The sources of rage

12 December 2008

Nikos Konstandaras, managing editor of the Daily Kathimerini, offers his view on the events in Greece. His 11 December article "The sources of rage" can also be found here.

"The whole of Greece is shaken, an image of terrible violence has been projected to the rest of the world and we are all talking about the impasse into which our society has driven itself. How could one killing spark such an explosion?

It was natural that a police officer's killing of a 15-year-old boy would shake the country. And it is to Greece's credit that so many citizens - young and old - took to the streets to condemn the murder, to embrace the memory of the lost boy. As a nation we are used to the brutality of authority and to death - and so we honor life.

The police officer's bullets, though, set off an explosion much greater than one might have expected - an explosion that was just waiting for a spark.

The state, paralyzed and apologetic, stood aside. First it did not protect the child from the bullets, then it did not protect the citizens' property. It humiliated itself twice.

After so many years of theatrical rage, the self-proclaimed anarchists found legitimacy and vindication in the display of police brutality, and so they rampaged with impunity. But the greatest rage was displayed by the youngsters, by the mothers and fathers and everyone else who felt betrayed and unprotected. They saw that the impasses of the future are here already. For a society at the end of its resources, the killing was an act that distilled every betrayal and dead end that we fear. We see the fraudulent claim of "free" education, health and security, knowing that if we do not pay we will enjoy none of them. We see our politicians incapable of meeting the challenges of the times, looking only after their own interests as the rest of the world leaves Greece behind.

The citizens see. In democracy there is a tacit agreement in which the beast - the electorate - tolerates the government's weaknesses until the next elections. Provided those who govern fulfil the minimum of their obligations. Last Saturday, this agreement was shaken to its core."

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