Reports concerning an attack on Tuesday by a group of protesting taxi drivers against an individual suspected of offering Uber services were shocking. That said, the incident was somewhat less shocking than some of the events we witnessed in the early 1990s, when former employees of the Urban Bus Company ran riot through central Athens, insulting, beating and tearing the clothes off the back of anyone who had the gall to apply for a license to drive a commuter bus in the new company founded by the government of Constantinos Mitsotakis called Transport Businesses.
The image of men wrapped in bedsheets to hide their nudity is hard to erase from memory – as it should be.
Like then, the recent “uprising” was instigated by one man, a union leader, who has threatened that if legislation restricting the operation of services like Uber is not implemented, then taxi drivers “will take the law into their own hands” and cause mayhem. Their protest was illustrated by a banner reading: “No to every innovation.”
The road from Andreas Kollas, the bus drivers’ union leader in the early the 1990s, to Thymios Lymberopoulos of today’s cabbies has been all downhill.
The new Traffic Code has been submitted to Parliament for deliberation and there has been no reaction from the taxi sector. It is likely that the transport minister did not want to displease his “clients” when putting the legislation together. After all, the reaction of clients seems to determine this government’s every step and decision. To be fair, we should add “like others before it.” Similarly, this administration is an orgy of favors, nepotism, special privileges and favorable subsidies (on a realistic level, of course, because we went bankrupt in the meantime).
The crisis, however, is the key factor here. The fact alone that the composition of this country has changed as much as it has, with a large part of its most productive human dynamic having left the country, is reason enough for the prime minister not to sow division between the have-nots and the haves, not to bring back the attitudes of the 1990s on the basis of a different set of lies.
This attitude has deep roots and can’t be wished away by denying reality. It is, in fact, entrenched even deeper every time the government backpedals on a necessary reform, every time it promises to bring back special privileges to certain professional groups, every time it appoints someone to the civil service without merit, and every time it bows to the kind of pressure we saw from the taxi drivers – every time the “no to innovation” becomes practice.