Hoods and poison in our politics

By Nikos Konstandaras

The one party is in government, the other, the official opposition, is leading in opinion polls and seeks to govern.

One would expect a greater sense of responsibility from both, a sense that they understand the dangers the country faces.

Maybe they could even show that they live in the same country and share in the wish for the people’s prosperity.

That is why Wednesday’s war of words between New Democracy and SYRIZA’s youth wing provoked feelings of pity for the present and fear for the future.

Sometimes the crisis seems to sharpen feelings and encourage actions which bring us to the edge of the abyss, waking memories and stirring fears of even worse times.

As citizens try to cope with privation and insecurity, organizations that should help lead the way out of crisis resort to the mentality of conflict which has cost us so much in the past.

The latest dispute showed that the protagonists wanted to stoke feelings of anger and fear in their followers.

They wanted to score political points, to polarize the climate even further, not to help normalize it.

It started with a statement by SYRIZA’s youth wing.

Noting that the next day (yesterday) was the fourth anniversary of the murder of 15-year-old schoolboy Alexis Grigoropoulos by a police officer, the party spoke of “a whole generation’s enraged response against the system of exploitation and violence.”

It added, “The uprising of December 2008 was a struggle for hope and the right to life.”

It left out that the spontaneous response gave way to something less spontaneous: days of anarchy, arson and looting, during which the ND government of the time simply looked on, until the “anti-establishment” leaders themselves grew to fear the chaos and retreated from the capital’s center.

In an attempt to show that they, too, can topple regimes and build myths like those of the past, and in reference to Greece’s bailout deal with its partners, SYRIZA’s youth declared: “We need no more pretexts. The exhausted government of the memorandum must be overturned right now... Let’s consign it to history.”

New Democracy, instead of simply pointing out its young rivals’ bloodthirsty foolishness, responded with its own delirium.

It claimed that SYRIZA’s MPs acted like “hooded traitors of the [Nazi] occupation” in naming and targeting police officers and their families.

It warned that the government and citizens would not allow new incidents such as the arson attack which killed three employees in a Marfin bank branch in 2010.

“No hoods will conceal them,” it said. SYRIZA’s youth wing, of course, replied with its own charges of “hooded traitors of the memorandum.”

The clash continued in this vein with more declarations and statements.

The two sides succeeded only in showing how far they are from the reality that citizens face.

And they encouraged the extremists on all sides – who don’t care for citizens at all.