OPINION

Losing all sense of society

The lawsuit brought by volunteer forest fire fighters and firemen against the mayor of Ekali for being abandoned by the authorities while they were busy putting out a blaze in nearby Aghios Stefanos, illustrates the manner in which local communities and the state deal with natural disasters: They focus on their own personal agenda, with a complete lack of professionalism and coordination. The mayor clearly wanted to have «her» firefighting trucks and «her» fire fighters at her beck and call. Who cares if Aghios Stefanos, just a few kilometers down the road, was going up in flames and residents were forced to flee their homes? It’s their problem; let the state and their municipality solve it. Every municipality in Greece operates like an autonomous fiefdom, with its own forest fires, its own sense of social responsibility, its own concept of its rights and with little or no solidarity with other municipalities. Most importantly, no one is held accountable to a central authority. The mayor says the volunteers acted on their own accord and «served their own interests,» though she failed to mention what these are. Maybe they went to Aghios Stefanos because they had homes there which they wanted to save. In this case, can they really be accused of breaching their duty? Or maybe someone offered them money to go. This doesn’t make sense because these are people who volunteered to this job, without pay and with a sense of solidarity. This whole story is so sad on so many levels. On the one hand we see a society so fragmented and split that even in times of disaster it cannot pull itself together to serve the common good. Fires have no regard for geographical boundaries but small-minded chieftains do. On the other, we have seen once again how disorganized and unprepared the state is, how willing it is to bend to the will of local leaders and petty politics. And also, the disdain with which some people regard volunteering, solidarity and helping one another.