“We are experiencing a dramatic shift in what we perceive as self-evident in this country and elsewhere. Democracy has given way to authoritarianism, whether democratic or not, unity to dissonance, the tendency toward the center to flight away from it. A notion that once had a collective dimension has now acquired intense individualistic traits. Therefore, the basis for social cohesion over major issues has become so weak that our problems are much more magnified.” This part of a recent lecture by former minister Tassos Giannitsis at the Circle of Ideas initiative is borne out in so many different ways by the situation we are experiencing right now.
The phenomenon of no-go danger zones in cities goes hand in hand with the disintegration of society and the clientelist mentality; the manner in which sundry crises are dealt with is more about making an impression than making a difference; issues that were solved decades ago in other Western capitals are the subject of fervent debate and reaction in Athens. The anti-systemic movement has grown into a cancer, on the left and right, which has deep roots and many different manifestations. Vulgarity has not lost any of its power as an aesthetic or ideological choice, as a way of life or thought. Instead, it is constantly transformed, strengthening populism with its most archetypal symbols.
Menidi, Exarchia, Pedion tou Areos Park… these are just the better-known parts of the city that are hostage to crime and indifference. A high-ranking government official posts a photograph of a tie decorated with cartoon penises on Twitter shortly after a deal was reached with the Eurogroup. Gay Pride continues to profoundly irritate the unprocessed conservative reflexes of a large part of society and the political establishment. An event being planned by the national association of police officers in Exarchia Square to promote openness has caused a political stir.
No-go zones, vulgarity, a homegrown brand of anti-statism, the flight of reason and political chest-thumping all come together in different variations, a reality that is neither pleasant nor painless.
The various issues that arise, of course, are neither the same nor have the same impact, but all the small incidents that we experience have acquired the characteristics of chronic problems and are dealt with by the political leadership in a piecemeal manner. Prevailing social discord, meanwhile, not only delays consensus on the big issues, but actively prevents it by enhancing a climate of suspicion, dissonance and fatigue – all by now entrenched.
“Greece is turning a page,” the prime minister said after the deal reached at the Eurogroup, once more turning the self-evident into self-deception.