OPINION

City in decline

Daily life in Athens is becoming harder and harder. It is becoming increasingly tiring and exhausting. Basic activities like walking around the city or commuting by bus or taxi are turning into time-consuming undertakings that involve great stress for its residents, and often a high price. Ignorant and insolent drivers haphazardly park their vehicles everywhere, at junctions, crossings, traffic lights and bus stops and even outsides the front doors of clinics. They do not hesitate to bring traffic to a standstill in a manner that sabotages both commercial and social activities merely in order to avoid a 5-euro car park fee. No one is being supervised, no one is being punished. The traffic police have been rendered null and void, and appear to have all but disappeared. Everyone is allowed to circulate as they wish with impunity, making the lives of others miserable and the city a total hellhole. There is trash overflowing everywhere on the streets, while pavements and squares are filled with clusters of beggars and illegal vendors. The capital has surrendered to the recession – and so has the mood of its residents. It’s like people are gradually giving up on their natural rights, their dignity and their humanity. The residents’ depression is reflected on the decadent constitution of the city, which can hardly perform even its most basic functions. A recession can damage the social fabric in all sorts of ways. And it does. However, there can be no excuse for the total abandonment and the decline of public space which we are witnessing at the moment. The situation is unacceptable. We must all be on alert. To safeguard our public space, to keep it on a functional level is to safeguard both our individual and collective dignity. It is to protect democracy – democracy in its material form. Because democracy is not some abstract idea. It is a relationship between people, the members of a living community – this is what we need to protect. Recession causes sadness, inertia and negligence. But it should not be allowed to destroy our hard-won, common achievements.