the agriculture ministry, where protesting farmers laid out tables piled high with produce, giving away 50 metric tonnes (55.11 tons) of produce in under two hours.
Tensions flared when the stalls ran out of produce and dozens of people – some carrying small children – rushed to a truck and shoved each other out of the way in the competition for what was left.
One man was treated for injuries after being trampled when he fell to the ground in the commotion.
“I never imagined that I would end up here,” said Panagiota Petropoulos, 65, who struggles to get by on her 530-euro monthly pension while paying 300 euros in rent.
“I can’t afford anything, not even at the fruit market. Everything is expensive, prices of everything are going up while our income is going down and there are no jobs.”
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