Who cares the most?

In last year’s troubles in Athens, everyone saw what they feared or what they hoped for: the scrapping of the social contract between government and citizens as a consequence of the failure of capitalist society. The fatal shooting of a teenager by a police officer appeared to be the spark for a revolution that would spread wherever citizens would no longer tolerate their governments’ failures, corruption, unpopular reforms, the lack of dreams and the state monopoly on violence. But, in Greece, the violent protests were taking place in a vacuum, where neither the one side’s action nor the other’s reaction was natural: The protesters accused the state of brutality, but the state had abdicated its responsibility to maintain order, driving the youths to their own excess and brutality. Today the pendulum has swung from total tolerance to zero tolerance, with hundreds of detentions, scores of arrests and, generally, very intensive police tactics. Police were even able to protect the old Athens University building, adopting the view that even though university asylum law does not permit them on the premises, they have a right to be on the sidewalk; they formed a protective chain around the building. So masked youths control university campuses and the police the sidewalks. The battle for the streets themselves is still undecided. It will be determined when Democracy manages to balance the violence of the state with the violence of citizens’ rage, without leading to scorched earth in terms of property or citizens’ rights. The wire cages – like kennels – that the Danish authorities have prepared for protesters in Copenhagen provide another dimension to the question: Who cares most about the planet? Who cares more about humanity? Those who want to maintain order for the many, perhaps jeopardizing the rights of citizens, or the enraged few who want to overturn the status quo and start from scratch? Both sides are concerned; neither knows the way forward.

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