The monster begins to resemble us

We were all shocked when we learned about a neo-Nazi group attacking immigrants in Germany. «The beast has reared its ugly head,» warned some newspaper headlines. But the most important thing is that the German people were shocked as well and they raised their voices, demanding that the guilty parties be made an example of and punished. Their own history has taught them that racism is not something that just suddenly appears. It is spawned by society. Stereotypes are born first, then a few slurs are uttered and attacks come next, followed by persecution. They knew racism could grow even in the best of families. The most worrying thing about the attack against a group of Pakistanis in the Athenian suburb of Aegaleo last week is not the event itself. Every society has its punks, people who lash out against the weaker members of society. What is worrying is the silence that followed the attack. The horror that was never expressed, the condescension that arises from a deeply rooted belief that the «Greek soul» is untainted by racism. It is the remissness of the police and that terrible whisper: «Come on, they’re just Pakistanis. They must’ve done something.» Some bury their head in the sand and dismiss the attack as merely an «isolated incident.» Of course it is an isolated incident when a group of thugs attack a Pakistani home with crowbars and knives, but is a Pangrati school trashed every day? Terrorism, as we have noted before, also comprises «isolated incidents.» What is most worrying, and allowed a group of so-called revolutionaries to go on murdering people for 27 years, is the public’s general tolerance, the belief that maybe the victims were not so innocent after all, that they somehow must have done something to provoke the attack. Only one person dared to say, after a murder, that the victim had it coming to him. But many others were thinking it. No, Greeks were not terrorists, but they did display a tolerance for terrorists for a great number of years. Mostly though, there seemed to be a (cultivated) sense of denial, an idea that terrorism had nothing to do with us. No one wanted to admit that terrorism was a malignant growth, a symptom of an ailing society. Manos Hadjidakis once said that when the monster doesn’t bother us, it begins to resemble us. The problem is that last week’s attacks against the Pakistanis did not trouble us. We did not see any ministers pledging to find the guilty parties and make them pay. We did not see the police display any zeal in apprehending the wrongdoers. Even worse, we did not see the public exerting any pressure on the authorities to do their job. The monster is growing in our own backyard and those bullies in Aegaleo are a malignant growth that will infect the entire body of society unless it is amputated.