Against change


Strange as it may sound, there is something which connects the deadlocked talks between Greece’s leftist-led government and the Church of Greece with the annual clashes around the Athens Polytechnic. It’s the blatant inability, or refusal, to change things.

There is no power or willingness to modify the relationship between church and state – however slightly; to readjust the role and the influence of the church on the affairs of the state. Nor is there any intention to stop the vandalism and looting that take place every year on the November 17 anniversary of the 1973 student uprising against the junta (in recent years riots have also broken out on the anniversary of the police killing of Alexandros Grigoropoulos in Exarchia in 2008).

The truth is that the government’s campaign to reform the relationship between state and church was short on substance. It was more of a PR stunt styled to appear like a move in the direction of the much-debated separation of church and state. It nevertheless triggered a furious reaction amid the clergy and now the government fears that the whole thing could backfire.

On every issue ranging from cremation to church-state relations, the Greek Church evokes a sterile stubbornness which is reminiscent of something that is no longer alive, dead: Only this cannot change; it cannot or does not want to change. With the exception of a minority of enlightened clerics and bishops, as a body the Church of Greece moves in an otherworldly space outside the bounds of time.

Similarly, the blood of the (not always) young nihilists who are animated by the motto “a beautiful city is a city on fire” may be boiling, but they are in a zombie state. For they do not know they are dead. All they know is that they want nothing to change. They want nothing to improve. They want no flow and no movement. They are only fond of the culture of the cave and the club.

Under the shadow of a relentless, hedonistic, self-loving nihilism, the anniversary of the 1973 events has degenerated into a dead spot, it has been reduced to irrelevance.

While the Church of Greece gets all caught up in dogma, the nihilist rioters are stuck inside a self-enclosed universe of fire and catastrophe. That’s their way of maintaining, or rather conserving, their share of power.

No government, including the leftist incumbents, dare take on the clergy. Meanwhile, each year on November 17 many residents of Exarchia have to leave their neighborhood in search of fresh air. It sometimes feels as if time has come to a standstill.