Thursday, September 27, 2012

Social Services

This short article about why Greece’s far-right Golden Dawn party is so popular is telling:
Basically, the Golden Dawn, as I learned when I was in Greece, operates as a kind of quasi services mafia. If you're an (ethnically Greek) old lady worried about getting robbed when you go to the ATM, a menacing Golden Dawn thug will escort you.

According to a source in Greece we heard from today, the Golden Dawn will also perform rent collections on behalf of landlords. The Golden Dawn even distribute free food and have opened up a Grocery store for Greeks only.

With the public sector hobbled and unable to provide what it used to to the citizens, the Golden Dawn has been able to step into a vacuum.... what's key is how the Golden Dawn has positioned itself as an aid to many Greeks at a time when other institutions are decaying.

When central authority declines, those who can step in and provide financial security and stability for the average person take over. This dynamic has been repeated throughout history down through the present day. The warlords that stepped in after the fall of the Roman Empire became the European nobility for millennia. Dmitry Orlov has often written about how street gangs and former KGB became the de facto authorities in the immediate aftermath of the fall of Communism. In the Middle East, groups like Hezbollah provide social insurance, schools, pensions and meal programs (widows whose husbands are killed fighting are taken care of for life). In Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia and elsewhere tribal warlords rule in the absence of central authority. Will we see that exact same dynamic in the West as capitalism breaks down? In America, I imagine it will be the evangelical mega-churches which will fill this role (and have a similar far-right agenda as GD). Orlov puts forward drug gangs, which already rule much of Mexico.

Libertarians often say that government is bad and we need to rely on each other instead. But this is where that often leads, and the results aren't pretty.

More and more it seems to me like the centralized authority of the empire or nation-state is a transient phenomenon in human history. Perhaps we’re just not wired to cooperate on that level.

UPDATE: Via The Guardian (UK):
Greece's far-right Golden Dawn party is increasingly assuming the role of law enforcement officers on the streets of the bankrupt country, with mounting evidence that Athenians are being openly directed by police to seek help from the neo-Nazi group, analysts, activists and lawyers say.

In return, a growing number of Greek crime victims have come to see the party, whose symbol bears an uncanny resemblance to the swastika, as a "protector".

One victim of crime, an eloquent US-trained civil servant, told the Guardian of her family's shock at being referred to the party when her mother recently called the police following an incident involving Albanian immigrants in their downtown apartment block.

"They immediately said if it's an issue with immigrants go to Golden Dawn," said the 38-year-old, who fearing for her job and safety, spoke only on condition of anonymity. "We don't condone Golden Dawn but there is an acute social problem that has come with the breakdown of feeling of security among lower and middle class people in the urban centre," she said. "If the police and official mechanism can't deliver and there is no recourse to justice, then you have to turn to other maverick solutions."


  1. "In the Middle East, groups like Hezbollah provide social insurance, schools, pensions and meal programs (widows whose husbands are killed fighting are taken care of for life)."

    A former student of mine visited Lebanon with his wife and described all this to me. He also mentioned something else. He could always tell when he was in a Hezbollah-controlled area because the streets were maintained. They were well-paved and all the potholes (and bomb craters) repaired. They do more than take care of people.

    "Orlov puts forward drug gangs, which already rule much of Mexico."

    John Robb has also mentioned drug gangs taking over as local authorities in parts of Mexico on his Global Guerillas blog. However, I know at least one area in which they're not much of a presence--around Oaxaca. I was there a year ago and felt perfectly safe.

    As for Golden Dawn, do they realize that their ultranationalist organization shares a name with Aleister Crowley's occult order? I could have fun with that.

    You and Kunstler seem to agree about the future of religious institutions in post-Collapse America. I wonder if the Dominionists themselves are ready for that role.

    Finally, our species has existed in societies no larger than what the anthropologists call a tribe (about 200 people max) for most of its history, which extends back more than 100,000 years, to say nothing of our pre-Homo-sapiens ancestors, which go back more than five million years to our split with chimps. In contrast, chiefdoms probably only go back 10,000 years, and states only about 6,000. That may not be enough time for us to become fully adapted to large societies, so you may be on to something.

  2. Libertarians exist in a world where to them humankind is a noble, rational species that will act in its own best interest on a large scale. Reality shows that to organize a species of large, ground-dwelling apes into cohesive units over 150 brutal coercion is a mandate, not an option. Libertarians don't like this. Thinking about it too much, *I* don't like that. Reality has nothing to do with whether or not we like it.

    As far as Hezbollah, it's just the success where the PLO was a failure, precisely because its idea of fighting Israel is more sophisticated than simply "We fire rockets at them and oppress the Hell out of you for our freedom." The PLO, which did all the same types of things, did not bother disguising that its sole focus was warfare, no pretense of kindness for them. Hezbollah is more sophisticated than this, and as Lebanese actually benefit from it, it's why Israel was and is unable to displace it by marching in and shooting at it.

    In bringing in the fall of Communism, it's worth reflecting that Communism itself was this when TSARISM fell, so it was if anything a poetic completing of the circle. However the Western state is a bit more sophisticated in terms of governance than most iterations of Russia, which blend sophistication at the highest and lowest levels with an utter vacuum in between. A degeneration of the West, as such, will be more on the line of the periodic governmental system turnovers in Germany, France, and Italy.

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