COMMENT

Democracy under attack

By Alexis Papachelas

We must finally put an end to violence committed by far-right and far-left extremists who are transgressing upon the values of democracy and freedom.

Back when it started, the incidents became accepted as yet another manifestation of much-hyped Greek particularity: Attack squads would casually harass or even beat up university professors simply because they happened to disagree with them. And yet such attacks were not seen as out of the ordinary.

Hooligans would wreak havoc at book presentations because they did not approve of the content of the books (books which, of course, they most likely had never read). And, once again, such incidents failed to prompt any meaningful reaction.

Then came the people of the so-called “Indignants” movement against the government’s austerity policies, some of whom saw it as their legitimate right to swear or throw yogurt at, or even to physically abuse anyone they did not like.

Too bad a large part of the political system failed to condemn actions such as these in no uncertain terms. In some cases, politicians went as far as to encourage such attitudes, because they were seen as being in the political interest of their parties.

And to top all that came the blatant far-right violence which targeted anyone who was seen as failing the test of patriotism or ethnic purity.

We have unfortunately become inured to such phenomena and, in fact, some commentators out there appear to justify or even encourage them with their over-the-top, inflammatory rhetoric. It is a heavy sickness, a sign of a society in a state of advanced decay.

Some will rush to respond by invoking the well-known slogan “This is not violence, violence is the memorandum and state policy.” They should think again, because they could be the next victims of fanatics positioned even further right or left on the political spectrum and who would consider them as “revisionists” or “traitors.”

We are all responsible for protecting society from turning into one big boxing ring where personal and ideological differences are resolved not with arguments but with the power of kicks and punches.

We cannot let the country evolve into a vulgar excuse for democracy where entangled mafias and groups of mentally unstable radicals impose their views on a whim. There is only one way to tackle the phenomenon, and that is by cultivating a sense of national understanding based on mutual respect for the law.

Online