The appeal by police officers from West Attica to be relieved of duty around the Polytechnic so that they can help the residents of their flooded district is the most human confirmation that our country’s priorities are seriously warped. It should have been self-evident that the police, the fire brigade, the military and every other state body should be on the side of the flood victims and nowhere else. Unfortunately, though, we are all forced to be extras in the theatrics of anti-establishment groups – the youths who get their Saturday night kicks by trying to set police officers on fire. If there are not enough police on the streets, the youths will cause havoc.
We have grown accustomed to the damaging of public and private property. Violence no longer surprises us. Athens (like Thessaloniki) has proved so hospitable for fair weather revolutionaries that the angry youth of other countries believe they have the right to act out their anti-establishment fantasies here. They don’t dare this with the same ease in countries where the police have the obligation, and the self-confidence, to protect the state, the citizens and their property.
These games might have had a use once, when the authorities wanted to prove that they were not the heirs of the autocratic Right that governed Greece in the past, that their methods were not those of the dictatorship that fell in 1974. They were useful for the Left, too, keeping alive the myth of perennial revolt. The problem is that the game had no end. The players grew old but they did not mature. And younger ones came, who needed to exceed them, to appear even more angry and uncompromising.
The country, however, has moved way beyond these conventional pantomimes of a pretend clash between Good and Evil. From the economic crisis and the general sense of dread to the consequences of climate change (fires and floods), it needs an immediate readjustment of priorities and behavior. The revolution today is related not to the clash between Left and Right but to the choice between authoritarianism and democracy, between the rule of law and chaos, between survival and catastrophe. If we are indifferent as to where we are on this scale, if we leave everything to chance, everything will work out on its own: As we see, the country that does not prepare for the worst ends up bankrupt; torrents smash everything that is built on flood plains; tolerance of violence leads to disaster.
The theatrics that have been playing out around the Athens Polytechnic for several years are the essence of our country’s failure: Our state places myths above the interests of the whole, it prefers to waste its few resources than to manage them correctly.