Right of way and human rights

At a certain time in the evening, Kallidromiou Street is closed off. Two patrol cars and a metal screen block access to that part of the road that leads to the local police station, which one month ago was attacked by a band of hooded Exarchia youths. So, the police took measures… they blocked the street. Police guards may now guard their building, but who can ensure that the troublemakers will not attack other stations? And if they do, what will happen? Will half of Athens’s streets be closed off? This is not the only case where street access is sacrificed to security. Makedonomachon Street was lost to the American Embassy and there, at least, the security zone was embellished by plants. At the British Embassy, Ploutarchou has been barricaded with enormous concrete barriers. Not long ago, Anagnostopoulou in Kolonaki was closed because someone took potshots at the apartment building of the home of then premier Costas Simitis. This is standard practice for slothful bureaucrats. For every threat (imagined or real) citizens have something taken away. Sometimes it’s a street, sometimes it’s a fundamental right. Occasionally it’s the former, but mostly it’s the latter. Security threats are real and therefore a reaction is required from the authorities. However, this reaction ought to be something clever, not the first thing that comes to mind, which does little other than create a false sense of security. Democratic rights are not a moral imperative which governments must safeguard in order to be deemed «good.» These rights are the product of a long historical process. Societies have been through a great deal to achieve a reasonable standard of living and they settled on democracy as the best regime. They realized that in the long term, respect for human rights leads to prosperity and security. They understood that when you sacrifice rights for social reasons (security among them), individuals become unhappy and society eventually comes to a standstill. We have seen this in every totalitarian system throughout history. From the moment individual rights were made subservient to social goals, society ceased to function. Smart security measures are a must, not just for the purposes of democracy, but ultimately for practical reasons. It is certain that the American Embassy is protected on the side of Makedonomachon Street, but in the most recent attack, the rocket was fired from Lampsakou.

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