OPINION

Lights, camera, reaction

A young man stands on the roof of an illegally built coastal canteen and threatens to set himself on fire if the law is enforced and the construction is torn down. The prosecutor and police are there but they are powerless in the face of his rage, his desperation and the sheer gall of it all. The man strove to build the kind of life he wanted and he will defend to the death his right to trespass on the beach since the restaurateur next door and the hotelier further down also enjoy the same «privileges.» Television cameras record the incident, broadcasting these scenes of madness. A few hours earlier, in another live report, a representative of the Infrastructure Ministry was seen negotiating with striking truck drivers. A promise to hold a meeting the following day was witnessed by thousands of TV viewers. We see crises intensify or be settled, we see politics being practiced according to the laws of television. How would politics in Greece be conducted if the cameras were put away? Would the young canteen owner have put on such a performance? Would the government back down from measures it has announced because it becomes aware of the toll they are taking on its image? Maintaining an image has become a force of fear and it is imposed with impunity and consensus. In this constant and reciprocal play, the roles are automatically divided between the good guys and the bad guys by an audience that acts as the director. The crisis, however, has put an end to the illusions and challenges the conventional forms of protest. Viewers are called upon to decide whether the threat of self-immolation automatically renders the canteen legal. They need to think about whether being without gas for a few days justifies truck owners keeping their «shop» closed off to competition. Reactions governed by the fact of appearing on television are not without consequence; the price will be paid in the future. This will come at the cost of a government that seems to waver in its decision, weak and undecided, as well as a society that is systematically being ground down by lawlessness.