Peace and the pestle

Peace and the pestle

It seems normal to us now that a “Concert for Peace” should provide ground for a political clash, seeing as we never miss an opportunity to accuse each other of callousness, opportunism and hypocrisy. In Aristophanes’ play of the same name, the goddess Peace is holed up in a cave, unable to bear people’s behavior, while War is looking for a pestle to grind down the Greeks. He is missing his old ones, as the most belligerent of Athenians and Spartans were lost in their fratricidal clash. We have no shortage of pestles, as there are always enough of us looking for an excuse to crush our political (and class) rivals. The pestle of division is made of suspicion, insecurity, greed and the ease with which we exploit ideals for selfish reasons.

Regarding Tuesday’s concert in Athens University’s forecourt, it was clear that the organizers wanted to condemn war in general, not Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in particular. A gesture of solidarity with the war’s victims would allow some to show that they are sensitive souls while keeping their distance from the government, NATO, the European Union, “imperialism” and anyone else supporting Ukraine. However, the “other side” is ever watchful, and so it condemned the concert’s organizers and the leftist SYRIZA party for their equivocation, for putting victim and perpetrator in the same box, for whitewashing the latter. And so, the clever neutrality of the concert’s motto “Peace is the answer, whatever the question,” was complemented with “Stop the war in Ukraine. Solidarity with the refugees.” Again, no mention of Russia but at least in this case the dialectical dispute improved the synthesis.

The concert was an opportunity for the Greeks (all of us, not only singers and artists) to express our anxiety at the war, to show our solidarity with its victims. And yet, it showcased our chronic weakness. Many of us are unable to first evaluate a situation objectively and then get passionate about it. We distort things to fit with our perception, which is determined by the narrow framework of domestic political differences. And so, we have our eyes fixed on each other. We cannot agree even on a peace concert, nor do we unite in the face of danger. We think that the pestle we hold is both sword and banner.

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