The facts are already known but the reasoning remains misty, even in Greece. So I feel an obligation to write about the reasoning, just to provide a meaning to what is internationally demonstrated as “Riots in Greece”. I am 100% sure that the discussion about riots in Greece has a global interest and through this I am going to highlight some remarks of more general interest for our world. This is not a typical article for a waste management blog, but we are firstly citizens and then professionals, so allow me to go on.
A first comment about the facts: a “Rambo” type cop killed a 15 years old boy. The impunity of police violence in Greece is deeply at the roots of that murder. In the very center of Athens, a big part of cops are used to behave as they are above any law and control, especially against emigrants. It was just a matter of time to have such an event and in a way it is like the Ancient Greek Tragedies. The killer and the victim could be anyone, randomly chosen by Faith. But the Tragedy remains the same in any randomly selected pair of persons: it is the collapse of the “state” and “the rule of the law” concepts in Greek society.
What comes next? As Helena Smith wrote in Guardian “Within an hour of the boy’s death thousands of protesters had gathered in Exarchia’s lawless central square screaming, ‘cops, pigs, murderers,’ and wanting revenge. At first, it is true, the assortment of self-styled anarchists who have long colonized Exarchia piggy-backed on the tragedy, seeing it as the perfect opportunity to live out their nihilistic goals of wreaking havoc. But then middle-class kids – children had got good degrees at universities in Britain but back in Greece were unable to find work in a system that thrives on graft, cronyism and nepotism – joined the protests and very quickly it became glaringly clear that this was their moment, too. Theirs was a frustration not only born of pent-up anger but outrage at the way ministers in the scandal-tainted conservative government have also enriched themselves in their five short years in power.”
And this is exactly the problem. In order to understand what is happening now in Greece we have to use the famous “fire-triangle”. What do we need to have a fire? Ignition, fuel and air (oxygen). The murder was just the ignition. Let’s discuss about fuel and oxygen.
Let’s start with the fuel which is permanently accumulated in our society.
Just few years after the 2004 glamorous and costly Olympic Games, Greece is in an orbit of decadence. For the last 10 years we are just watching ministers to create one scandal after another. Corruption and public money mulcting have become a rule. And it is ridiculous to watch politicians to sentence the pillage that took place during the riots when you know that their own loot with public money and their impunity provide the background for it.
The country has learned to live with bailouts from all around. And what we just do is to pass our debts to the next generations. They are going to have to pay that money back and they have started to understand it.
The current government is swimming in a big pool of scandals for the last 12 months at least. It seems that there is no other plan than to stay on power. The opposition parties do not provide an alternative plan, although they say a lot about certain dimensions of our life. The political discussion, which typically is a major interest for a lot of Greeks seems too boring and with absolutely no interest. There is no long-term plan or vision for our society.
We must have done something very wrong. We have nothing to propose and the result is that we have abstracted from the new generations even their right to disagree with what we propose.
At the same time, our youth is suffering from one of the worst educational systems in Europe and high unemployment rates (70 % among the 18-25s) in a country where joblessness this month jumped to 7.4 per cent. If they can find work remuneration rarely rises above €800 (this is, after all, the self-styled €700 generation), never mind the number of qualifications it took to get the job. Often polyglot PhD holders will be serving tourists at tables in resorts. One in five Greeks lives beneath the poverty line and the future seems so empty in all terms. That was the situation until few months before and the fuel was already there.
But for the last months, new and more flammable materials were added and the new conditions made the fuel more explosive. Middle-class meltdown has started to produce social results that cannot be hidden anymore. The global financial crisis made the situation even worst creating a sense of a no-way out and no hope. The urgency feeling “to do something” has started to upgrade as a mass emotion, even if no one had something concrete to propose.
It is a kind of Crash onto a Wall what we face this period. Nick Fraser explained this very well at Observer. “Aghast, I experienced something of the same sense of recognition after the planes hit the tall buildings, appearing to usher in a new century. But the New Crash (I can’t think of another, more suitable term) is both larger and harder to understand. It was possible before October to register the existence of current ills – the already degraded environment, mass murder once again perpetrated for ideological reasons, feckless liberal responses to poverty, wars fought for the dumbest reasons – while remaining at some distance from them. You could hope, somehow, that things wouldn’t be as bad as they seemed. … Now something quite significant, and perhaps irreversible, appears to have happened”.
Now let’s speak about the oxygen, the constituent that keeps the fire burning.
First, it is obvious that we are witnesses of a very angry and totally blind mass movement of youth, probably the most independent and spontaneous that had happened ever in Greece. The crisis gets worst, even if the riots will stop for the Christmas, because there is a great democracy gap: no political formation can represent those young people.
Second, the government has a lethal shot from the riots. Up to now it was obvious that we had an incapable government but now it is clear that its incapability has became dangerous too. So the feeling of uncontrollability will keep the fire burning.
Third, the murderer and his advocate have said no word of mercy and no “sorry” for what happened; in fact their statements are quite at the opposite direction – that will provide more reasons to revolt.
Fourth, emigrants do participate in this movement as well because they have suffered a lot from police and they have found a way to cover some of their needs through pillage, although they have not started the riots.
So for me it is obvious that the flames may die down but the coals will simmer.
What can we do about it? Is it a no way out situation?
My opinion is that there are things to do and the first is to cut all the bullshits about “professional anarchists that created the riots” and to understand the deeper social messages carried out from this arousal. The more we stack on the wrong explanation the more the danger we face. By the way the already mentioned wrong explanation provides the best way to get rid of our responsibilities, probably not by luck.
The second is to use the shock that has been in our society as a mean to change direction. To highlight that we cannot afford waiting for the next crisis, which is going to be even worse, unless we do something? To create a new vision for the country, the middle and the working class, a cohesive and hopeful plan for the future that will spot light at the end of the tunnel.
And third, it is obvious that the current political entities are almost clinically dead, even if they are still in life biologically. A new political entity that will arise from their ashes and/ or the transformation of them is more necessary than ever. The constituents for this entity are already here, but the leadership and the glue to join the constituents are missing.
I hope that the current crisis will help to find them.