When empty heads collide

History moves in strange ways that sometimes resemble the movement of a pendulum – swinging to extremes before settling in the middle again. The problem with Greece’s post-dictatorship history is that the pendulum has stayed at the extreme for very many years. After the restoration of democracy in 1974, it was as if we had decided we could live without security police. The terrible experiences of the 1950s had to be exorcised by a justifiably impatient society. Young demonstrators could shove and swear at a police officer without fear of retribution. We ended up with a society that more or less thought it was better to have just a bit of terrorism in order to avoid a revival of the police state. Now that the political pendulum has swung the other way, a dangerous situation has emerged. Young men who entered the police force without any experience of history, boil over when they see their fellow officers being struck or humiliated. Listening to the public order minister commending them, some are led to believe they can take matters into their own hands, not realizing they risk backsliding 50 years. Of course, it is time to raise a number of questions, including whether one can beat up or handcuff anyone one likes, or whether a boy wearing a crash helmet can be considered a bystander during a demonstration. The pendulum has to return to the center; the police must respect human rights but not fear prosecution for pushing someone in order to arrest them. But when a brainless, hot-headed demonstrator clashes with an equally brainless hot-headed police officer, someone is likely to get killed. The country does not need such heroes – it has far more serious problems to deal with.

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