The banality of evil

The rowdy protests by members of Greece?s far-right Golden Dawn party against the staging of Terrence McNally?s ?Corpus Christi? at the capital?s Hytirio Theater on Thursday should be a cause of shame and concern for every Greek citizen.

What happened on Thursday was not just an attack against a controversial play; it was an attack against free will and, for that matter, a brutal attack against democracy. Along with the good-old zealots who like to vent their anger against ?vulgar? films, filmmakers and books, we now have the neo-Nazis of Golden Dawn. Better known as Satanists, Dodecatheists and racists, they now seem to have expanded their repertoire by adding homosexuals, artists and the secular state to their hate list.

The conquest of the Hytirio Theater by religious groups would resemble a colorful anachronism had it not been accompanied by beatings and verbal attacks from neo-Nazis aimed at ordinary people — some of them journalists — as three Golden Dawn deputies committed criminal offenses. What is more, all that took place before the eyes of police officers who just watched without doing anything. A Golden Dawn MP did not hesitate to board a police bus to release a person who had been detained by police during the protest.

First conclusion: the neo-Nazis are broadening their range of targets: First it was foreigners, now it?s women, homosexuals, artists, leftists, Greeks — anyone who is not deemed to be 100 percent Aryan, super-masculine, a total Greek.

All that should not come as surprise. It?s a typical Nazi nightmare that is bound to lead to what political theorist Hannah Arendt coined the ?banality of evil? — a stage when we are no longer able to discern evil because we are already possessed by it.

Second conclusion: The police are dismally failing to live up to their task, either because they?re following political orders for selective tolerance or because they?re simply failing to obey orders. Both interpretations are a threat to social peace.

Third conclusion: we can no longer turn a blind eye to the neo-Nazi threat, putting it in the same bag with other types of political extremism. Most parties are waking up, if a bit lethargically, to the phenomenon. The government, Parliament and the judiciary have to act in line with the Constitution. And they have to do so now, before it?s too late.

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