OPINION

Sin city

Athens is a mess – with or without the customary protest rally. For many months now, the capital has resembled a Third World metropolis, minus the exotic element. Traffic is a real jam. Those who prefer to walk are not much better off either. The narrow sidewalks are already occupied or broken. Streets are often inaccessible. Rubbish is everywhere. Going through the city center is stressful. People choose to be on autopilot to spare themselves some of the stress, trying to keep their cool until the daily torture is over. We up our defenses, our emotions switch off. We turn a blind eye to the absurdity, the lawbreaking, the disregard of public space, above all by the public servants, the police force and the political officials. It’s a shame. Only a few blocks away from Parliament and City Hall, lawlessness is king. The main streets are taken over by illegally parked SUVs, truck drivers double-park their vehicles at will to load or unload their goods, and sidewalks disappear under a sea of motorbikes, kiosks, fridges, tables, chairs and rubble from half-finished public works. This mess reflects our political civilization. This mess shows how the elected mayor sees this city, how the police chief performs his duties, and how the ministers (who are also responsible for the sorry spectacle) feel about this land. Shame on them, shame on us. Let’s ban cars from the historical city center; let’s introduce tolls; let’s make parking regulations stricter; let’s make fines heavier. Let’s do all of this together – or even introduce something more radical. But let’s do something right now. Because this city has become unviable. It’s become an unbearable burden on its residents. It’s become our shame.