Nobel Prize winner James D. Watson was nearly physically assaulted while delivering a lecture at the University of Patra on Thursday, though thanks to the intervention of professors and students, the 83-year-old geneticist managed to get away safely. The hooligan-style attack is possibly related to the controversial views held by Watson — who has claimed that black people are less intelligent than Caucasians and that homosexuality may be DNA-related — and while these opinions may be seen as hostile and even racist, they should not be taken as justification for violence. For verbal confrontation? Yes. Heated debate? Yes. Barbed questions? Sure. But violence?
Unfortunately the constant, mass decline into violence has become a daily phenomenon: We are eschewing the arena of democratic debate for the battlefield of violent confrontation and swapping the battle of ideas and arguments for force and vigilante-style justice. It is not easy to pinpoint the exact causes and who is behind this decline; if we could, solving the issue would be a much easier matter.
We can, however, safely assume that the economic crisis, the austerity measures, the growing recession and fear for the future are behind the spread of this kind of low-level violence that we see manifesting itself in every facet of society. It is as though a civil war is slowly brewing beneath the surface: a civil war, however, that has no clear sides, no flags and no discernible leaders. It is one group against another, or everyone against everyone else. It is as though the crisis has turned once peaceful or indifferent citizens into savages, has turned passivity into aggression, and rendered those who already had a tendency to speak up and lash out dangerous.
This silent, widespread civil unrest threatens everyone and everything. It eats away even further at our already eroded social solidarity and cohesion, it eats away at our self-respect and sense of worth, and it fuzzes up the mind. In short, it threatens the very elements of our society and our characters that we need to preserve more now than ever before so that we can sail through this long crisis period with as few casualties as possible. To achieve this, the first thing we need as citizens is some modesty and a level head, especially if we are the kind of citizens that not only want to see Greece survive, but want to see the country rebuild itself as well.