A huge vacuum that leaves citizens exposed and defenseless lurks behind the smashed shop windows on Ermou Street. Athens, and society by extension, has been dealt a blow, not just from the violence on Monday in reaction to the continued incarceration of a convicted member of an urban guerrilla group but also from that against the opening of stores on some Sundays.
As the images seen on a video of the vandalism have the exact effect desired by the perpetrators, stirring feelings of insecurity and despair in public opinion, the cracks that can’t be mended are starting to show. How will business owners on Ermou and other streets in downtown Athens react? Will they ever open again on a Sunday? Will they hire security guards? Will there be a stronger police presence from now own? How can it be that a Sunday stroll around the shops contains the risk of violence?
This seemingly “new” situation marks the convergence of widespread impunity and institutional derailment: First we have the Irianna case which, as expected, became the battle cry for destabilization and which will continue to feed into anti-establishment fantasies. Then we have the government undermining the independent judicial system. To top off, we see a campaign to create a climate of fear in the urban middle class, a reminder that the smooth operation of this city relies on the whims of the anarchists. And the bad guys always get away, the citizens are abandoned to antisocial forces and groups like Rouvikonas can hit the Bank of Greece.
All of this, which is by no means unprecedented in Athens, comes surging back to the forefront whenever there’s a need to divert the public’s attention. With the government stuck in a corner after having exhausted its grace period and the public’s tolerance, without any room to maneuver and falling back on cliches as the consequences of its decisions become increasingly apparent, it seems that conditions are ripe for stoking this climate of derailment. This is, after all, a situation that is always bubbling under the surface and someone is always poised to threaten society; the same society that pays its taxes without expecting any returns and which, completely exposed and unprotected, can only sit by and watch the sorry state the country has come to.
What we are looking at is a situation of national decline and moral corruption, a process that has been going on for years and has a clear instigator. And in the frame of this pathetic picture we make out the shape of the Greek citizen, who has a minister for his protection yet remains not just unprotected but also a target. We have reached a point where the people of this city are under attack and must put up with it all because they have no way to protect themselves.