A Golden Dawn rally in central Athens, March 2013. Demotix/Panayiotis Tzamaros. All rights reserved.
As a Greek in the early 2010s, I am burdened by the recent developments in the southeasternmost corner of the European Union. Fascists roam freely, often under the protection of the police body, terrorising, recruiting and mythologising fragments of a slayed nation.
The Greek flag, which used to be associated with pride, persistence and perseverance, has now been corrupted in meaning, rebranded in the most despicable of ways, coopted by and into the darkest demises of human intolerance. In other words, when I pass by a coffee shop decorated with my national flag, I’m inclined to cross the street to a safer space. And I am unmistakably Greek. For anyone not resembling some sort of Greekness, whatever that might look like today, the consequences are deadly.
Fascism has spread over the mainland of the Greek geography, the islands of bellowing winds and the mentality of a small, scared, disappointed and disillusioned part of the population. It has brought an anti-democratic beast into the heart of a previously, arguably, more democratic nation.
The worst thing for me are the statements of people who are typically apolitical, or at least not fascists, and who are saying things like ‘it’s fine if the Golden Dawn wants to have air time on TV, this is a democracy’, or ‘it’s fine if Golden Dawn organise the Vasilopita festivities, they are entitled to it’. To this I always say, sure that might sound logical to you, but a) this is turning a blind eye to the violence and accepting the institutional foundation of the party, but not its ideological charge, b) it’s easy to avoid taking a stance in a controversial issue until it hits you or yours (I cannot think of a single Greek person I know that does not have a single non-Greek friend), c) violence is systematised through these gradual acceptances.
Fascism is presently the poison and pollution of the fabric of Greek society. A few drops of hate poison have been introduced by some, and they have created a reverberating series of tensions across society, resulting in the inability to co-exist peacefully when ideologies of tolerance clash. With the far right rising across Europe, this small population of fascist elements, fake anti-capitalist pro-national warriors and their uncritical followers is a phenomenon identified against the backdrop of delegitimised political and economic institutions. The crisis exacerbates this. Greece has become the poster child for symbolic and physical violence and the denigration of human rights. Who is to blame? The short answer is a number of factors, one of the most basic being fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of the different, fear of failing to secure a livelihood, the kind of emotional blindness that makes people believe the extremists' promises.
At the same time, the Greek picture is irreducible to this puzzle of fascism and fear - and fascists remain a niche population. But the Greek people have, because of this vociferous niche, become demonised and further struck by negative stereotypes. It is important to underscore the role of the media in managing impressions.
Beyond fascism lies a plethora of critical publics, surviving and sustaining one another in a grid of solidarity, resilience and autonomy. For instance, while primary, secondary and higher education have become entangled in a web of political and social turmoil, where friends are reporting increased bullying against second generation non-Greek kids, stories of endurance and inspiration arise. In a corrupted national media landscape, stories of truthfulness, dedication and resistance arise in all extensions of factual reporting (e.g. Infowar, Unfollow, Hot Doc, Doc TV) including critical contemporary documentaries (e.g. Portraits of Greece in Crisis, 128 Days at the Road Blocks, Athens - Social Meltdown). There are far too many similar social developments to mention here.
This is a world turned upside down. In Greece, the discrepancies between left and right, ideology and politics, tolerance and torture, fear and hope, growth and decline have been turned upside down. But while life is never a predetermined doomed scenario, any stereotypical representation of a person - based on class, race, ethnicity, gender or sexuality - threatens to bring us closer to a world of fear rather than a world of hope.