Limited liability

Limited liability

Any letter written by a mother who lost her 25-year-old child in such a sudden and shocking manner would inevitably be emotional and angry. However, the open letter sent last week to the Greek prime minister and the mayor of Athens by the mother of the young man who died after falling off a cliff onto rocks on Philopappou Hill during a mugging is also a valuable testament. In it, the bereaved mother powerfully captures the different dimensions of the lawlessness that has been allowed to run rampant in the center of Athens, a historic European capital.

There is little we did not know in Labrini Moustaka’s letter, but she does shatter any illusions we may have that her son’s death, or any such death in fact, was just a matter of “bad luck.” She exposes the criminal negligence that comes from a mentality of always putting the blame on others; from the continued failure to implement self-evident measures; and from the fabricated reality pitched by the government and state officials.

In her letter, Moustaka speaks of a city and a country that lies “at the mercy of gangs and sundry criminal elements that operate and target visitors even in the middle of day.” She stresses that in civilized countries, areas that are by nature hazardous are “surrounded with security railings, all entry points are locked when the sun goes down and the area is sufficiently lit up.”
“Alas, you have given this task to the moonlight,” she accuses.

She also suggests that the Greek state should boost security in the broader area “rather than allocating half the police force to the protection of politicians and their families.”

The letter could also be seen as a scathing comment on the idea of “criminal negligence.” Not only regarding the case of the Greek student from Edinburgh University who chose to spend his holidays back home only to be killed at the peak of the Greek summer. But also regarding the 96 people who died in the wildfires east of Athens in July, the 24 who died in last year’s flash flood in Mandra, west of the capital, and all the people who lost their lives because a protective railing was never installed – not just before but also after the fact.

The comments by Attica Regional Governor Rena Dourou who suggested in the wake of the fire tragedy that she was blameless for all hell breaking lose under her watch did not only indicate the cynicism or dulled conscience of that particular individual, but of anyone in a position of power who chooses to enjoy only the perks of authority. Of anyone with a conscience of limited liability, i.e. a conscience that is restricted to the fear of something going wrong under one’s watch.

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