Senseless violence

Until now, Patras was known for its traditional chocolate-throwing wars during the Carnival season. A few days ago, however, another kind of war, violent and unplanned – with arson, stone-throwing and brawls – marked the end of the Carnival festivities. And all this without even a «minor provocation» (as the police and language would have it) which makes it difficult for us to categorize the incidents as ordinary. Before a court ruling, we cannot know if the 15 youths arrested really played a part in the early morning vandalism spree, nor if their actions were due to alcohol. At soccer matches, a justification – albeit a feeble one – can always be found and magnified, a pretext to explain the fury directed at the referee or rival fans. Be it a foul which was either overlooked or wrongly called, an offside call or a penalty, something always presents itself as a provocation to the (otherwise self-restrained) «working-class heroes» representing one team or the other. In Patras, there were no referees or mistaken line calls and it would be delusion to believe that a spat between Olympiakos and AEK soccer fans was to blame. The more plausible explanation is a mob mentality and love of destruction shared by people who are not necessarily lost causes, as many social cliches would have us believe. When hooliganism has an excuse (let’s say a bad referee, or an uncaring society), then it can be explained and even tackled. When it exists without a reason, it cannot be explained. And therein lies the problem.