The car bomb that exploded in central Athens on Thursday was a message from a past that we appear to have left behind. The fact that there were no victims “deprived” the attack of greater resonance, but that is not the cause of its failure. Apart from the pain and destruction that such attacks can produce, their main aim is symbolic. And yet other than the joy that it gave the perpetrators, and the concern that it raised among authorities and citizens, the attack told us nothing new. It did not surprise, it did not terrify.
Of course, like every serious attack, Thursday’s had clear symbolic aims. It coincided with the first day that Greece was able to borrow on the international markets since the crisis began; the perpetrators wanted to undermine the government’s triumphalism. Also, Angela Merkel is due in Athens on Friday. As the German chancellor personifies the policy of austerity and reforms that was imposed on Greeks in the past few years, the perpetrators most likely wanted to show that, as they could carry out an attack in a well-guarded part of the capital, Merkel should not feel comfortable during her visit. The bomb exploded in the street between the Bank of Greece (the central bank) and the Bank of Piraeus; despite the symbolism of striking these two institutions, the central bank also houses the offices of the representative of the International Monetary Fund as well as the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund.
The attack was not aimed at killing, as it was preceded by a warning. Its purpose was symbolic, in terms of place and time. It achieved this to a point, but it failed in terms of impact. The political system was not shaken, nor did it stop the celebratory “exodus” into the financial markets. Greece has made great strides during the crisis, with so many positive and negative changes that in many ways it is no longer the country it was before the crisis. Most citizens care only about surviving and hoping for better days. “Urban guerrilla” theatrics cannot shake a political system that is already changing radically nor win supporters for revolution. They manage only to fulfill the fantasies of a few unhinged members of society, and to provoke the police into greater activity. The rest of us cast an eye over the debris on news bulletins and get on with our lives.
Gone are the days when terrorist organizations could believe that their actions would lead to revolution. Society today seeks stability so as to find the road to prosperity. However many mistakes were made in the past, the Greeks have made too many sacrifices and have too much to lose to care in the slightest about the dull thud of bombs.