COMMENT

The army and the people, united

By Maria Katsounaki

The military parade on March 25 to celebrate Greek independence will take on a special dimension this year, thanks to a series of “innovations” introduced by the coalition government. The military band, for instance, is set to enrich its repertoire with folk songs, while the army and civilians will celebrate the national anniversary together, in the spirit of joyful fraternization. We have lived through other gloomy festivities in our recent history. Now the fraternization of the military and the public will become a key element of nationalist populism (both left and right), relying on national unity to heal the wounds caused by foreigners’ rejection of Greece and resorting to ceremonies as a means of restoring its damaged image.

“We hope the people’s presence will send a message abroad that we are a sovereign state,” said Defense Minister Panos Kammenos.

The government is using all means possible to demonstrate its distance from the rest of Europe: Ideologically, socially, financially, psychologically, it is sending messages of divergence, as opposed to convergence, despite assurances of the opposite being true.

No one can deny that the European project is currently at risk of collapse. Nevertheless, while contributing to the current efforts for its support or criticizing it with the intention of maintaining and strengthening a united Europe are two acceptable political strategies, the constant reminder that the country’s “enemies” are expecting our demise and that we are experiencing the asphyxiation of an “imperialist encirclement” (as described by one MP) is quite another.

In order to counterbalance the gradual disengagement from Europe and a tendency toward isolationism, the government is adopting a method of reinforcing the idea of the “nation” and the “national” as an absolute ideology, along the lines of a modern-day independence struggle. We are not like everybody else. We are lone wolves. We are excellent, even though we condemn excellence, we are special, being led to a bankruptcy we did not cause.

On Wednesday we will celebrate not just a landmark anniversary, but a symbolic promotion of the “nation” in its saddest form in terms of its conception, but rich in context as an expression of national exhilaration and unity. Above all, however, it will be dangerous.

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