Let me tell you why Costa Karamanlis, the Greek Prime Minister, is wrong About the koukouloforoi (demonstrators).
When 15 year old Alexis Grigoropoulos was killed by Greek police in December 2008, Western Europe witnessed the greatest political and civic unrest since the May 1968 Paris riots.
At the time, the Greek Prime Minister, Costas Karamanalis, deemed the ensuing violence and mayhem as the mindless work of the ‘hooded ones’, namely, the koukouloforoi. This writer, in response, called for fresh elections and wistfully hoped that a rested and smartened-up George Papandreou could reunite a deeply divided country.
Of course, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Tragically, Karamanalis will sit pretty for as long as he wants to.
Why is this tragic?
Well, in possibly the finest piece of journalistic reporting that I have read in the last 12 months, journalists Ed Vulliamy and Helena Smith of the left-liberal Manchester Guardian went to Athens and spoke to a surprisingly compassionate, literate and idealistic group of political activists who have seen through the hollowness of the Greek political process.
In effect, Vulliamy and Smith have collated an oral history of the ailments that have rendered asunder Greece’s claim to be a progressive democratic state.
What is equally disturbing is that the aforementioned writers could be talking about Australia or any other G20 nation.
Mischaracterisations of whining anarchists are clearly misplaced, ar at least not analysed within their full and proper context.
The Guardian’s correspondents pose a retort to Karamanalis’ depiction of the protestors as ‘mindless’ by daring to suggest that the ‘hooded ones’ are anything but. In other words, it is the protestors themselves who are the ‘mindful’ ones, and not the pernicious governmental apparatus.
In a world where George W Bush has bequeathed Barack Obama the shameful and despicable legacy of the establishment of ‘tent cities’, a la the Third World, in the USA, one can’t argue with the ‘hooded ones’ when they talk poignantly of the ‘precarity’ of their lives.
The anguish of the protestors deserves to be articulated in full, and Vuillamy and Smith have done them justice, as follows:-
“They talk about short-term contracts, ‘outsourcing,’ work without security or representation, of the impossibility of finding a good job unless connected. Then the talk turns more general. “Society has the face of freedom and choice”, says Angeliki. “But that is all, a facade. We are rebelling against that false choice.” I certainly don’t condone violence of any type, whether it’s of the Anarcho-Marxist type (or any other type).
The smashing of shop-fronts in central Athens, as I’ve written before, reminds me of the chilling horror of the Nazi’s murderous pillaging of Jewish shopfronts during Kristallnacht.
The destruction of private property is one of the many paths that leads to a rule of tyranny by the mob but one can’t help sympathize, at least, with the painted message scrawled on the shattered shop-fronts by the anarchists in light of the riots subsequent to the death of Alexis Grigoropoulos in Exarchia.
The slogan in question, ‘Buy Until You Die’ …..circled with the anarchists trademark ‘A’ makes us all tremble in realisation that the unadulterated worship of free markets and that the unrestrained love of money will wreak havoc on society.
Greek are being marginalised – Vulliamy and Smith recount the refrain that half of all females who complete secondary college can’t secure employment – while the venerable Greek political philosopher, Constantinos Tsoukalas, is absolutely spot-on, in my view, when he ruefully states the following:-
“I mean look at the spectacle of these politicians; this Greek government and every other government- perhaps Obama is an exception – lurching from day to day without a clue what to do. Not only does the Greek government have no plan , it does not even pretend to have a plan.
What they are demonstrating – Karamanlis, Berlusconi, Blair, Brown, Sarkozy – is that there is no longer any reason to go into politics apart from power in and of itself, the money that power brings and the further power that having been in power brings.
They degenerate the game with greater and greater visibility, and the more they degenerate it, the more degenerate the people who go into politics”.
Tsoukalas speaks the truth and when I ponder his comments, I feel like throwing my ALP membership card into the garbage bin. Indeed, Tsoukalas’ despair is corroborated by a recent story in the London-based Economist magazine that notes that the French public service continues to remain the exclusive preserve of those with connections, not necessarily qualifications.
Imagine a French – born Moslem lady or man, fresh with a degree, unable to work in the public service due to decades of status quo cronyism and nepotism. Imagine their heartbreak, anger and despair.
We are definitely not immune from such political vacuity in Australian. Every time I see an Australian or State Public Service job advertised with the moniker – “a meritocratic and equal opportunity employer” – I groan in the knowledge that in at least 50% of circumstances, such a pronouncement is absolute garbage.
Bitter personal experience and Australia’s tight defamation laws prevent me from going on any further in this regard except to say that, in the State of Victoria, I have seen appointments made by bodies and organisations such as the Accident Compensation Conciliation Service and the Victorian WorkCover Authority that have been absolutely disgraceful and worthy of a Royal Commission.
For those who remain unconvinced that Donald Horne’s ‘Lucky Country’ is no longer what it was, I recommend the purchase of Caroline Overington’s Kickback, an excellent account of how a once iconic organisation such as the Australian Wheat Board became a hot bed of stupidity, immorality and deceit.
Accordingly, the death of a fresh faced 15 year old boy on the corner Messolongiou and Travela Streets in Athens in December 2009 represents not just the awful death of promise foregone but it also represents, the world over, what happens when dreams and aspirations are dashed by inequity and injustice.
Theo Giantsos is a Freelance writer and a regular contributor to “Neos Kosmos”.