OPINION

The sea of people

Many words and phrases have been abused by those who see politics as the art of lies and deception. Among them is the phrase ?sea of people.? It has been admitted by the masters of illusion that just 80 people, cleverly placed in a certain area and even more cleverly filmed, can create a false version of the truth. With such techniques you can make a gathering of a few tens of thousands look like a sea of people spread across Syntagma and Omonia squares, all the way to the Pedion tou Areos park.

But the sea of people is real. The people, however, cannot be counted in terms of area (as the leaders of impressive protest rallies like to do) and will not be viewed as insignificant and weak-willed tiles in the mosaic of a televised illusion. The tens of thousands who swamped the center of Athens on Sunday gave new substance to the term civil society, which Aristotle described as all-important and all-inclusive.

Like the sea that is fed by many different rivers, so the sea of people at Syntagma Square has been made up day after day by myriad human rivers and streams, who turned up not just to be counted, but to reinforce their collective strength. The ?weariness? that so many ?friends? and foes of the movement had predicted never came, and neither did that sense of futility that has poisoned so many movements at their very birth.

Lifelong supporters of both main parties have turned up at the gatherings held across the country, joining those who feel cheated by a ?powerful Greece,? by a ?Greece that is re-established, decent and humble? and by a Greece like today?s, which has been ?reformed,? to cite some of our prime ministers, past and present. There are those who are offended by the accusation that ?we spent the money together,? that feel slandered by terms like ?lazy Greeks? and are insulted by being made to feel like parasites on a virtuous Europe. There are those who expected one thing when they cast their vote and ended up with quite another, those who feel blackmailed by the memorandum and the midterm plan and those who are kept awake at night by the thought of their country?s state of servitude. There are those whose work has been whittled down to a few days a week or none at all because, despite what is said, the laws are always written by the masters. There are those who see promises like ?cracking down on tax evasion? becoming emptier and emptier, and those who see the last vestiges of the welfare state being torn down.

This is the sea of people, and, in the words of Aeschylus, ?who shall exhaust the sea??