OPINION

The raw material of tragedy

Living in Greece is like living in a big village, in which the gossip of the monomaniacal television channels has replaced the neighborhood squares. Whatever happens in this national village, everyone learns of it at the same time, with all the details. Everyone believes that he or she has the right to express an opinion on the issue. And nothing excites the national chorus of commentators more than human sacrifice. Like shadows, damned to live in the Hades of television bulletins, the Chorus Leaders elbow each other, howling incoherently, around the pit of blood, as if drinking from it will give them strength, will give them something of the life of the shattered protagonist. The public debate is determined by these eternally outraged, bodiless heads, resulting in a country filled from end to end with the same shouts, the same nonsense, the same disputes. We have seen this show over and over and over, whenever a human being (whether victim or perpetrator, whether by accident or crime) gets caught in the gears of the primitive structures and procedures which never stopped governing this place. One of the greatest such tragedies of recent years was the lonely suicide of Rubini Stathea in October 2003. This middle-aged bureaucrat in the State Property Service was caught up in the maelstrom of illegal activity that constitutes construction in this country, and could not take the pressure and the hypocrisy of her accusers with regard to a crime that she did not commit. «I hope that my end will be the start of a small effort by all to become a little better: Civil servants a little more industrious… Politicians a little more honest. Judges a little more credible, journalists a little less carnivorous…,» Stathea wrote before jumping off a cliff. Before this, we had the sinking of the Samina ferry in 2000, followed by the suicide of Pantelis Sfinias, the businessman who created the shipowning company and who took upon himself the burden of the 80 victims of the Samina. None of these tragedies made anyone the wiser: neither the Chorus Leaders on the TV channels nor those who believe that this country’s wild laws do not apply to them. And – in the nation that gave the world the Oresteia trilogy, in which Aeschylus described the triumph of the rule of law over blood rites – no one has found ways to deal in a civilized way with serious issues. In other words, when the judiciary and serious journalists allow the television channels to function as pimps, prosecutors and judges, it is as if they are abandoning all of us to the mercy of television ratings. And so, whenever anyone is caught in the headlights of this runaway train of merciless publicity, he or she is defenseless. No one can bear such a burden. That is why the criminal manner in which several television channels covered the alleged rape of a 16-year-old girl by four of her classmates in Evia appeared like just one more sick act in the sick play that we have been watching for years. One serious newspaper even went so far as to publish the victim’s testimony to the police, with all the details of a vicious gang rape. It is clear that the only aim of such activity is to titillate the viewer or reader with pornography in the guise of information. Because this wretched troupe is continually on stage, even the most tragic stories play out against the ridiculous and irresponsible backdrop that is already in place, with the same burlesque principles. This applies to the young Bulgarian immigrant who was raped as well as to Alex the Russian boy who was murdered. The only truth here is the raw material of a tragedy that was recorded on video unedited, on some teenager’s mobile phone – a video that was erased.