Real people with needs and desires

When are people the populace and when are they a mob? What is the characteristic that determines which definition a gathering merits? The question is obviously not of a lexicographical nature, but, rather, it constitutes an entire subchapter in the grammar of politics. If, moreover, one were to judge by the tradition of Greece?s political parties, the populace, a well-organized crowd that is, is a strange social animal that behaves just as we want it to and just as we had imagined it to: in a coordinated, calm and rational manner, without any discord sullying its ranks, united and joined in a way that can only be found in the idealized narratives of mass movements.

When this manner is absent — when the crowd behaves not in unison and not in one voice, when it is inherently unruly and diverse, comprising leftists, rightists, the politically experienced and political newbies, the innocent and the calculating; when it does not obey the forms we would like to impose, when it behaves impulsively, on instinct (insofar as instinct is still intact in our ersatz societies) instead of with tact, and when it looks like a rowdy high school dance rather than an organized group — then the populace immediately earns the definition of a condemnable mob.

The populace/mob sought a vehicle of protest in the parades marking the October 28 national holiday. The way in which it did so differed from one part of the country to the next. The truth is that it could not possibly have been the same everywhere, even though the concerns and anxieties are. But all protesters come from a different place, a different point of view, ideology and political upbringing. The aims and the style of all protests also differ. And the concept of a single ?organizer? being behind all of these manifestations of protest stands only in the detective fiction that the ruling PASOK party reads instead of trying to come to grips with the complexity of reality.

The more the people grow allergic to the middle ground, the more they will become drawn to the two extremes, one of absolute praise and the other of absolute condemnation. And the more we assume that this is a people made up of ideal units and not of flesh and the blood of history, of needs, desires and differences, the more the crisis will sway us between one extreme and the other.