Category Archives: Society

The Politics of Knives

Here’s a short video on the current situation in Greece, produced by Ross Domoney. I found it interesting and informative and thought you will too.

Summary:

The neo-Νazi party Golden Dawn has been active in Greece since the mid-1980s. Through the years, GD has attacked migrants, antifascists and homosexuals, often with the tolerance or even the collaboration of parts of the Greek police force. In recent years, the party saw a largely unexplained soaring in its funding, a broad coverage of its activities (whether real or fictitious) by mainstream media and the opening up of more than fifty local branches across Athenian neighborhoods and Greek cities.

The ostensibly meteoric rise of the GD in mainstream political discourse came at an extremely critical conjuncture, amidst the global financial crisis that hit Greece hard from approximately 2008/09 onward. In the 2009 national elections, GD had received a mere 0.2% of the vote; in 2012, its share sky-rocketed to approximately 7%. The electoral success of GD was matched by the introduction of anti-migration policies by the government coalition, often-encountered police operations specifically targeting anti-fascist activists in Athens and other Greek cities and the rise of racist attacks in the country.

On September 18th a self-confessed GD member, Giorgos Roupakias, stabbed anti-fascist rap musician Pavlos Fyssas (aka Killah-P) to death. In the aftermath of the assassination the GD leader, Nikos Mihaloliakos, and key GD MPs and members have been arrested and charged. Only now, after decades of presence in the Greek political landscape, the GD’s connections to the country’s security forces and political establishment are untangled and exposed in mainstream political discourse and in the media.

Produced by Ross Domoney, Klara Jaya Brekke and Dimitris Dalakoglou.
Filmed and edited by Ross Domoney.
Script edited by Klara Jaya Brekke.
Music by Giorgos Triantafillou.
Special thanks to Lena Theodoropoulou and Yiannis Chri.

A new type of civil war

I’m getting fed up of these numb mornings. I usually wake up in the morning, I prepare my coffee and sit on my computer to read the news and check the newspaper headlines. This morning my entire electronic universe was filled with the story 34-year old rapper Killah P (known as Pavlos Fyssas) who was killed by a fascist in Amfiali, Keratsini district, near Piraeus.

The victim, a singer known in the area for his anti-fascist lyrics and activism, was watching last night’s Champions League match with his friends at a coffee shop. During one of their discussions they said something (bad) about Golden Dawn. Someone from the crowd, obviously a Golden Dawn member (not just a voter), has called his fellow neonazi thugs and, after the match, the singer was ambushed, attacked and stabbed to death in front of his girlfriend and another couple.

Here’s one of his songs (you can activate English captions for the lyrics).

Can you be something less than immensely furious about this? I can’t.

Some days ago, another group of about 50 neonazi thugs have attacked a team of 30 communists who were wheatpasting on walls posters for the coming Communist Youth Festival. Eight communists were injured in the event that also took place near Piraeus, at Perama district. It was, once more, one of those mornings.

To tell you the truth, I didn’t expect a serious escalation of anti-leftist violence from Golden Dawn, despite the stated hatred from both sides. There was a very popular quote that was often appearing in my facebook timeline:

First they came for the immigrants, but I wasn’t an immigrant and I didn’t speak. Then they came for the communists, but I wasn’t a communist…

I was quickly scrolling down when I’d see this. But I am now afraid that the violence between Golden Dawn and anything Leftist is not an accidental confrontation in a battle to claim the streets but a rise in planned incidents.

One year ago, Golden Dawn MP Ilias Panayotaros has given an interview to BBC’s Paul Mason. Sitting comfortably, he said that Greece is in a state of civil war. Paul Mason, a connoisseur of modern Greek History, insisted on the phrase “civil war” and Panayotaros explained:

Greek society is ready, even though no one likes it, to have a fight, a new type of civil war. One the one side there will be nationalists, like us and Greeks who want our country to be as it used to be and on the other side there will be illegal immigrants and anarchists…

Watch the video here (go to 01:55 for the Panayotaros segment)

Last week Golden Dawn was involved in tension during two events that commemorated some ugly moments of the Greek Civil War. One was at Meligalas and the other was at Giannitsa. There were no immigrants involved, just leftists and nationalists.

There have been hundreds of attacks against immigrants, leftists, homosexuals and others and the Golden Dawn party has always denied involvement. There was never a denouncing of the event itself because there were seldom enough proofs (for Justice) to incriminate them. This morning, the killer of Pavlos Fyssas has been arrested and, unofficial police sources say that, he was a supporter of Golden Dawn. Was he an official member? Does it make a difference? Of course not. He was definitely a member of a circle of thugs who have answered the phone call at the coffee shop before the end of the football match.

Not only the killer himself has now blood in his hands. The person who made the phone call also has blood in hands. Golden Dawn MPs, like Panayotaros, who have used hate speech against all non-nationalists, who have made anything they could to polarize the Greek society, they all have blood in their hands. And all those who have voted for Golden Dawn should now feel the thick red liquid in their hands too.

The Golden Dawn ballot is now wet and it’s not black anymore. It’s bloody red.

Update: I just found this great poster made back in 2012 by b-positive

“You’ve armed their hands with your vote”

You can’t be serious!

Two opinion polls were published yesterday (one by Public Issue and one by Pulse). Both had two notable changes.

1. SYRIZA was around 1% ahead of New Democracy

2. Golden Dawn was the other party with an increase, it scored some 13%-13,5% (NB it got 7 % in the 2012 elections)

The neo Nazi party is now stabilised in the third position and many people wonder… What the fuck?

I was speaking with a foreign correspondent here in Athens about these polls and she was telling me that most polling companies (which are not the most trustworthy institutions in this country) tend to play down the actual ratings of Golden Dawn in order to avoid the furore. She also told me that the actual ratings of Golden Dawn were rather closer to 16%. But still, one could say, they are too small and no one would cooperate with them in government.

No one? Well, just the other day, Babis Papadimitriou, a presenter of SKAI TV and a longtime supporter of all austerity measures since the beginning of the Greek economic crisis (with whatever this may mean about his political affiliation), threw the idea. “If SYRIZA can discuss the possibility of a coalition with the Communist Party, why couldn’t New Democracy discuss the possibility of a Conservative cooperation with a more serious (sic) Golden Dawn?”

I am not sure what exactly he meant by “more serious” but it seems that he at least recognises the fact the neo nazi party has had a pretty indecent behaviour so far, linked to all sorts of abuses, racist violence, populist rhetoric and foul language inside the parliament. He indeed admitted it in a later TV show. But can they become serious, Mpampis? Are you serious?

In any case, speaking of seriousness, there has been a more serious aspect in the afore mentioned opinion polls that few media have highlighted, or even discussed. It’s the qualitative analysis of the party ratings in specific age groups. According to the Pulse poll, Golden Dawn was the second party in the age groups of 18-29 and of 30-44. It makes you think that Greece is lucky to have an ageing population with more old people than young ones, that births have dropped by 10% this year according to some reports yesterday, that younger people are less inclined to be bothered to vote and that older people still tend to vote the same party that once hired them or gave them a good pension. All these, otherwise negative characteristics, are saving this country from becoming officially fascist.

I got a very dark feeling in my guts when I saw this table. Check for yourself and tell me how you feel.

Pulse Age Groups

The colours (from left to right) represent New Democracy, SYRIZA, PASOK, Independent Greeks, Golden Dawn, Democratic Left, Communist Party, Other party. Blank vote/Invalid vote/abstention, Undecided voters.

And when you try to describe to people, in and outside Greece, about what is to come in the near future, they read your blog posts or look at you, with a puzzled face, and say: You can’t be serious!

Come back to reality

“I won’t commit suicide. I’m not crazy. I’m going to eliminate one of you” said a desperate middle-aged man to Greek Health Minister, Adonis Georgiades during the latter’s visit to the Thessaloniki International Fair.

The Minister is giving him an advise. “Calm down. Come back to reality. Problems do not get solved in one day”. And Rome wasn’t built in one but that’s irrelevant. The man had used his life savings to buy Greek bonds which have recently been severely cut because of the Greek “haircut”. Thousands like him are desperate, having trusted their life savings to a betraying State that is now calming them down and calls them back to reality. Blend despair with injustice and you have anger.

Some other thousands have been less angry, they have only been desperate. Extremely desperate. Fresh reports quantitatively show a dramatic rise in suicides. The Greek Statistical Authority announced that suicides have gone up in 2011 – 26,5% compared to 2010 and 43% compared to 2007, the year before the Greek crisis broke out. At the same time, NGO Klimaka, that deals with suicides and runs a 24-hour hotline, added that the actual number of suicides is much higher than this.

According to an EU-wide study researching data for the period 1970-2007, every 1% of rise in unemployment results in a 0,79% rise in suicides. The projection is geometric. If unemployment rises by 3%, suicides rise as a result by 4,45%.

Unemployment in Greece was below 10% before the crisis. It is now about to reach 30% without any visible prospect of recovery on the ground. Now do the math.

Golden Dawn slowly forms its very own Jugend

If the future historian will try to describe Golden Dawn’s course to mainstream politics and its attempt to consolidate its presence there, he will most probably be able to write about a very organized plan. He will have the luxury to connect the dots. These dots is what we are living these years, it’s the news coming from the far-right camp, digested easily one by one.

The racist attacks is a good example. A previously rare news item has almost become a daily thing. No one is surprised. The violence in public display (see the slapping of Communist MP Liana Kanelli on tv, the bullying outside Chyterio theatre, etc) is another example which, by now, has easily been digested by many. I remember Kanelli after an unsuccessful prank by some comedians who disguised like Golden Dawn thugs and “ambushed” her in a corridor of SKAI TV. She went back to the studio and, in tears, warned that if Golden Dawn’s violence becomes a joke, this will mean that we have accepted it as a new reality.

Dimitris Hantzopoulos TA NEA 28-02-13

Dimitris Hantzopoulos – Ta Nea newspaper (28-02-13)

The next dot in the plan is the consolidation of last year’s gains. Golden Dawn has drawn all the centre-right and far-right voters it could attract. Now they must look into the future, the kids. Step 1: High Schools. Some weeks ago I started researching the story for an international documentary. I spoke with several teachers and they were all complaining about kids flirting with the far-right. Some for joke, others for bullying, in the end they would mention “patriotism”. A friend of mine, a teacher at an Athens High School, gave a lecture to his class about Golden Dawn’s attacks and practices. A kid stood up and told him: “You are not allowed to talk politics in here, sir!”. He was surprised. I asked him if he stopped and he told me: “Of course not! I simply started talking to them about Nazism” . Some weeks later one of his students described to him the good time he had when he went to Golden Dawn’s annual march.

By Kostas Koufogiorgos Eleftherotypia (28-02-13)

By Kostas Koufogiorgos Eleftherotypia (28-02-13)

Last week, my very good colleague and friend, Yannis Papadopoulos, wrote for TA NEA newspaper a scathing report about Golden Dawn’s intrusion into Greek schools. I’m translating an excerpt from his article.

… Apostolis and his friends were waiting for me outside the school’s entrance. This is where he carried out his first attack. His hands are in his pockets, his face has that teenage touch. He is 15 years old and he beats immigrants. “Whenever we see a Pakistani, we hunt him down” he says. “If Golden Dawn has reasons to do so, so do we”.  Right here the hunting begins as soon as the school ends.

“I’ve seen him standing over that pole. I ran and fell over him, together with another guy and we started beating him” says Apostolis. “I have beaten several of them. Ten, fifteen. Something like that. When the teachers at school find out I usually lie, saying that I was provoked… We are not Golden Dawn members, we do this as a hobby. Everyone without papers must be beaten” says George, 14 years old.

17 year old Dimitris, a Golden Dawn member from another Athens school says “Sooner or later these kids will too join Golden Dawn”.

Two days ago, Golden Dawn revealed Step 2. They posted on their official website a text and some photos that took things even further. To younger ages.

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The event was paradoxically called “Kids’ conformation”, after a famous 20th century magazine whose most famous editor in chief was Grigorios Xenopoulos, himself a socialist. According to Golden Dawn, the kids were taught by trained teachers who somehow managed to fit in one class topics like the ancient Greek Thought, the ancient Gods of Olympus and the Christian Faith. Whatever help this nation stay together.

Panos Zacharis 10-13

“… and then Alexander the Great made the sign of the Cross and attacked the Turks by saying “I’ll f**ck you, you Albanian fag**ts!!!” by Panos Zacharis (October 2012)

I am living in the present. And these news stories are just dots. If you ask me “Do you know where all this is going at?”, I will say No. But it rings some bells.

I simply hope that the future historian will be living in an a country free enough to write about it.

Thanatourism in Greece

At the beginning, the Greek crisis was interesting just for foreign correspondents, economists and political analysts. After the first year of the crisis, I started observing an increasing interest by scholars and post-grad students who would come to Athens for a week and try to speak with as many people involved & influenced as possible.

Activists followed suit. Last February I met a 20-year old anarchist from US who came to Athens and got in touch with local comrades in an attempt to carry ideas back to the Occupy Wall Street movement. In December 2012, while working with a Norwegian team of journalists, we mingled with a rioting in the anarchist Exarchia district of Athens and witnessed tens of “riot tourists”. Some were here indeed out of sincere solidarity, consciously supporting the struggling Greeks but some were obviously kids on a European city escape who, rather than throwing a coin in Rome’s Fontana di Trevi, chose to throw a stone to a Greek policeman. Don’t ask me if they made a wish in advance.

In February 2012, a close relative who is now working in Middle East told me of a Ukrainian guy who visited Athens ahead of a general strike. His aim was to witness the foreseeable riots that usually accompany our strike demos. Right then I started to feel that Athens is slowly becoming a sort of a spectacle in the same way tourists visit Chernobyl for photo opportunities with radioactive plastic dolls, blood-thirsty Italians visited Bosnian trenches during the Yugoslav war or like Toshifumi Fujimoto, a Japanese truck driver who enjoys visiting war zones instead of dreamy beaches.

Tourism in Bosnia kept dealing with the war. Even now, almost 20 years after, one of the major sight-seeings of the capital Sarajevo is the so called War Tunnel. A quick google search will give you several companies organizing walking tours about the civil war there. Funky Tours, to name but one, is organizing the Sarajevo Total Siege Tour.

Soon humanity coined a neologism for this kind of tourism. You can look it up under the self-explicit War Tourism or even Dark Tourism, which involves travel to sites associated with death and tragedy. There is also the synonymous, but less popular in use, Thanatourism, which derives from the Ancient Greek word Thanatos.

Winged youth with a sword, probably Thanatos, personification of death. Detail of a sculptured marble column drum from the Temple of Artemis at Ephesos, ca. 325-300 BC.

Winged youth with a sword, probably Thanatos, personification of death. Detail of a sculptured marble column drum from the Temple of Artemis at Ephesos, ca. 325-300 BC.

Having all these in my mind I knew something like this was coming. Especially after last summer, when I came across the website of Political Tours, a London-based travel agency founded by former New York Times Balkans Correspondent Nicholas Wood. The travel agency’s motto was “Intelligent Travel for Inquiring Minds” and I read that they were organizing tours in North Korea, Libya, Turkey as well as a trip to the US during their elections. So guess what was their latest tour? “Greece and the Euro”, a 8-day phantasmagoria of Greek crisis, misery, unemployment, destruction and poverty. Among speeches with political analysts and journalists, their detailed programme included a “visit to Sydagma Square, where the demonstrations protesting austerity measures have culminated and where many riots have started. We see the damage done by the unrest and then move on to Ermou Street, a place were it was once impossible to find a shop to rent. Now many are empty and pawn shops are prevalent“.

Today I have found a second foreign travel company organizing such a tour. It’s Context. I copy from their website: Context is a network of scholars and specialists—in disciplines including archaeology, art history, cuisine, urban planning, history, environmental science, and classics—who, in addition to our normal work as professors and researchers, design and lead in-depth walking seminars for small groups of intellectually curious travellers. Their new Athens tour, titled Greek Crisis in Context is basically a walk in downtown Athens that ends up in a taverna where the intellectual tourists will fight their thirst with a sip of some Greek wine. This excerpt is from the tour’s description:

Depending on time and how our conversation unfolds we may end the walk in a local wine bar where we can conclude our discussion with the possible solutions and precautions for a brighter future in Greece. As we take a sip from the local Greek wine (not retsina), we will emerge with a much clearer understanding of the Greek economic crisis and its social elements.

The prices for the walking tours are 70 euros per person but there is a possibility to book a private tour for 300 euros.

Which, coincidentally, is a bit less than the much-talked new minimum monthly wage in this country.

The Republic of Lasithistan

Amidst the implementation of the latest round of austerity measures, which were voted last Autumn but are “felt” slowly only now, there is a further shrinking of the so-called “state sector”. Part of these measures dictate the merging of regional hospitals, tax offices and regional universities.

The citizens of Crete’s easternmost region, Lasithi, have found a creative way to protest this shrinking which will mean either less money circulating in the province or simply making their lives more difficult. So they issued this protest paper resembling a passport (even though it actually looks more like the old driving licences). Welcome to the newly-found Republic of Lasithistan or, as they call it “the Devil’s Mother” (a colloquial expression in Greek that means “an extremely remote place”).

lasithistan

On the right side they say:

The take from us the Universities, the hospitals, the public services, the marinas, the salaries, the pensions, the unemployment benefits.

They are bringing upon us Industrial Renewable Energy (a disputed plan to place wind powere generators in many parts of the island, including areas of ecological interest), special property taxes, unemployment, poverty, depression.

Source: Radio Lasithi