What's Up, Europe? Shock and numbness in Greece

A homeless man speaks to another man nest to an empty shop in Athens, Greece. While the official unemployment rate in Greece is above 21 percent, many more are working without pay.

Kai Ryssdal: You know it can't be good when the early economic news of the day has the words "G7 emergency meeting" in it. Finance ministers from the Group of 7 countries had a hastily arranged conference call today. Spain was the immediate topic at hand, but rising global concerns about what's happenings over there does seem to lend itself to this question -- What's up, Europe? To Greece today and John Psaropoulos in Athens. John, it's good to have you with us.

John Psaropoulos: Thanks for having me.

Ryssdal: So I wonder -- maybe it's just me -- but it seems with the G7 emergency meeting today and all this talk of Spain being too big to bail out, have people over there gotten a little more uptight about this whole thing the past week or so?

Psaropoulos: I don't think the G7 meeting makes a very big blip on the radar screen here in Greece simply because people have been living in a crisis mode for well over a year now. I think it really makes very little difference to the Greeks that the rest of the world is finding other crises to talk about.

Ryssdal: Are people there just a little bit shell-shocked?

Psaropoulos: Yeah, people in Greece are going through layer upon layer of shock and it gets to the point where the shock gives way to numbness. Because you see the suffering around you, you see more and more people made jobless, you begin to see people in your neighborhood made homeless. There's a middle-aged lady just down the street from our house -- and we're in a middle-aged neighborhood -- who has been evicted from her flat and she has now camped outside the front door to her building with her furniture around her, on the pavement, and sleeps there at night. People bring her food. You begin to see this and it becomes commonplace.

Ryssdal: And a little tricky to hear, actually.

Psaropoulos: Yeah. The unemployment really is where it's at. It's at 21.7 percent unemployment rate officially, but unofficially it's higher because if you talk to your friends, you hear about people who haven't been paid for months, but they still nominally have a job. In fact, they're not really employed because they're not earning any money.

Ryssdal: John Psaropoulos in Athens for us today. You can read more about what he's doing there at his blog -- The New Athenian. John, thanks a lot.

Psaropoulos: Thank you for having me.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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