Sinking in the Rubicon


The almost daily theatrics of the Rouvikonas (Rubicon) anarchist group must be turning into an addiction for its members. Wherever there is an issue that “sells,” from foreclosures to Palestine, the movement’s strategic brains get moving, in the obvious belief that if they ally themselves with popular causes some of the popularity will rub off on to them – that, through their choice of targets, people will see them as Robin Hoods. Using the name of the river that Caesar crossed as he led his troops to Rome, suggests transcendence, a giant step from which there is no turning back. However, with its compulsive behavior, and with the almost touching tolerance of the state, this group has become something of a caricature – somewhere between street theater and a charity seeking victims of injustice so as to prove its own members’ virtue. Instead of transcendence, in other words, Rouvikonas today suggests stagnation, it symbolizes the perennial attachment of restless youth to the desire for heroics.

After so many years of performance art (since 2013), it is clear that the young Rouvikonas missionaries are themselves a symptom of the disease they are supposed to be fighting – a systemic self-righteousness which prefers to move about in a fantastic world rather than deal with reality. Among our society’s many ills we count not only the “injustice” that motivates Rouvikonas and other such groups but also the mentality that when we don’t believe in democratic institutions we have the right to replace them at will. Those who claim that bourgeois justice undermines the rights of citizens, and then take on the role of vigilantes, subvert justice for the whole society. They do not improve it.

When small groups claim that they are replacing state institutions, they reveal their own comical but also dangerous delusions of grandeur; they undermine the real institutions on which democracy depends. The result: Either society will splinter into warring groups or the state will fight back and impose order, perhaps at the cost of rights that we take for granted. Both possibilities are a dramatic regression from the rule of law, as it was presented with astonishing strength by Aeschylus in his Oresteia Trilogy some 2,500 years ago. How much do today’s self-satisfied vigilante zealots differ from the avenging demons – the Eumenides – that Aeschylus depicted before they were forced to give way to the rule of law? Only in that today’s avengers believe they are transcending the bonds of society, not that they are worsening what is bad, undermining what is good, serving dangerous drives that they themselves do not understand. They transcend nothing.