Dealing with ‘kids’ who must realize society has moved on

It seems that this country is fated to be a spectator – even if just on the television news – of its own paradoxical nature. We were dumbfounded when, last week, a group (what was their name again?) representing anti-establishment circles comprising about 100 people, who gradually grew to include 300, held hostage two parliamentary deputies, former ministers and 130 others inside the National Technical University – commonly known as the Polytechnic. Let me pause to digress. The public and the personal are incompatible; what is expressed at the level of society should, at the very least, represent the many. After all, that is the quintessence of democracy. So forgive me if I make an exception here, for I was there that evening until 4.30 in the morning, reporting the news, observing the ongoing negotiations between the state and the «kids» – as the media termed them – the vicious circle of fear and injury. I saw the police move back in order to allow the «kids» of 28 years of age to stroll out, letting them «expropriate» – or in plain language, steal – televisions from the Polytechnic. I watched while for the first time in 32 years (since the time of the junta) the Senate of a tertiary education institution signed a text dictated under threat by others. I watched the «kids» wantonly destroy public property; people who were part of the problem and who had verbally and publicly condemned the political system that my heritage has taught me I have a duty to defend, negotiated on its behalf. I watched the law standing back because, they said, it is the Polytechnic. And I wanted to cry out that they have no right, because of their complexes, to deprive me of what they are supposed to have fought for. I want to shout: «Wake up, we have a democracy, the police protect the people, they don’t persecute them; for goodness’ sake don’t humiliate them. University asylum has to do with freedom of speech, not an absence of law. I want to claim the right to my future without blackmail, violence or blood.» I hope that the time has come for us as a society to remove the masks, without hypocrisy, excesses or fanaticism; to distinguish what is serious and essential from what is ridiculous and unimportant. We must comprehend the essence of academic asylum, which is not arbitrary action or lack of accountability. We must realize that the right to asylum is a powerful law, and that the most barbarous way to violate it is to take hostages, restrict freedom of expression and commit vandalism. And finally, we must realize that an explosion of anger and frustration, apart from the psychology underlying it, is simply a substitute for debauchery, since once the «kids» got fed up they simply left, leaving their hostages to walk free. The quality, evolution and strengthening of democratic institutions and values can only be measured in the long term. In the development of this country’s history, events such as those of last Wednesday are simply subtexts. The hostage incident is over, but underlying the events themselves are elements that should give us cause for concern. Let us not deceive ourselves; the viciousness latent in this sort of behavior from «revolutionaries» and other groups with similarly pretentious titles can lead to action and reaction, tension and conflict, or irony and parody. There is an underlying factor that should not be underestimated, however. The crisis of confidence in institutions and value systems not only exists among the frustrated, disillusioned and angry (with or without quotation marks). The act of demeaning people, political parties, the courts, the Church, unionism, academia or the institution of asylum itself has consequences for a much wider sector of society. Let us not ignore that fact. What is certain, however, is that such phenomena – whether perpetrated by a group of young people giving vent to post-adolescent hyperactivity or the accumulation of true social disillusionment – cannot be what we saw last Wednesday; that was shallow, personal and indecisive. By hanging on to these events we are simply perpetuating them. Let us decide what we are dealing with and act accordingly. (1) The author is the daughter of Pavlos Bakoyannis, a New Democracy deputy killed by November 17 terrorists in 1989.