OPINION

Signs of social disintegration

Challenging labor agreements, slashing salaries and pensions, increasing taxes and raising prices on goods and services are violent, albeit to some extent necessary acts. The reaction of society to such acts is neither dynamic nor focused, and even though the anger, disappointment and fear are recorded in opinion polls, the reaction was not expressed with equal clarity in the local elections of November, while strikes and street protests remain fragmentary and fruitless, with the exception of the general strikes of May 5 and December 15 of 2010.

Society reacts to the spectres of unemployment and poverty by shrinking back into itself. But is that the only way? No, it also reacts through isolated outbursts of violence in areas that are unrelated to the crisis. A widespread campaign by motorists refusing to pay highway tolls is one such reaction toward a situation in which construction consortiums, banks and the state pass off their responsibility for the state of the country?s highways to one another. The steadfast reaction of residents of the Attica area of Keratea in opposition to the construction of a landfill in the region is another act of defiance toward a plan that will violently downgrade their quality of life and the value of their properties without being backed by a plan or guarantees.

Both of these unconnected acts of disobedience point to citizens who utterly refute the intervention of the state or of its partners, casting doubt outright over the legitimacy of the state?s actions, either through hands-on activism or through legal channels. Within this context, in which the state is viewed as lacking in legitimacy, we can also include the sporadic and violent outbursts of certain groups of soccer fans, but also the reaction of a group of Roma in Menidi to the death of a young girl caused by a policeman on a motorcycle.

As pessimism and fear continue to grow, groups of citizens who feel that they are at risk of seeing their standard of living drop significantly and even of social exclusion see the state not as a guarantor of law, order and justice, but as a vessel of inequity and contradictions. For as long as these phenomena of disobedience, which may be sporadic so far, are allowed to become more widespread, the phenomena of individuals or groups taking the law into their own hands, of divisiveness and rot will threaten society as a whole.