"The whole country is going through a nervous breakdown," said Alexis Papachelas, editor-in-chief of the conservative Kathimerini newspaper.
"Greece is in self-destruct mode. A whole range of problems have accumulated over the years and have now reached a critical point."
Greeks are being squeezed by high unemployment, low wages, the rising cost of living and public debt which is almost equal to the country's national output, in part a legacy of the 2004 Athens Olympics.
"In Greece we talk about the 700-euro-a-month generation – they're very well educated, they have university degrees, and yet they have huge problems finding jobs. When they do they're paid 700 euros a month or less. Many people are forced to work two or three jobs."
The depth of disillusionment goes way beyond party politics. Greeks are as fed up with the opposition Socialists as they are with the government.
"We've realised lately that the two main political parties can't deliver," said Mr Papachelas.
"The political class in Greece is bankrupt, they can't manage the state. We need a new political generation, we need technocrats."
But as the global recession bites deeper, there are fears that things will only get worse – and not only for Greece.
There have already been sympathy protests in cities across Europe, from Madrid to Moscow, Barcelona to Bordeaux.
Greece may now be the sick man of Europe, but the anti-government protests crippling the country could be contagious. """
Now, does this make any sense if you understand the possibilities of open manufacturing or an open society? In Greece you have a warm climate, access to oceans, lots of sun and wind, an educated populace with a 2000+ year history of democracy (on and off :-), no obvious external enemies declaring war, and so on. And they are so worried about their future ability to make and use things (which is how I translate "fears for Greece's economic future") that they are running out of tear gas? This all makes no *physical* sense. The place should be a paradise. Instead it is in "self-destruct mode" according to one editor. It must be *ideology*. Or, more correctly, ideology *embodied* in a certain type of productive infrastructure.
Part of the problem: http://www.johntaylorgatto.com/chapters/16a.htm "I’ll bring this down to earth. Try to see that an intricately subordinated industrial/commercial system has only limited use for hundreds of millions of self-reliant, resourceful readers and critical thinkers. In an egalitarian, entrepreneurially based economy of confederated families like the one the Amish have or the Mondragon folk in the Basque region of Spain, any number of self-reliant people can be accommodated usefully, but not in a concentrated command-type economy like our own. Where on earth would they fit? In a great fanfare of moral fervor some years back, the Ford Motor Company opened the world’s most productive auto engine plant in Chihuahua, Mexico. It insisted on hiring employees with 50 percent more school training than the Mexican norm of six years, but as time passed Ford removed its requirements and began to hire school dropouts, training them quite well in four to twelve weeks. The hype that education is essential to robot-like work was quietly abandoned. Our economy has no adequate outlet of expression for its artists, dancers, poets, painters, farmers, filmmakers, wildcat business people, handcraft workers, whiskey makers, intellectuals, or a thousand other useful human enterprises—no outlet except corporate work or fringe slots on the periphery of things. Unless you do "creative" work the company way, you run afoul of a host of laws and regulations put on the books to control the dangerous products of imagination which can never be safely tolerated by a centralized command system."
So, ironically, we have the worst of both systems. We could have a really centralized system run efficiently with a tiny fraction of the workforce now, with a lot less variety perhaps (that is, all the old Soviet Central Planning stuff would work now that we have the internet and great software and great designs and great computers if we accept some voluntary simplicity), but with everything very cheap (essentially, just given away) and 99% of the population doing whatever they wanted with their time. Or, we could have a freewheeling diverse gift economy of local open manufacturing where people just make whatever they want in an open way, with all sorts of useful and useless items. (Aspects of the two extremes may even converge, since what are the 99% of people going to do with the generic stuff but customize it? :-) Instead, we have a system in the middle that produces some variety at a huge expense of human effort taken away from family and civic duties, and it is a system now with so many questions about its uncertain future (including that anyone who is young will have a dignified place in the economic scheme of things) that an entire country has just run out of tear gas. This makes no sense (except of course, that some people do benefit from this, like tear gas manufacturers, school teachers who get paid to keep kids off the streets preparing them for non-existent jobs, people who are near the top of the economic hierarchy already and feel secure, etc.).
Again though, a reasonable physical climate given ocean currents, plenty of geothermal power, endless ocean water and basalt to make stuff out of, a highly educated populace with a good sense of cultural cohesion, and the place *should* be a paradise. Instead, from the article: "“Now you have protesters kicking down doors at police stations, and respectable elderly people saying ‘Well, they’re young and full of enthusiasm, and anyway, they’re right!’” he said."
Here is the good news about Iceland from the article: "The answer may be 2011, according to the IMF, which projects two years of economic contraction first. That may take Iceland back to the income levels of five or 10 years ago, “and we weren’t badly off then,” said Hannes Holmstein Gissurarson, professor of politics at the University of Iceland and a central bank supervisory board member. "
I can hope that's all it is. Iceland's issues are different than Greece's in specifics (Icelandic banks leveraged themselves in debts denominated in foreign currencies and got hit by international currency swings among other things; Greece has longstanding issues about social equity), but they are both cases where people are upset and distraught over ideology and imaginary numbers where *nothing* is physically wrong, except perhaps that the people are depending on a global physical infrastructure they don't control instead of being able to make everything they need locally. I'm not saying either country *should* make everything important locally, just that if they *could* then there might not be as much emotion to riot over an uncertain future.
So, that's another reason to develop open manufacturing as a backup plan for tough times. Still, we may be talking integrating various manufacturing ideas in new ways to make such small countries be able to support a high tech economy locally. But, needs have certain time constants (water is needed everyday, a new car maybe once a decade), so an approach that makes them mostly self-sufficient in low-tech goods and food might reduce most of their problems, leaving them only dependent on a few high tech imports like microprocessors. This is similar to designing a self-replicating space habitat that would only need to import a very small percent of their mass as "vitamins" but could make most of the rest of its needs locally. "AASM: 5.3.6 Closure in Self-Replicating Systems" http://www.islandone.org/MMSG/aasm/AASM53.html#536
Another related idea is Jane Jacobs' notion of in "import replacing" city: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jane_Jacobs "Jacobs' main argument [is The Economy of Cities] is that all economic growth derives from urban import replacement. Import replacement is when a city starts producing locally goods that it formerly imported, e.g., Tokyo bicycle factories replacing Tokyo bicycle importers in the 1800s. Jacobs claims that import replacement builds up local infrastructure, skills, and production. Jacobs also claims that the increased produce is exported to other cities, giving those other cities a new opportunity to engage in import replacement, thus producing a positive cycle of growth."
Anyway, this suggests one target of open manufacturing could be a community of size ranging from Iceland (about 300,000 people) to Greece (about 11,000,000 people). That's certainly an interesting size range. I would think 99% closure of those economies by mass should be easily doable. Computer chips, some medicines, and maybe some other specialized components might be the major imports after the system was set up. Note that while one may not expect Greece or Iceland to "self-replicate" any time soon, the ability do do so ensures it can be self-preparing.
Anyway, it kind of comes down to how much economic security is worth to a country compared to minimum effort. Given the massive youth unemployment in Greece, and the economic fears of depending on a global economy, it would seem like maximizing productive efficiency through participating in global production would not be at the top of their priority list now that they are out of tear gas. Unfortunately, they did not invest in this research ten years ago. So, this is only theoretical at this point. It might take a very expensive crash program to bring together thousands of researchers for a year to make headway in any time that might make a difference. Still, politically, that is an out for Greece. We could all move there, recruit all the educated youths off the streets, and spend a year figuring out how to make Greece work for everybody and be 99% self-sufficient by mass. :-) But, no need to move with the internet really. Maybe somebody on the list could coordinate moving the rioters off the streets and into internet cafes and start them programming and tagging designs with metadata? Anyway, with the right kind of enthusiasm, I bet someone who was in Greece could turn this whole thing around, recasting the Greek rioters as the potential people who would save the planet by implementing open manufacturing and cradle-to-cradle design.
It might make this all a lot easier if Greece repudiated the Berne convention on copyrights and stopped honoring international patents too. That might be a good reason to move there for someone who was an information pack rat. :-) But, I don't think that is strictly necessary. Those things can be worked around, and, as indicated by the current shortage of tear gas, Greece has lots of unemployed educated youth to do stuff like that. Some of that is "make work", but of a reasonable kind. :-) And, once Greece develops this system in an open way, shared internationally, Iceland can refine it, and then maybe Singapore, and before you know it, all the small countries in the world would be in charge of most of their destinies again. True, they'd still *need* to import some stuff, but not much. In practice, they might all still want to trade a lot with various culturally significant exports (wine, cheese, etc.). But there is a big difference IMHO in trading because you *want* to and trading because you *have* to.
And of course, sadly, while Greece is putting together a "28 billion euro bank support plan, aimed at ensuring the flow of credit to the economy," http://uk.reuters.com/article/oilRpt/idUKLM24756920081222 do we really think they would do something sensible like ask all the young people to solve the problem of open manufacturing for the world for a fraction of that? Need I ask. :-(
Also, now that there is so much rioting, maybe it is too late for Greece? But certainly there are other countries, like, say France (population about 65 million) that might act pre-emptively to get millions of their youth involved in solving the open manufacturing problem to ensure economic security in the worst case? With that population, there must be hundreds of thousands of young recent graduates of French schools who could help, and who are already getting state support for lack of jobs. From an 2006 article: http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0308/p06s02-woeu.html "Five years after finishing their studies, more than a fifth of French twentysomethings still do not have a job."
And then there is the Netherlands. And lots of other countries. A lot of these smaller countries might even form a consortium to work together on this -- an international effort where they all shared rethinking their physical economies towards more self-reliance, all sharing the results with the world under free and open source licenses, keeping their millions of twenty-somethings off the streets while building the technological underpinnings of the 21st century both on Earth and then in space, to transform the global economy through sustainable cradle-to-cradle manufacturing techniques and usher in a new era of prosperity for the entirety of humanity and the biosphere... And beyond... (I can hear the music swelling, so I'd better stop. :-) "Imagine - John Lennon" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-b7qaSxuZUg
Anyway, obviously the tear gas manufacturers would oppose all this. Maybe we could buy them off somehow? :-)
So, now that we've solved Greece's riots (in theory), as well as the youth unrest situation of most other smaller countries (again, in theory), back to coding. :-)
And I should not say it is just in theory. I'm sure any rioters in Greece or elsewhere could just stop rioting, join this list, and start coding. So, we have a complete participatory solution in a sense. :-)