A life, for a few hundred euros

The reports about the death of a young man in central Athens at the hands of a former professional boxer which have emerged over the past few days could have been the basis of a screenplay for a melancholy neorealist or bitter noir film penned by the likes of Pier Paolo Pasolini, James Cain or Albert Camus and directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski in the style of “A Short Film About Killing,” a segment of “The Decalogue.”

But no, because the murder on Tuesday night on Geraniou Street, a pedestrianized strip just off central Omonia Square, is much rawer and more brutal than anything the masters of realism could have thought up. There is also no comfort to be found in this story, because there is absolutely no moral at the end of it. Life is much more relentless in its realism than fiction.

According to the police report on the incident, the 28-year-old victim went to the restaurant outside which he was killed in order to demand that the owner pay his friend her overdue wages. Shortly after, he fell to the ground, dying from the injuries sustained while being punched by another man, the restaurateur’s hired muscle.

The cold-blooded murder of a young man who came to Athens from the provinces outside an establishment in Omonia at the hands of a Chechen heavy makes the Greek capital look like a dystopian metropolis overrun by poverty, degradation and violence. Stories that we once heard about gangsters and other unsavory sorts from the Caucasus and the Balkans, the tales that came out of the collapsing Soviet Union regarding organized crime and violence, are now becoming reality here in Greece.

The irate restaurateur did not call the police to remove the annoying young man; he did not file a lawsuit against him for harassment. He did not want the hassle of the police, prosecutors and court. He got a heavy to clean up for him. This was not the first time that we have witnessed a loss of life as a result of pure, brutal vigilantism. It is just one more sign of the growing brutality in society, just like the rising number of suicides is a sign of growing desperation. This event mirrors the general decline of society, where life has lost its value because it has also lost its meaning.

However chilling it may sound, the attacker’s fist encased in a steel-lined glove was simply the executive part of the incident, not the driving power. The driving force behind this murder was disdain for human life, the depreciation of life, the measuring of life in terms of a few hundred euros of unpaid work or of a few hundred euros in the heavy’s fee.

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