OPINION

Rebellion without responsibility

The logic of those who claim that rioters and vandals are defending the Constitution is somewhat confusing. Does this mean that the youths we saw burning cameras earlier this week, ostensibly because they believe that these devices curb their civil rights, should be honored by President Karolos Papoulias? And if we honor them, then what should we do with those who burn cars because they believe that all vehicles violate the pedestrian’s right to freedom of movement? Should they be granted the Order of the Phoenix? The current debate would be of no importance if it did not reveal the ambivalence of a large section of the Greek political Left as regards democracy and the infringement of the law. It appears that many of these individuals have yet to realize that we are living in a democratic regime where one is obliged to defend one’s right in a democratic way. These people do not seem to have decided whether to respect «urban justice» or simply exploit it. The above is evident in every form of illegality masquerading under a political gown, including the vandalism of university property in the name of freedom of speech. For the perpetrators of such acts, the law is not sacred, it is simply useful for when they want to condemn its transgression by authorities (who unfortunately are also often guilty of such violations). A concept not so widely known of in Greece is that termed as «public disobedience.» According to this concept by US philosopher John Rawls, when citizens believe that a certain law is violating their rights, they are obliged to break it, as long as they do not use violence, do it publicly, and suffer the consequences of their actions. In the USA, public disobedience is usually seen in the form of activism. For example, when imports of the RU-486 abortion pill were banned, feminists traveled to France, bought stocks of the pill and brought them back to the USA. At the airport, they informed police of their purchases and held out their arms to be handcuffed. These women paid the fine, maintained their right to abortion in their trial and the law was subsequently abolished. The tactic of public disobedience was also used to effect during protests in the USA against the war in Iraq. Instead of getting forged certificates of mental instability from their doctors, opponents of the war burned their invitations to be drafted into the army in public demonstrations with the aim of generating as much publicity as possible for their objection to the conflict. In Greece, we want disobedience, and we want to be public about it, but no one wants to shoulder the responsibility. And any revolution always has to be for free.