OPINION

In the squares, Greece is getting sick

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There is no sure answer to the question “Who are all these people gathering in the squares?” especially on Saturdays, and partying like there’s no tomorrow. Also, all word meanings are being tested and the descriptions have something of the dystopia of our Covid age. It is neither exactly a “party,” nor is it entertainment. One can easily see it in Athens’ Varnava Square, for example, which has become a news feature, with images of crowding to the point of suffocation, music blasting at top volume, alcohol and fireworks. Until the early morning hours, with the resulting trash, waste and the rest. Not wearing a mask is a given, like a ticket to the “party.” The same is happening in Agiou Georgiou Square in the neighborhood of Kypseli.

“Me? I love music and dancing but I cannot mix with this crowd,” says one 30-year-old resident of the neighborhood of Pangrati, where Varnava Square is. “What is this gig with the square?” wonder the regulars who, before the coronavirus, would gather there to have a drink. The residents of these two lower-middle-class neighborhoods do not recognize themselves in the throngs overcrowding their local squares. They come from all over the capital region, louts and hooligans, cars without license plates, bikes revving mercilessly. A prominent YouTuber revealed that she and her friend were beaten up by 30 youngsters, probably for supporting the wrong soccer team. And all those scenes in Varnava Square.

These gatherings, where the average age is 25, don’t appear to be lively, happy or exciting. There is something manic, resigned, very aggressive about them. People present, but not really there, doped by boredom, with plenty of indignation toward everything and everyone. A subculture born of social distortions.

The police are keeping a safe distance. After all, the events in Nea Smyrni are still very fresh. The official line is that, at this time, “operational planning dictates that the police presence is manifested by aural encouragements and exhortations for the dispersal of the crowd.”

Hour zero of the pandemic? Maybe, maybe not. The signs were there; the cause for the explosion differs. Covid fatigue has many facets. The most obvious, however, is the lack of joy. Not only at the Covid parties, but everywhere that crowds gather: on streets, in parks and at beaches. Brows are furrowed even when the faces are smiling. A passing phase? Perhaps. Even thus, however, it looks ominous and, above all, very combustible.