Anger’s teen martyr

The rising tide of anger and despair of the past few years now has its martyr, a 15-year-old boy whose blood will be used to bind together every disparate protest and complaint into a platform of righteous rage against all the ills of our society (endemic and imported). Andreas Grigoropoulos – shot and killed by a police officer in Exarchia on Saturday night, caught in the crossfire of indifference, intolerance, stupidity and criminal neglect that allows minor problems to grow until they come to undermine our very society – will quickly become a flag of convenience for anyone who has a grudge against the state, the government, the economic system, foreign powers, capitalism and so on. The anger that every citizen feels when faced by the death of a young person murdered by employees of the state will be channeled into the renewal of public protests for any number of social or economic reasons. Political movements will reshape their policies around the public exploitation of the cult of the innocent murdered by the state. The state and the government, their hands indisputably dipped in blood, will now devote themselves entirely to their self-preservation; they will do nothing for the country’s inhabitants other than try to placate them with many words and little action. If Greece had already appeared difficult to govern, it will now be out of control, as we can ascertain by the government’s grovelling and the police force’s spiteful inaction in the face of widespread rioting across the country over the past two days. If the members of the government had already given the impression that they would rather be doing something other than governing (seemingly incapable of dealing with the fallout from the controversial Vatopedi monastery land swap and the country’s runaway deficits), now they will try to vanish without a trace. If self-proclaimed anarchists had acted as if they had a grudge against the state, now that their aimless rage has been sanctified with the blood of one of their own, they will rampage until the last store, the last car, the last trash can in central Athens is burned. The romance of reaction against a nebulous, apologetic «establishment» and the impunity that these groups will enjoy for the foreseeable future, will ensure that the anarchists’ ranks keep swelling. If mainstream political groupings were trying to regain some of the street credibility they had lost by being pampered pets of the system, the blood that everyone now claims as their own will again see our bourgeois intellectuals at the barricades – this time with a score to settle, rather than expressing the rapacious though vacuous dreams of a generation ago, in 1968. If common citizens and hapless immigrants/refugees had already felt fear because of the absence of a caring state, today we all know deep down that it is «every man for himself.» Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos has already said as much: «The police will be on the defensive.» In other words, the institutional incompetence that resulted in a police officer’s criminal act will now be presented as a policy of wise restraint. We have already witnessed its results in the fires that keep springing up in Athens, Thessaloniki and other cities across the country. It is undeniably tragic that the meaningless but dangerous game of cowboys and Indians that has been played in Exarchia for decades should lead to the loss of life. It is tragic that the loss of one life should highlight so many impasses in our society and our politics. Instead of seeing that our refusal to resolve problems makes them intractable, I fear the way that we will use this death will simply make our problems worse.

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