Of common clay

With complete solemnity, the leader and senior members of Golden Dawn have always seemed confident that “the gods of Greece” have blessed them to “guard their Thermopylae. Never stirring from duty,” as C.P. Cavafy puts it in his “Thermopylae.”

The problem was that they approached ancient Greece the way of Hitler and his illiterate counterfeiters. In the spirit of their teachers, they went on to pose as Leonidas next to the statue of the insulted Spartan leader. They conducted nightly military-style parades that mimicked the ethics of Germany’s pre-war hate fetes and the aesthetics of the childish ceremonies organized by Greece’s military dictatorship. A mix of Hitler and Papadopoulos.

But despite their delirium, the members of Golden Dawn are better suited to the words of a different Cavafy poem: “The God Abandons Antony.” Because when the state finally decided to do something about the urgent signals sent by active citizens over the group’s bloody activities, these populist “heroes” revealed their true character. Their repertory became enriched with “the whining, the pleas of a coward.”

The extremists soon disappointed their most dedicated followers. Instead of witnessing the reincarnation of Homeric hero Achilles animated by oaths of loyalty until the death, we instead saw multiple versions of the cowardly Thersites.

Have Golden Dawn’s followers realized that their oaths rather referred to the death of Hehzad Luqman and Pavlos Fyssas, and others like them who live in this country? Have their followers understood that the golden offerings of their brave leaders were made of “common clay”? It’s best not taken for granted.

We saw their tough-guy posturing outside the Evelpidon court complex, their brash bravado outside police headquarters and their chest-thumping and vulgar humor from the safety of their online channel. What we have seen and heard would never have come from people with a modicum of respect for what they preach.

In a state of panic, feeling they have lost the immunity offered under quasi-police protection and as the omerta started to crack, they turned their backs on their history, their comrades, their supporters and their ideological forefathers. Not out of shame. And not because of regret for the nasty outgrowths of their bigoted sermons. But, rather, in order to save themselves.

Golden Dawn was not made of steel, but of common clay. And to return to Cavafy: “how disgusting – yet some (who haven’t been adequately trained) are taken in by what’s bogus. Those of common clay.”