The immoral lie of our innocence

When the horrifying images of the Nazi-style atrocities committed against Iraqi prisoners in the Abu Ghraib prison, near Baghdad, were made public, the whole world felt a deep revulsion at the savagery that had been committed. Indeed, it was not just the Iraqis or the Arabs who were outraged; the issue of torture camps made the headlines in Great Britain and the USA, too. Essentially, it was the strength of public opinion in these two large and powerful countries which forced them to admit to the atrocities they had committed. The Abu Ghraib torture camps caused the same deep revulsion among Greeks also. And rightly so. The same thing happened a few years ago following the airing of an amateur video showing Israeli soldiers – if I am not mistaken – breaking the limbs of a Palestinian. Then, too, Greece did not hesitate to express its outrage. All these images flooded back the other day while I was watching depressingly reminiscent footage: five or six Greek soccer hooligans kicking a man they had knocked to the ground. The most remarkable aspect of the video, however, was the sight of other soccer fans rushing past the spectacle in their efforts to get to the match on time. Then, just a few days ago, came the death of a 22-year-old youth during a mass brawl involving some 500 soccer fans in eastern Athens. We have grown up believing the lie of Greek innocence. It is an ugly lie and a deeply immoral one because it serves to release us from our obligations. So do we Greeks not commit crimes? Do we not commit atrocities? When a detainee is subjected to torture in Iraq or elsewhere in the Middle East, we are repulsed and express our disapproval vociferously. When the same thing happens in our own country – when someone is beaten to death right under our noses in broad daylight – then what do we do? Meanwhile, we have the wretchedness – and unbelievable stupidity – of a police force which uses heavy-handed tactics against citizens voicing their protest by planting trees. The same policemen do not lay a finger on soccer hooligans though. A young man had to die before they realized that these gangs of petty criminals (for this is what many soccer supporters’ clubs indeed are) have «offices» full of iron bars, clubs, knives, guns and other weapons. The police are equally reluctant to stop the dangerous youths who have transformed their vehicles into lethal weapons and are a liability to everyone on the road. But the supposed enforcers of the law show their worth by reacting to citizens trying to plant trees in protest at the concretization of a local park. And as all this goes on we play the innocent. But we are not. We are guilty of complicity because we stand by and watch these crimes.

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