Between the coronavirus pandemic and the climate crisis, the confluence of events creates a situation that is hard for the even sturdiest shoulders to bear. This is not just an exceptionally complex situation that calls for some very effective management from both government and citizens, it is also an extremely dangerous test for democracies, as extreme phenomena tend to also bring extreme attitudes and behaviors to the fore.
Politicians are cracking under the pressure of having to make unpopular decisions (something the political system was not at all prepared for) as public health challenges only get worse; and in the process, a new kind of human emerges, one made of stone or steel, one made to last, whether it is governing or being governed.
This is where things get complicated, because being strong is so often confused with being harsh, and that goes on to lead to irrational behavior, to joining forces with anti-systemic trends and reactions against anything labeled as the “establishment” or against the scientific community. It brings all sorts of crackpots and thugs out of hiding, posing as the invincible saviors, driven by selective altruism and an abundance of hate.
All sorts of deranged minds and mutated emotions find ground for expression in the ashes of wildfires, in the Covid-19 intensive care units and wards. And these two phenomena – the pandemic and the uncontrollable wildfires – often go hand in hand: anti-vaxxers and far-right fanatics mustering their forces on the ruins of homes and souls.
During Greece’s decade-long economic crisis, the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party made it all the way to Parliament, only to be disbanded and sent to prison – where it belongs – as a criminal organization. But the fires in northern Athens and on Evia have brought back forces that were biding their time in the darkness, waiting for despair and confusion. “It’s not climate change, it’s democracy that’s killing our country;” “Who will put out the fires? Vaccines, water cannons or the cops?” These and so many more slogans have recently appeared on social media from far-right and extremist groups, calling on the like-minded to turn out for anti-vaccine demonstrations and volunteer firefighting drives.
The rifts being created in society are getting deep – again. And as we have already seen, division creates monsters. Are we about to see such monsters again?