Law and order was a battle cry in the 1960s in the United States that expressed conservative and even reactionary American politicians and voters. A half a century later in Greece, this simple maxim remains a key demand of people who daily witness the absence of a state that cannot or will not guarantee a modicum of dignity and safety for its citizens. This vacuum is not a consequence of the crisis but the result of indifference, ineptitude and an overall sense of decline – and anyone who fails to see it is being wilfully blind.
Greece has been in decline for some years now. At the moment, though, it is in a phase of rapid collapse as the state has ceased functioning, particularly in areas where it should have a steady and constant presence. A leading example is the decision to divert buses and trolley buses that pass the historic Athens Polytechnic building because, every so often, groups of troublemakers and vandals attack them with rocks and firebombs. The incredible thing is that instead of dealing with these troublemakers head-on, the state prefers to step back and leave them alone.
What kind of state is this?
Where else would large bronze busts be looted over the course of two consecutive nights without anyone noticing, without the police taking any action? This kind of open vandalism has taken place outside the City of Athens Cultural Center right on central Academias Street and also at Athens Law School, just a few meters away. Most recently, a gang was allowed to walk into the grounds of the former carrying equipment that allowed them to saw off five bronze busts depicting celebrated men of the arts and letters and make off with them, presumably to be sold for scrap. They’ve done it before and they’ve done it again. And why not? They got away with it the first time.
There are so many examples of such vandalism that it’s easy to lose count: the smashing of Athens metro ticket vending machines, the firebombing of police stations, political party headquarters and politicians’ cars, the destruction of traffic signs, and even the blockading of the country’s only rail link to Central and Western Europe by migrants and refugees. Then we have the graffiti that mars the facades of buildings in every city, and the habit of letting civil servants off the hook even when they’re guilty of embezzlement and fraud. We have large-scale illegal construction on state land and absolute chaos in the health sector as well as the education and justice systems – as attested to by the mess that the trial of Golden Dawn has become.
What kind of state is this?
All that aside, the only thing that seems to be causing any concern is the fact that the country’s creditors will have supervision over state sell-offs over the next 99 years – because law and order has worked so well for the last 200 years.