Thanatopolitics in Greece: when a fascist ruling the ministry of health handles public health over to a private business
Another organized crime-act, performed under the austerity pre-text, legitimized by the punitive rationales of conservatives and neoliberal economics.
Thanatos [than–uh-tos, -tohs], meaning ‘death’ in Greek. Thanatopolitics is a philosophical term that discusses the politics organizing who should live and who should die (and how) in a given form of society (for more on thanatopolitics, and also necropolitics and biopolitics: look for the works of Michel Foucault, Roberto Esposito, Achille Mbembe, Giorgio Agamben)
As with the totality of the Greek political and social situation of the last five years, the situation in Healthcare also seems dreary. The right wing conservatives of the EU and Berlin, the neoliberal technocrats of the Troika, the local political economic establishment and the far-right government incarnating it, have no reason to hide their contempt for human life. The racist crisis-propaganda with its economistic arguments and mafia-style blackmailing, of the German government in particular, based on forced loans provided to the political gangsters ruling the country, were clear indications that economical calculations will organize not only how the majority should live, but also who has the right to live.
Recent so-called reforms in Healthcare follow the ongoing cuts in wages and pensions as well as the assault on small private property and self-employment, thus unjustly displacing the public debt of Greece to the shoulders of private citizens, a debt created by local and transnational political and economic elites. A part of the debt then will become private, in a country where the general percentage of the private debt was one of the lowest in the EU, despite the public propaganda of greedy, sneaky and consumerist Greeks, ‘living beyond their abilities’ (sic).
Crisis-politics are concerned with the radical reorganization of the relations of property and production in society, in a way so that they will potentially produce more wealth for capital. Privatisation and the destruction of public institutions and public provisions are important aspects of the process that paves way for more exploitation of labour and the commodification of more aspects of social life, that were previously not considered as commodities. Public health is one of such domains, along with education, security and other institutions and issues that were previously considered as rights by any liberal democratic state. In the austerity pre-text, Health and its infrastructure, become assets that can be sold and exploited by multinational corporations and private businesses that can profit over the need of people for treatment and medicine. The privatisation of Health by its subjection to the economic rationales is a fundamental social class assault as it puts monetary boundaries on those that are eligible to health treatment. Furthemore, economic imperatives guide medical research as well as what kind of medicines and treatments should be the loci of investment. The development of cosmetic surgery in the expense of the treatment of lethal conditions is one of the many examples that underline the state of Health subjected to Capital.
All equivalent assaults on political, social and human rights, performed by austerity politics in Greece and elsewhere, are explained according to nonsense cliches of economists. These cliches are arguments related to increase of productivity of public sectors, the cutting of “unnecessary waste-expenses” etc. The neoliberal propaganda is so-high, dense and effective, that people learn to unquestionably accept such explanations and to uncritically assume them. This way, they do not know how to form and to ask the right questions, that put things in a broad perspective concerning the common good. Such questions are related to what productivity means and for whom, when one talks about universal healthcare. And what would the privatisation or the organization of health under a strict economistic perspective mean for those that cannot afford private healthcare. The fundamental right of everyone to free and unhindered access, regardless of ethnic or social origin, to the healthcare system, is under attack.
Preventive Health measures are among the things that are sacked by the afformentioned economistic rationales. In a country where according to the World Health Organization cancer affects 37,000 people every year – of whom 24,000 die – the current Health ministry decides to abolish the prescription of tests that are a shield for cancer prevention. Mammography, the Pap test, prostate cancer test and MRIs will be now prescribed by the doctors of the National Healthcare (EOPPY) with particularly strict criteria. These criteria are set by a private Company that is now paid by the Greek government to manage the economics of Healthcare.
This means that those who do not meet these criteria – whether they are insured or not – will have to pay for the examination themselves. So, if you have money, then the problem does not exist. If, however, you belong to the category of the population experiencing a prolongued and absolute unemployment, are underemployed or working in slave labor conditions, health expenses and prevention tests become a luxury.
The particular measures also reveal the profound puritanism of their initiators. The new public health policy rationales do not justify the Pap-test for women aged under 21 or over 65. As is well known, however, the age of onset of the Pap test is a year after first intercourse. If a woman decides to have her first sexual intercourse at 16 or 17 years she must wait for 4-5 years for the preventive examination.
An important argument posed by the ideologues of rationalizations such as the above, which derive from the neoliberal ideology, an ideology that only intensifies the bourgeois understanding of life (and death) according to private economic criteria, is that health should be an individual concern. Just like with any other issue that would concern the responsibilities of the state towards its citizens, and most broadly, any issue that would be apt to the community and the collective dimension of Life, regarding the ability to decide how to live, the individuals need to design their own (ascetic, as it seems) and pre-emptive strategies of Life, and to try on their own to be as much more protective and competitive they can, in order to be able to survive. The Hobbesian universe of bourgeois society re-emerges through the dismantling of its welfare institutions’ facade. As welfare is no longer productive for Capital, the 19th century returns in its post-modern and fun – yet ruthless – context of today. The question however remains: How can one protect him/herself from industrial pollution spread across the globe, from deteriorating work conditions that s/he does not control, and from human-caused or natural lethal conditions and catastrophes?
The people of Greece are already experiencing the conclusions of the study done by students from Cambridge, which showed that countries subjected to the IMF’s so-called “structural adjustment plans” – which in critical terms means “primary accumulation” or “accumulation through dispossession” (to follow David Harvey’s contemporary analysis of global capitalist expansion) – showed a steep increase of mortality and mental illness rates as well as a parallel reduction of life expectancy by 6-7 years.
It is also important to speak about the individuals in charge of such reforms, because of the issues they represent. The notorious Makis Voridis is the current minister of Health in Samaras’ government, succeeding the notorious tele-personna Adonis Georgiadis, known for advertising antisemitic books in marginal private TV channels during the 1990’s and 2000’s. Both were MPs of the anti-semitic, far-right LAOS party, which collapsed after its participation in the puppet governments supported by the Troika during the first two years of the so-called Greek crisis.
In the hands of a racist who simultaneously embraces Thatcherism, racial and class biopolitics turn into a kind of thanatopolitics.
The pictures below show the background of Voridis, a neofascist militant in his youth:
The image below shows him hunting down leftists in the streets of Athens during the 1980’s:
Another picture from the 1980s shows him posing in front of a nazi poster from the 1936 Berlin Olympics:
A later picture from the 1990s show Voridis – the founder and then leader of the racist National Front party of Greece – with Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the French Front National.
The last picture shows Voridis today. It presents his attempts whitewash his fascist past and to appear as a ‘centrist’ (sic), ‘(neo)liberal’ politician: