OPINION

Feeding the beast of racism

The gangs that chase, assault and terrorize ?foreigners? are dangerous not only to our society?s most vulnerable members — immigrants — but to our very society and liberty. Society risks becoming accustomed to violence, with some seeing it as justified and rewarding it with votes; growing violence betrays the incompetence, indifference and, consequently, the complicity of police and legal authorities; because of a tiny minority, Greeks are seen in a terrible light precisely when they need all the support they can get. The greatest danger is that violence breeds violence and spreads throughout society.

We are still at the point where the law can be enforced, if the necessary political will is marshaled and if the police and judicial authorities do their duty. If the state continues to abdicate responsibility, if the cowardly hoodlums feel their impunity is assured, then we will have to accept we now live in a world where there are no institutions and everything is arbitrary. Then we will face a far worse fate than now as we confront the challenges of the economic crisis.

We have already seen the catastrophic results of years of tolerating extreme left-wing and anarchist violence in our universities and street protests; if we allow extreme right-wing groups to anoint themselves judges and juries of our streets, it won?t be long before the two extremes clash in a war for control of the streets or compromise by dividing territory between them.

Greece faces a very serious problem of illegal immigration. Crime is caused not by migrants but by criminal gangs — both immigrant and Greek. It is the responsibility of the state to deal with them, not of vigilantes. The management of areas where there is a large number of migrants should also be under the jurisdiction of the authorities and no one else. As long as the state is absent, both those who are aggressors and those who defend themselves will live with violence and injustice.

The only way to deal with violence is by enforcing the law — swiftly, strictly and with justice — against all who break it, be they migrants or ?militias.? In addition, the government and all political parties have to join forces to defend human values, democracy and justice — all of which our society has always held in the highest esteem. Our politicians? indifference and the state?s dereliction of duty over many years are responsible for the problems stemming from illegal immigration; today they feed the monster of paranoia, hatred and vigilantism. And as long as some among us live in fear, the monster is a threat to us all.