The phrase “vandals attack” has become a part of the vernacular here in Greece. When someone doesn’t like something, disagrees with a judicial decision or that of some other institutional authority, or is simply angry at life, society, the government, soccer referees or their mom and dad, what do they do? They gather in groups and invade ministries, universities, embassies, banks, shops, soccer pitches etc. These “raids” come with varying degrees of violence. The milder manifestations of all these emotions include the scattering of fliers explaining the purpose of the “intervention,” and from there escalate to throwing paint onto buildings or people and smashing windows, and then on to the third stage, which may involve iron bars, guns, Molotov cocktails and other forms of nasty violence.
A day without such an incident is a noteworthy occasion. Whether we call them radical protesters or hooligans, whether we repeat that much of what is happening is being orchestrated from within prison walls by inmates, the result is the same: We are witnessing a campaign that is targeting people and weakening institutions, and is a threat to the state and to society.
The constant bulletins reporting on the daily destruction are gradually creating the impression that all this is inevitable. The authorities, meanwhile, have grown deaf to the rising voices warning that this situation will only lead to much worse, that allowing this phenomenon to continue threatens democracy. So what!
In a TV interview on Friday, Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis confirmed reports that he had received a letter some time ago from the minister of citizens’ protection asking the municipal authority to place planters along central pedestrian strips in the city center in order to “strengthen the citizens’ sense of safety.”
A cunning plan indeed, to use plant pots to stop the downward spiral! It is not just an ingenious and natural method of law enforcement (a malefactor may trip) – it would also make the city prettier. The idea would be funny if the situation weren’t as serious as it is. Instead, we have a government that appears weak, indifferent or tolerant to sundry forms of day-to-day violence and it responds with flowers – a gift for all criminals.
In a recent article in Kathimerini, former public order minister Michalis Chrysochoidis warned that crime and violence in Greece have been allowed to flourish to a degree that leaves the state’s capabilities for dealing with it lagging.
The sad truth is that it is not just lagging – it is literally paving the criminal way with roses.