Living in Greece

A practical guide to moving, living, working & traveling in Greece, plus musing and misadventures from an American in Athens

Scandal, strikes and senseless violence

Greek rioter in Athens
Photo from the Associated Press

*Note that this post is from 2008, and my Guardian commentary “Athenian democracy in ruins” appeared the next day.

The last days have seen another scandal surface and a spike in crime that includes kidnapping, hostage taking, protests, riots and a shooting in the Greek capital. Add to that a general strike come Wednesday, and there’s good reason to dread the upcoming week without it even being Monday. It’s just another day in Greece.

Unrelated events started Wednesday night with arsonists damaging the Bosnian Embassy and an ATM in Halandri (northern suburb of Athens); an explosive detonating at a luxury car showroom in Alimos; and a bomb exploding at the Agence France-Presse (AFP) office in central Athens, an act claimed by the Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire.

On Thursday, arsonists used explosive devices to damage Ministry of Environment and Public Works offices at different locations in Athens (Panoromou and Exarcheia) within 25 minutes of each other. In Thessaloniki, Diavata Prison Governor Constantinos Tsourelis was beaten by assailants who stormed the lecture hall at Aristotle University, one of many incidents involving professors and lecturers being assaulted at several universities around Greece.

The pace picked up on Friday, with a group of Athens Medical School students holding Deputy Health Minister Giorgos Constantopoulos hostage for a half hour. Why? He refused to discuss reforms that would result in graduates working the first six months of their careers without pay. (Boo hoo! Meanwhile, students worldwide serve as unpaid interns in exchange for valuable real-life experience, usually after paying for their own education and going into serious debt). It also came to light in yet another scandal that a nun from the Emmaous Monastery defrauded customers, and a doctor in Varkiza was robbed and kidnapped.

Saturday started innocently, with a peaceful climate change rally around noon by a large contingency showing support for a serious issue. Forecasters predict life in Greece will eventually resemble north Africa based on uncontrolled construction, large highways and tourism, combined with wasting natural resources and lackluster measures to reuse, recycle and create renewable energy.

At dusk, a riot by asylum seekers broke out when a man fell into a canal after authorities announced that further applications would not be accepted — similar to the incident that occurred in October when a man was killed. Although the British National Party blame migrants for the unrest, this riot lasted only a half-hour, it fizzled, and there were no injuries.

We all know what happened after that. Instead of a busy night of gift-giving and celebrating the many people named after St. Nicholas the pious Wonder Worker, Saturday was marked by a group of teenagers who may have attacked a police car, an innocent boy being shot and killed, (this is the video) and the youth of Athens using a lull in rioting to recruit more rioters through the Internet, which escalated and spread violence throughout Greece, even as the government pleaded for calm.

Now it’s Sunday, and the violence continues. Buildings are on fire, livelihoods are in ruin, tear gas makes it difficult to be on the street, and there have been electricity and telecommunication cuts. But that still isn’t enough — we’re about to enter our third day.

Have any of these self-proclaimed “anarchists” hooligans/hoodlums/youth stopped to think about the ‘why’ behind their actions? Were any of these youths, both policemen and protesters, taught logic and reason by their parents? What has violence accomplished? And more importantly, what’s the point? I understand too well the feeling of hopelessness and disconnection — because unlike many expats, I live a typically Greek life and earn a Greek salary — but mass destruction is not the answer and two wrongs don’t make a right. It is a senseless tragedy and my condolences go out to the dead boy’s family, but more violence solves nothing and will not bring him back.

People sell Greece as a safe country, yet stats show that incidents of kidnapping, bombing and violent crime are on the rise. People claim that residents in Greece “work to live” and have more entertainment options than those in the United States, Australia and Canada. But if that’s true, why do the majority appear bored and use that time to sloth around, shop and consume, nurse a drink/coffee for 4 hours, not exercise and use any excuse to riot? If only people put as much time into critical thinking, productive work and implementation as they do into hypocritical complaining, grandstanding and destruction.

Violence of any kind has a domino effect on Greece’s economy. It starts with the innocent mom and pop businesses that can’t stay open during an organized march or strike; or worse, have property vandalized, damaged or burned to the ground during a riot. Profits go down, expenses and insurance rates go up, rent doesn’t get paid, costs are passed to the consumer, consumption goes down, the business cuts back or closes, conglomerates owned by the rich get richer, unemployment goes up, more people fall below the poverty line. the symbols of capitalism so loathed by these youth only grow more powerful at their hands.

And when Greece makes international headlines with mass strikes, wildfires and violent protests, this affects tourism’s bottom line and puts a lot of people off for different reasons, which in turn harms the Greek economy and creates more challenges for everyone who lives and works in the so-called cradle of Western civilization. That’s where it ends — in bigger ruins than this country already suffers.

* P.S. Greece can kiss entry to the U.S. Visa Waiver Program goodbye for a couple more years, but of course the United States will be blamed yet again for being anti-Greek.

Warning

If you are in the center of Athens or any Greek city besieged by violence, be aware that tear gas and pepper spray can linger for several hours and cause irritation to your nasal passages, eyes and throat. Please do not be a ‘riot tourist.’

From the blogs

“Senseless” — EllasDevil (no longer archived)
Anarchy is a dead Greek f@g
Greek riots: It isn’t all about the economy, stupid
Rioting in Greece
Thugs riot all across Greece
Protesting war by making war
Behind the riots: A hidden Greek tragedy

In the news

Greece’s riots: They do protest too much” — The Economist
Greece’s riots: When nettles go ungrasped” — The Economist

Related posts

Kidnap, Inc.” – Forbes
On strike: A quintessential part of Greek life
Unhappy urbanites, in and out of Athens

78 Comments

  dwain wrote @ December 7th, 2008 at 19:39

I feel so out of touch with the reality of Athens. I spent last night at a party, oblivious to the insanity brewing downtown until I got onto CNN.com this morning and saw a small headline that has grown throughout the day.

I’ve been scouring news stories a large part of the day trying to find out more about the shooting and whether or not there’s any justification. Something tells me, though, that the people in the streets lobbing stones and molotov cocktails would be doing it regardless of the reality of the incident. What in the modern Greek psyche leads to this sort of reaction? Is civil disobedience something entirely foreign to them, or is peaceful protest not something they consider effective? Has the 20th century seen so much violent revolution in Greece that the new generation thinks it’s the only way to bring about change? I’m searching for an excuse here for the thousands of numbskulls who are endangering their lives, the lives of hundreds of police officers, unconnected people, and the general well-being of their nation.

I cringe a little bit at your sarcastic use of ‘cradle of Western civilization,’ but you’re completely correct to use it. Little of what I’ve seen here adds up to ‘civilized’ as I understand it.

Kat Reply:

Dwain — Many countries make the mistake of repeating history, but this is the only one of 36 I’ve had a chance to know personally that refuses to acknowledge weaknesses, make even a half-hearted attempt to change, and goes backward. I’m not saying the country is backward; I’m saying the government is too mired in cronyism, corruption and egoism (fame, profit, wealth) to think for its people. These riots are exposing its many weaknesses to the world.

  YooNoHoo wrote @ December 7th, 2008 at 20:55

Kat, as I read your blog entry today from Los Angeles, I dread having to come back to Athens in the coming week. I honestly enjoy living in Greece for the most part, but every trip back to the USA makes me question why? Living in Greece, it’s easy to get caught up in the typical scare mentality that America equals crime, but the reality is that the things mentioned in your article just don’t seem to happen in Orange County (county bordering Los Angeles).

Kat Reply:

YNH — People often believe that crime is rampant in the USA because they watch TV programs like CSI or old movies. It also doesn’t help when footage of the Rodney King beating (1982 1992), New Orleans looting and America’s Most Wanted play over and over. The difference is, authorities come down hard on the guilty, and many crimes are thwarted every day with cooperation and coordination behind the scenes. It does not continue for days, and professors, government officials and businessmen are not taken hostage or kidnapped.

  Barbayiannis wrote @ December 7th, 2008 at 22:24

Now, I’m not saying Justinian was right, mind you, but …

  Bel Ludovic wrote @ December 7th, 2008 at 23:24

Sigh. Any excuse for a bit of molotov-cocktail-throwing in Exarchia.

I really don’t understand why the actions of these anarchists are tolerated. Their near-daily activities are not ‘anarchic’ in the true sense of the ethos, but nihilistic – and, to borrow an excellent line from a Bond film, ‘appear with the tedious inevitability of an unloved season’.

If there was the political will to deal with the problem, it would be dealt with. But it seems that in Greece most people just regard it as letting off steam, which I just don’t GET.

I don’t know any other developed country where gangs of anarchists can just invade universities and terrorise rectors and students whilst in session – repeatedly – but I guess that’s the price you pay for having one of the stupidest pieces of knee-jerk legistlation ever drafted (that which forbids the police from entering university buildings and campuses. Although the police are seemingly so inept that perhaps the law isn’t as stupid as it first appeared.)

I am a diaspora Greek but have no desire to live there. I go there for holidays and to see family, enjoy the good stuff, and then get the hell out. I doubt I would not be enormously bothered on a daily basis if I were to live in a country where school building exteriors are smothered in graffiti – which, in my view, tells you everything you need to know about Greeks’ attitude towards education, the environment and the rule of law.

Kat Reply:

Bel – The violent death of a boy at the hands of a police officer who was unprovoked is something to be angry at. But his death was not necessarily “any excuse to throw Molotov cocktails.” I’ve heard many youth of present and past say that protesting is a rite of passage, a way to let off steam. There’s nothing wrong with protesting, but there is something wrong with extended periods of rioting without real cause and seeing this as the only way to let off steam.

Many Greeks come to this website to tell me off and how there’s so much more to do in Greece, that it’s “very free” here, that people enjoy life more than us boring idiots in the USA, Canada, Australia and other EU countries. That’s bull. What I see is people with too much time on their hands, and parents who did nothing to discipline or stop their children, likely because they were raised the same way.

  Nikos wrote @ December 7th, 2008 at 23:30

I don’t think the “so-called” was very appropriate there. But admittedly, the best known trait of cradles is that they house babies.

As for dwain, don’t forget that out of the west world, Greece was the only country that had a civil war after the WWII and a junta. I mean, that should say something about us. By the way, I’m fully greek.

Kat Reply:

Nikos – Hello, welcome and chronia polla a little late for your giorti sou. Please understand that the “so called” reference is my way of expressing doubt based on the rioting, rudeness, racism and lawlessness I’ve seen. It’s not an insult. I just don’t believe this is how a civilized society conducts itself. (The CEO of Sprider, which had its three-story building burnt to the ground, said: “This doesn’t happen in a civilized society.”) Please visit and comment again. It’s refreshing to hear from Greeks who are openly critical of their country. Casting light on darkness is the first positive step toward change, reform and progress.

  photene wrote @ December 8th, 2008 at 02:16

Take care of yourself Kat!

  rositta wrote @ December 8th, 2008 at 02:35

Kat, thanks for explaining the reasons for these riots. It wasn’t completely clear on our news stations. Makes our almost coup et tat last week almost civilized by comparison although it aint over yet.
You know how I feel about anarchists generally but I have no advice as to how the country can rid themselves of this plague. I love to visit but I’d never live there. I’ll be surprised if you don’t get a lot of hate mail for telling the truth…ciao

  Tauros wrote @ December 8th, 2008 at 11:44

Well-done post! A few comments:

If one subscribes to the philosophy that “in a democracy, people have the government they deserve” then it is also the case that people have the police they deserve. Greeks do not generally subscribe to either, preferring to believe that everything is somebody else’s fault; certainly not their own. Thus, the senseless violence will continue and will be generally condoned – despite some rhetoric to the contrary here and there – as it has been in the past.

It’s appropriate that you qualify the term “anarchists”, as I doubt that few if any of them have any idea what anarchism really is, much less are they able to hold a decent discussion about it and it’s many variations. Personally, I think the most appropriate description for them is hoodlum.

I think it important to note though that in Athens alone, several thousand people were on the streets Sunday evening with the hoodlums being only a small part of the mostly-youthful protesters. We will likely see even larger demonstrations today, with a great many high school students from throughout Attica joining in. Unfortunately, the hoodlums will continue their BS as well, with the police essentially paralyzed at this point — even more so than usual — from controlling them to any significant degree. If at some point in the future we start to see large numbers (several hundred thousand?), including middle-aged people joining the youths in peaceful protesting that refuses to tolerate the violent/criminal shenanigans, it will be a significant indicator that the Greeks have started to get serious about changing things in this country. Until then, it’s basically “same s**t, different day”.

Kat Reply:

Tauros – As usual, very insightful and intelligent commentary. I agree with your comments about democracy. There were two quotes about democracy in which I’d like to call attention.
a) Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos said, “The loss of life is something that is not excusable in a democracy.” This to me implies that those in charge (of this society in which all people are guaranteed safety 24/7) are then at the mercy of those willing to die for a cause (terrorists, rioters, etc). This is not democracy.
b) The Kathimerini called the rioting, “the worst Greece has seen since the restoration of democracy in 1974.” That makes one wonder if democracy still exists in the country of its birthplace, doesn’t it?

The current maladministration and the people feed off each other — both are out for themselves, everyone is looking to break the law, there is no enforcement and no personal responsibility. It’s like you said, when something goes wrong, sweep it under the rug or blame “the other.”

You’re also correct about not categorizing these youth as “anarchists.” Most people don’t even know what anarchy is. We should call them what they are: Thugs, bullies, hooligans, bored rich kids, misbehaved children (of all ages) with a mob mentality often seen causing the same kind of violence at football games.

  Cheryl wrote @ December 8th, 2008 at 12:53

Again, I’ve been in my bubble and had no idea what was going on until this morning. I was in Kozani Saturday and was beautiful and peaceful. Didn’t turn on the TV until today and read the news online this morning…after I received emails from friends and family. It’s unfortunate. I had work to do in the city today…not going. It’s always the few that ruin it for the the rest of us. Stay safe!!

Kat Reply:

Cheryl – It’s sometimes nice to be off the grid, instead of in the middle of it.

  A wrote @ December 8th, 2008 at 17:34

This is sad. This is the type of thing that happens when university is free and it is not a police state.

Kat Reply:

A – It is sad, especially for the innocent people who lost their property, business, livelihood and job. Insurance does not cover acts of terrorism.

  melusina wrote @ December 8th, 2008 at 17:44

Bravo, Kat. I agree with you 100%. It was a post I contemplated making but my general frustration over the violence made it too difficult.

It is just sad the the initial incident – the terrible death of a boy – is lost in all this violence.

There has to be a way to deal with these anarchists/leftists, or else they are going to end up taking over. It is times like these that I am glad we moved out of the city.

Kat Reply:

Mel — He wasn’t a martyr who died for a cause, but he was a child and it’s sad nonetheless when a young life ends prematurely under any circumstances.

  Sameer wrote @ December 8th, 2008 at 18:12

Hi Kat – thanks for this post. I am in Athens right now, looking at heading to Syntagma to take a look. The video you mention, is it online yet? I run the Hub, which is a human rights focused website – http://hub.witness.org – and if you have the video, you or others could upload it there… s

Kat Reply:

Sameer — I do not encourage people to be riot tourists. The video was shown on TV and is unfortunately very blurry, but the boy’s family has ordered a separate private investigation and autopsy.

  Jeri wrote @ December 8th, 2008 at 18:25

Thanks for such a good description of what is happening. It is so hard to find balanced journalism on what is happening in the world, especially if one does not have time to do lots of internet searching. In fact, I had no idea this was happening. Thank you for being a portal of understanding.

Take care of yourself as your journey continues…

  Kev wrote @ December 8th, 2008 at 22:28

“People sell Greece as a safe country, yet stats show that incidents of kidnapping, bombing and violent crime are on the rise. People claim that residents in Greece “work to live” and have more entertainment options than those in the USA, Australia and Canada. But if that’s true, why do the majority appear bored and use that time to sloth around, shop and consume, nurse a drink/coffee for 4 hours, not exercise and use any excuse to riot? If only people put as much time into critical thinking, productive work and implementation as they do into hypocritical complaining, grandstanding and destruction.”

That was a piece of poetry Kat. So well put.

And I also ask what the difference is between these protests, other weekly/monthly riots in Exarxeia, and football hooligan violence in Greece. Same crap under a different banner of the week.

Let’s face it, this a huge social problem plaguing this country; a culture, in its modern form, cornerstoned on whining and complaining.

People learn it at a young age as they get spoiled by parents and grandparents who do every favour for them and cater to their every whim. They learn to EXPECT. And when you criticize this system, you get a response in the name of so-called nobility. “Εδώ στην Ελλάδα, είναι δεμένη η οικογένεια, όχι σαν το εξωτερικό (as if the εξωτερικό is one country with a common conspiracy against Greece) που τα διώχνουν στα 18.”

Interestingly, to add to this xenophobia, notice that the “εξωτερικό”, always refers to Western developed democracies, never to cultures with similar eastern traits like, say, Saudi Arabia where it is also standard procedure to spoil your kids rotten if you have money. It’s as if the modern Greek thinks that he’s the only one in the world with this family system, unlike perhaps, all of Latin America and the Arabian world.

The program “To Kouti ths Pandoras” once described Greeks as ανατολίτες χωρίς φόβο (or Eastern people without fear.) in a program about the modern Greek psyche.

In other words, among positives, they also have all the negative traits of eastern culture at heart (i.e. loud, egotistical, chauvanistic, persistence in opinion, etc..), but because they find themselves geopolitically in the West, under the umbrella of Western liberalism and tolerance, and freedom of speech, they have no fear of any consequences for their actions by any despot. So these 2 elements create an explosive mix.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mskQOs-_zrY&feature=related

(Fast forward to 6:23)

The youtube excerpt talking about this observation lasts from 6:23 to 7:23.

I think this explosive mix is what we’re witnessing not only these days, but also the wider societal problem of these riots, whining and complaining, people talking at the same time and aggresively on the news, etc…

All of these phenomena have to be interrelated and rooted in a common vice.

Kat Reply:

Kev – I did write this post with the intention of showing that there are indeed many serious issues in Greece not being given attention, and it’s starting to affect people’s everyday lives (at least in cities).

The mentality that it’s better to insult, hate, backstab and destroy those who are successful rather than find the balls to raise themselves up is indication of cowardice. In most cultures, you see people helping each other; I too often see Greeks trying to rip each other down, or resort to trickery (including marriage) and deceit to show how clever they are. Where is the integrity and glory in using connections, corruption, bribes, sex and the like to get something? That’s pretty much an admission that this person is a hollow shell with no real talent.

It also ties in with what you said about kids being raised with a sense of entitlement. Because of that, many feel that there’s no need to study, work or even think. I had a boyfriend like that once — I told him that the world does not revolve around him, and his response was, “I don’t even know what that means.” It wasn’t a language barrier; he was the only child of a rich shipping magnate, and all he could think about was me, me, me. These same people covet the majority of powerful positions in Greece.

And to answer your question, there is no difference between football hooliganism and these riots. It’s the same.

As always, I value your commentary and readership.

  chris wrote @ December 8th, 2008 at 22:33

I read your text.
Please dont’ afraid about the young people killed by the police. There is people, poor people or not. Normal people.

It’s normal they are hungry ! police killed people !

We paid all around the world the américan politic !
War on Irak, War on Afghanistan, social war, Wall street & capitalism’s crisis, misery and anti-social politic all around the world.

We paid the absurd américan philosophy ! Destruction of the planet and so on…
One million civils murdered by the United- States of américa in Irak !
Criminal american government and politic against the people. All the people.
Very Richies’s war against people. Poor people or not.

Privatisations of the nation’s propriety & misery everywhere : The great américan politic as at New -Orlean !
The Katrina’s politic all around the world against people.

Do you know the european reality and soon an identic américan reality ?

American people is not hungry ? It’s true ? Really ?
After subprimes crisis and bigs gifts for wall street ? Yeah ?
OK- Wait & see. Be careful friend !

Kat Reply:

chris – I don’t fully understand what you wrote and couldn’t decipher enough of it to edit properly, but you’re entitled to your opinion.

  phillip wrote @ December 8th, 2008 at 23:07

The Karamanlis government must resign immediately, nothing is more clear.

Kat Reply:

Phillip – I disagree. The ND party and Karamanlis need to take real action and responsibility for a situation they created through incompetence and ineffectiveness. Denial and resignation is how we got into this mess.

  dwain wrote @ December 8th, 2008 at 23:43

What the hell did Chris say?

It’s interesting to see, both here and elsewhere, parenting blamed for lots of this. A sense of entitlement develops early and only solidifies later on in life. My favorite example of this: when someone drives to the front of the turn lane, bypassing dozens of other cars.

Kat Reply:

Dwain — While I do blame poor parenting in part, I think Greek society makes it difficult for us to raise a child contrary to the “let him be” and “give him everything” model. I’m not a mother, but parents have told me in private that it takes a lot of time and energy to counter what their children learn at school from peers (whining) and, in many instances, their teachers/professors who often don’t discipline, thus allowing kids to yell, blame “the other” and go wild. Plus, when other children act like “animals” (their words, not mine), a lot of time is spent deprogramming them when they come home or they have to chaperone to make sure toys are not stolen, their kids not beaten or they don’t run off because the other child’s parents don’t watch them. As they get to their teens, I’m sure it’s harder.

If my teenager left the house with a hoodie, gas mask or ski hood, then came home smelling like smoke, ash and gas, I’d probably ask some questions. Or if I did their laundry and saw indications of rioting, I’d bring down the hammer. But in most cases, from my interviews, the parents ask absolutely nothing and life goes on. It’s generational, unless a conscious effort is made to stop it.

  graffic wrote @ December 9th, 2008 at 00:05

Meanwhile people, stay at their homes. Like me.

There is no unity between political parties. And of course, between people. And we, the people, are the only ones able to stop it.

Without words and our will, not without gasoline, stones and bullets. But we’re on our comfy sofa.

In the end people only want to live in peace, but we don’t seem to find the way to do so. Sad but true.

Kat Reply:

Graf — It is sad. I woke up this morning with hopes it will stop. I’m the wrong nationality and gender to stop anything.

  Demitris wrote @ December 9th, 2008 at 00:18

Some good points raised here by all the people that have posted. Now I can agree with Greece having a lot of serious problems, I am also a Hellene of the diaspora but I can honestly say Greece is nowhere near as bad as the so called developed Western countries. I am so sick of the uptight attitude that you find in the Angloshpere i.e. US, UK, Canada, South Africa, Australia, NZ that Greece is honestly a breath of fresh air-problems included.

Greeks by their nature crave freedom, as much as possible it seems. Yes, there are negatives to this but it’s worse to have your freedom constricted, live in any of the countries i’ve mentioned above & you’ll see what i mean. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of the EU laws passed in Greece are doing the same but Greeks’ devil may care attitude seem to have minimized their effect.

If people want to spend their lives obeying every frigging law you might as well become a zombie. I’m not with the anarchists, they do more wrong then good-but they have a pulse. If all of us are just too accomodating to our lovely governments we will soon find that they happily take most of our freedom away.

The problem with anarchists is they don’t have a clue what they’re doing but we do. We should enjoy our freedom but we must be more pro-active in ensuring that we still have it years down the line. If the cops beat up or kill a kid, we should be rioting. No, we shouldn’t destroy people’s private property but we should head en masse to all the police stations & parliament & ensure they all get the message loud & clear that we won’t stand for it.

Kat Reply:

Demetri – Spoken like someone who is Greek and doesn’t live in Greece, but South Africa. Any country that allows a small group of hooligans (not anarchists) to hold the majority of citizens hostage and besiege cities with violence is not a country that values freedom. No one said everyone had to obey every law, but at least have some self-respect and self-control. It has nothing to do with being uptight or apathetic. It’s what separates us from savages and animals, and rioting is a good indication that line has been crossed. Violence is never a solution to violence.

  Demitris wrote @ December 9th, 2008 at 01:35

I’m in Greece 5-6 months of the year so I have a very good idea of what happens in Greece & the general attitude of the Greek people both here and abroad. And trust me South Africa has far, far more serious problems than Greece will ever have. There are parallels between the 2 countries but also some significant differences.

South Africa is a far more violent country than Greece will ever be. Kids get killed here every day & sadly nothing gets done about it. Blame goes to the government, police but also to the damn citizens who suck it up. People here a very apathetic & I pray Greeks never become like this one day. I’m not condoning the anarchists but at least they made some noise regarding the kid’s death .

I also fly to Australia on a regular basis for business, that country is turning into a real dump. The laws & general apathy are similar to South Africa’s which in turn are a carbon copy of the UK’s. Greece is in trouble but so is the rest of the world. By putting up this blog you’re taking a form of action & for that I congratulate you.

Perhaps you missed my point in my 1st post, it was simply people need to take action before it’s too late. The anarchists are clueless and certainly it’s bad news if they end up running the show. They should be stopped but not at the cost of citizens rights, which I can guarantee you government will be only happy to do if the citizens are not wide awake & accept any offer that the government puts on the table.

  G wrote @ December 9th, 2008 at 02:13

Kat and anyone living in major cities please take care of yourself, and be careful.

You know in Greece people wait until something happens (like the shooting of the poor teenager) then something even worse happens (fires, fights, strikes), and after a few weeks the incident is forgotten and nothing changes. Why aren’t police offers required to have a yearly physical and psychological check-ups like they are in other countries?.. I am not justifying the officers act, but destroying your country, and property that does not belong to you — den einai politismenos tropos gia na xeperaseis ena provlima oute na doseis ena minima sth neolea kai th pedia, but hey what do I know? I’m just a dumb- American when I’m in Greece. Yes every country in the world is in trouble, and as a Greek having lived in Greece, and just recently moved to the States, I am not proud to say that when I live in Greece I do not feel safe at all. I might pay taxes in the States, but at least I know that an ambulance, police officer, or fire department will be there to take care of me.

Kat Reply:

G – I have some friends who are regular police officers and MAT (special forces riot police), and they complain that they’ve not had proper training, especially those with MAT. Further, they are paid poorly, find out about their schedule at the last minute (hours before), travel/live/work out of buses that are old and don’t have heat/AC, and given poor equipment; MAT police do not carry weapons and only carry a baton as of a few years ago. They feel this is the government’s way of “keeping them down” (aka, not giving them any power to enforce the law). Yet, they are asked to be in street during riots, protect embassies and control mobs.

They also say their orders from the government are to be on the defensive, not the offensive although many conflicts require the latter. The government is afraid of using force, and they don’t want police to appear more powerful than them. So essentially they’re unprotected moving targets at which people direct their anger.

There are bad policemen in Greece, as there are worldwide. But there are some good ones too, and many of them feel like pawns and scapegoats between the government who pays them and the public they’re supposed to serve.

  Demitris wrote @ December 9th, 2008 at 03:47

@ FMS – Hey man, I appreciate your response to my comment. And I agree to some of the things you say. Though I must point out that the problems facing Greece are not unique to Greece and are part & parcel of the majority of democracies worldwide. And the countries with larger economies & populations usually have far more problems than little Greece does. Neither are Swiss bank accounts & tax havens the exclusive reserve of corrupt politicians & shady businessman living in Greece, you’ll be surprised at how much more dirty things are outside of your borders.

Corruption & scandal getting swept under the carpet is also, sadly found in just about every country in existence. The same goes for racism & myopia, Greeks are no more racist than citizens walking the streets of London, Melbourne, Johannesburg, New York or Tokyo. Don’t be fooled by the polite, politically correct veneer of what you may consider more progressive societies, once it is lifted you will see the fear & loathing underneath rearing it’s ugly head.

Many Greeks living in Greece, make the naive assumption that to succeed in Greece you need to have the right connections, yet the world at large is this huge meritocracy. I’ll let you know that it’s exactly the same everywhere, most people work hard & just get by. A few will do very well for themselves through hard work alone. Though most will fast-track simply by having the right connections or to put it more bluntly through nepotism.

As you can see the rest of the world is not all that different. Some countries are better governed then others but the dirt is everywhere. Things need to improve a lot in Greece and people should definitely not accept the status quo. I hope to see the riots stop soon as it’s a terrible sight to behold. I hope all you guys will stay safe and wish you courage for the road ahead.

  No Name wrote @ December 9th, 2008 at 03:06

I’m a Greek living in the States (yes those much-hated States) . I left Greece years ago because I could not see a future for myself in a country were everything is someone else’s fault and where ridiculous ideologies (anarchy??!!!) are held up as worth discussing past the age of 12. You want anarchy? Go to Congo. Real anarchy there, not the coffee shop, pseudo Che-bearded, 30-something-student type “anarchy”. What makes it worse is not that lazy, perpetual “students” advocate it. No, some fifity-somethings do as well. Mercy. I’m also sick and tired of Greeks mouthing off about how unique Greeks are because of this or that. Please!!!! Greeks would have you believe that no other peoples ever developed a civilization. Yes, ancient Greeks did achieve some incredible things, but it’s been a few thousand years since. What have we done lately to deserve to call the ancients our ancestors? If the cop shot the kid without justifications, he should be tried and punished according to law. Unless of course what is implied by people out in the streets is that Greece is a lawless country. Then of course it’s just a free for all. God save us.

Kat Reply:

NoName – Hello, and thank you for commenting today. I cringe when people tell me, “it’s very free in Greece.” Partially because the freedom in which they refer means breaking the law and getting away with it, which means there is no real equality and therefore no real freedom. Partially because I believe any country that values freedom is one that does not tolerate continued acts of violence as Greece does and has for a very long time.

Your comment also reminds me of what Plutarch said: “It is indeed a desirable thing to be well-descended, but that glory belongs to our ancestors.”

  FMS wrote @ December 9th, 2008 at 03:33

Demetri: I appreciate your general point about the need to maintain the freedom of citizens, but I think you are wrong in how you express it. We are not free by virtue of being unimpeded in vandalistic or other violent acts; we are not free by virtue of everyone refusing to obey the law; we are not free because the state is incompetent and staffed by untrained and useless people appointed through political connections.

You say that Greeks are not apathetic: I disagree. The Greek mentality is flaccid and unprepared to make any effort for problems to be solved in Greece. What has happened about the massive corruption revealed over the last decade, but especially recently? Why: nothing at all. How many Greeks demonstrated on the streets, making the clear point that while most people earn less than 1,500 euros, embezzled funds of hundreds of millions are in Swiss bank accounts, but the government stopped legal action to open the accounts…

The only freedom I see is that the state is incapable of enforcing its laws, and Greeks generally just do as they like. That is not freedom: it is just bad organisation.

We are free when we can live our lives without undue harassment from others, on the basis of such things as our skin colour, our religious beliefs, our ethnic origin, our sexuality, our age. etc. Greece does not provide these freedoms, and never has. I hear continuous malakies from Greeks about “Greeks must be free to do anything they like”. This is not freedom: it is sheer stupidity.

Kat Reply:

FMS – I tried using the word ‘flaccid’ to describe ND’s administration and lack of enforcement, and I was censored. To your comment, which is perfect ‘as is,’ I’d like to add that law and order is a basic civil liberty to which people are entitled to receive and the government is obligated to provide or restore.

There’s nothing wrong with rising up against serious missteps by the government and the guilty, but these hooligans are not rioting for a cause. Rioting is also not the opposite of apathy, which btw there is plenty of, here more than anywhere else I’ve been in the world. That’s why blaming “the other” is so prevalent.

  rositta wrote @ December 9th, 2008 at 03:57

Demetris, we stay in Greece two months a year and truthfully I almost kiss the ground when returning to boring Canada. The police here too shoot teens from time to time but only if they break the law. If a cop says stop, you darn well stop or pay the consequences. From my limited view the whole game of the Greek lifestyle is to see if you can break the law and if you can get away with. If you can then you brag about it and that’s what the kids learn. The hooligans need to be stopped or it can only get worse. Sad but true…ciao

  Demitris wrote @ December 9th, 2008 at 05:09

@ Rositta: Thanks for the insight. Canada must be one of the most civil countries on earth, unfortunately in South Africa it’s the complete opposite. Young thugs have killed cops & got away with it. We have a severe crime problem with 25 000+ murders a year, our lovely government downplays the problem & they’ve done nothing about it in the 14 years they’ve been in power. The nation in general just shows complete apathy in voting them out of power. My 2 cents anyway, take care.

  paulo assis wrote @ December 9th, 2008 at 05:27

good insight for someone in the other corner of Europe (portugal) be able to understand what´s going on in greece, beyond the view of mainstream media.

and it gives me a certain chill because most of the problems that led to the riots are present in my country also (bad justice system, very large amount of 20-30 years persons living with 500 € month…). Anyway, people here are too passive to do something like that.

Kat Reply:

Paulo – True, Portugal suffers from many if not the same problems as Greece. Monthly salaries are a bit higher here, but so is cost of living. Portugal’s quality of living is significantly better than Greece, not just on a rating chart but from my own personal experience. I don’t think the absence of riots is passive; I think that’s civilized and smart. There are a lot of reasons to be upset (unemployment, scandal, etc.), but please understand that these hooligans are not doing it for those reasons.

  maria v wrote @ December 9th, 2008 at 05:27

you’ve said it well, kat, greeks dont know how to protest, and some may have lost track of the reason why they are protesting. i had to go out with my kids last night, all the time worrying about the streets (of a teeny weeny town like hania). i passed a group of ‘protestors’ outside the agora: they were all young, teenagers, students, and the like. they marched onto the police headquarters, where they threw eggs and tomatos – cretan weapons? – then had tear gas thrown back at them. i suppose they all went home the next day and had something to talk about with their mates – on their mobiles, because there’s no school for at least two more days…

Kat Reply:

Maria — The comment I heard most last night as a bunch of us (mostly Greek men) sat and watched events unfold was shock over the widespread rioting throughout the country — Irakleio, Rodos, Korinthos, Patra, Corfu, Volos, Thessaloniki — not just Athens. They couldn’t remember another time in their lives (except maybe during the junta) when they’ve seen such reckless, utter destruction. It saddens, worries and angers me all at once, even though I’m constantly being told this is not my country.

  Manos wrote @ December 9th, 2008 at 05:29

Hey Kat.

Thanks for the informative post. I agree with everyone that says that we should not fight violence with violence, but the government (regardless of party) should have brought down the hammer on situations like these a long time ago.

The university asylum has become an absolute joke and at this point disgraces the memories of the people that died in 1973 to restore freedom to our country. It is unacceptable that every time someone does not like what is happening in the country, he can hide behind university doors and vandalize everything in sight, while I and every other hard-working citizen pays for it.

Peaceful demonstrations for what happened to this poor kid is absolutely justified, but this crap happens regardless. It is the same f….ing people doing the same things and have (once again) a law to protect them. Even though I am not a fan of the current government or any of the Greek political parties, I have to say that the whole, “the government needs to step down” is a bunch of bull. F**k that. F**k political correctness. What the government needs to do is get some balls bring the people that shot that kid to justice (also let’s keep in mind that not all police is bad police γουρούνια και δολοφόνοι), allow people to exercise their right to demonstrate and if citizen livelihoods are at stake at the hands of the same idiots, break their bones instead of acting like cowards. At least this way they could gain some people’s respect and and actually get votes because of their actions and not their words.

Maybe I sound like a jerk going of the deep end like this but that is how I feel. I am tired of listening to the same shitty excuses, having the same hooded pricks destroy our cities, our country and desecrate our flag while my government is protecting them.

My condolences to the family of the the kid that died.

ps. and one more thing about Chris’ comments above. Stop blaming the US for everything that is going on. WTF. All the crap that we are dealing with today and every single day is because of our own stupidity. Get over it.

Kat Reply:

Manos — A big hello, welcome and mucho thanks for your passionate, truthful comment. No one thinks you sound like a jerk, in fact most (sane) people likely echo your sentiments.

A friend of mine (also Greek) made the same comment last night in regards to hiding behind university walls — that this immunity from police is BS and should no longer be law because hooligans of today do not come close to resembling the real grassroots demonstrators who changed this country decades ago.

I also agree that this is not about political correctness. I don’t care about resignations, limp appeals for calm and BS statements from Pavlopoulos about, “Not a single life is in danger”; “authorities successfully protected human life.” Oh yeah? I bet 130 shopowners who lost their livelihoods and jobs strongly disagree as they go out of business and can’t find the money to feed their families.

And this was my favorite: “Under no circumstances will the government tolerate what is happening.” Oh yeah? Well then why are we in our 4th day of rioting??? These people are lying to our faces! I mean, do they think we’re blind and stupid?

Talk is cheap. Let’s see some action!

  Kat wrote @ December 9th, 2008 at 12:20

I want to thank everyone for a dignified, intelligent discussion on a situation now in its 4th day. Today (Tuesday) is supposed to be a day of mourning, but I do not have high hopes for peace based on two things: a) Schools are closed today and tomorrow; b) the violence I saw in a number of Greek cities last night.

Now to your comments…

  kari wrote @ December 9th, 2008 at 12:51

why on earth, in a link heavy post, would you not link to the video which shows this boy’s innocence? i have heard this all over the web but not been linked to a video.

Kat Reply:

Not that I need to explain myself, but the link was not available at the time my post was written (Sunday afternoon) and I’ve been buried under a mountain of work since then. The video is also blurry and shot from a distance on a cell phone, which may not be compelling.

Most people are not complacent and found the video on their own, but it’s now been linked even though your tone was impolite. You also need to understand Greek or what to look for, when watching it.

  kari wrote @ December 9th, 2008 at 14:07

i apologize for my tone. i get frustrated when people cite things as fact without displaying any proof. i did enjoy your post.

  Peter wrote @ December 9th, 2008 at 17:37

What I like to know is what was a 15 year old doing in the Exarchia section of town? Reports say he is from a wealthy family from the northern suburbs. It is common knowledge what types of dealings go on there. And who is in those cafes and streets.

That being said, shame on the impotent country of Greece for not dropping the hammer on them, notice no reference to the government (which I do not like).

Change the laws so they cannot hide in the Universities, let the police do what is needed, and arrest them. Below is an excerpt from the BBC

“Hundreds of students clashed with riot police in Thessaloniki, Greece’s second biggest city, where students used university buildings to stockpile petrol bombs.”

My last comment is these COWARDS hide their faces! Show your faces and protest as much as you want. But what does all this violence solve? What did all the shop keepers do to you? All they do is work long hours to try to make a better life for themselves and these COWARDS do this to them.

Fight fire with fire and put an end to this once and for all.

Kat Reply:

I’ve always regarded Exarcheia as just another neighborhood in Athens. It is historically known for different things, but things change and some stereotypes should die. He is from a wealthy family, though it is not known what he was doing or why. Rioters cover their faces to hide, but also to lessen the effects of tear gas. Some only wear hoods and no masks.

  Barbayiannis wrote @ December 9th, 2008 at 17:53

These riots aren’t a reaction against everything that’s wrong with Greece, they’re an example of it.

Kat Reply:

Well said.

  Bel Ludovic wrote @ December 9th, 2008 at 21:06

Wow – that last comment hit the nail on the head! Very well put.

  Tauros wrote @ December 9th, 2008 at 23:16

Hi!

In regards to your comments, all well put, as always. Just three quick things I’d like to say at this point:

I thought about “hooligan” to describe these “known-unknown” idiots, but like “hoodlum” in the end because it has essentially the same meaning, and so many of them wear hoods. :)

Glad you mentioned the police and the difficulties they face. Greek police are a separate topic in and of themselves, so just one point (basically a reinforcement of what you said): Greek police are very, very much under political micro-management in Greece (as is the military). There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that they have not responded aggressively to curb the violence in the last three days because of orders (from the political leadership) not to. And yes, there are a very large number of good police officers in Greece.

Most important of all: You said in your comment that you were censored for trying to use the word “flaccid”. If I may ask, who and why?

Kat Reply:

Hoodlum, hooligan, punk… To answer your question, I called the government’s effectiveness and enforcement flaccid at best, and I was censored by a well-known UK media agency. Why? I don’t know because I didn’t ask and had to move on. Maybe it conjured thoughts of male genitalia. I don’t censor myself or anyone else on this website, unless expletives, racially charged language and personal psychoses are included in comments, per my comment policy.

  Giorgos wrote @ December 10th, 2008 at 03:58

I observe these events from distant Australia (mainly through nonGreek press) and it truly saddens me as someone who grew up in Gr. At the same time, the incompetent political response infuriates me (as I am sure infuriates many others). Does not surprise me though. Ntropi…

I am curious though, do these hooligans who are causing the damage, really form such a big proportion of the Greek population? Why is it that the damage is so widesrpead? There have always been hooligans who destroy cars, etc after football derbies, but nowhere near to this scale…

I get the sense that the underlying reasons for this are the increasing unemployment, poor education system and unjust working conditions that plague Greece. And the sense of pessimism with the global financial issues and lack of faith in the government (any government for that matter) to steer the country forward. People feel powerless and hence (unjustifiably) resort to violence. That could explain why even some ‘mainstream’ (normally non-hooligan) people are joining the hooligans and there is so much damage. Not sure if is true, just my opinion (keeping in mind this is ‘from a safe distance’)

Of course, all the mayhem will reduce tourism in summer and hurt Greek economy, as you said. Hence compounding the issues that (I think) are causing this in the first place… Krima

Kat Reply:

Giorgos — They say it’s a few hundred people, not thousands. They’re probably able to do a lot of damage because they use universities as safe houses and are unemployed, so they’re got a lot of time to put together and stockpile Molotov bombs. And when things are unprotected and buildings don’t have fire alarms or sprinkler systems, it’s quite easy for something to go up in flames before the fire squad arrives as they don’t come right away and there is too much to bring under control with too few staff.

The fact is unemployment, low salaries, scandal, corruption and the like have been problems for decades; I would almost go so far to say it’s part of the culture because people respond by tax dodging, paying bribes and flout the law. The government is bad, but anyone who participates in illegal practices is no better — so the people and the government feed each other, maybe even deserve each other. So yes, tension has been building, but people not familiar with Greece need to realize that strikes, demonstrations, protests and riots occur quite frequently, and bombs go off all the time in Athens. The reason we’re getting attention now is because a boy was shot and the destruction is large scale.

  Maria wrote @ December 10th, 2008 at 07:31

I see the riots that have happened not only as a reaction to the boy who was killed but also against the government. The main people rioting are the “generation 700 euro” and they are the ones who have been in great difficulty with finding jobs and getting paid a decent wage. I think they were looking for any excuse to riot and have their voices heard. The rising cost of everything and the government doing nothing to ease the pressure has fueled all of this. I don’t agree with their behavior but I do agree that costs have been rising and this generation has no hope for the future. The bubble was going to burst sooner or later.

Kat Reply:

Many people agree with you in that people were waiting for any excuse to riot. Many people I know have expressed this same thought.

  Christopher wrote @ December 10th, 2008 at 13:29

Why has the media not reported (at least I haven’t seen or heard) that the Anarchists were ALREADY out Saturday for a demonstration of solidarity with the residents of Corfu who have been showing civil disobedience (blocking streets, protesting, etc.) because the Government is attempting to create a landfill near some villages? My point, anarchists were already organized and out on the prowl that day…

I think this will be like the summer fires of ’07…lots of pandemonium at the time of the events, but with no actual resulting changes in the end. Indeed, my general opinion is that MOST (but not all) riots use an incendiary event as an excuse for a frustrated populace to blow off stem against “the man”, with no lasting changes actually being achieved by the riots.

Take for example the L.A. riots of 1992, which I mention because I’m from L.A. and lived there at the time. The ‘oppressed minorities’ – mainly the poorer Black and Mexican residents of central L.A. – used the acquittal of the policemen who beat Rodney King (Kat mistakenly wrote 1982 as the date of the Rodney King video – it was actually 1991 that the event occurred) as a vent for all the pent up frustration and aggression they felt towards “the man”. After all was said and done, what was achieved by the riots? Millions of dollars of damage. Nothing more.

____

For Peter – Exarchia is full of students, even 15 year olds. Just because some junkies hang out in Plateia Exarchias doesn’t mean the whole neighborhood is to be avoided. You can find worse people, and more of them, throughout Athens, even in the supposedly more well-to-do areas.

For others who state that the law prohibiting police from entering university premises should be repealed – Won’t happen in our lifetime. If you want to see student solidarity and aggression in full force, just wait to see what would happen if/when the Government ever made such a proposal. I fully agree it’s time for the law to go (have you walked inside any universities lately? All the vandalism makes you want to cry); I just don’t see it happening.

Kat Reply:

Christopher — That was one of the first questions I asked, actually. I’d heard people had already gathered before Alexi was shot, but I tried discussing it with others and no sources will confirm this. In fact, some UK media sources tried to blame the start of these riots on asylum seekers, even though their riot lasted a half hour and fizzled.

  Barbayiannis wrote @ December 12th, 2008 at 22:16

Nicely symbolic picture at:

http://tinyurl.com/6ps3mr

Kat Reply:

Barbayiannis — Nice shot, indeed. Thanks for adding that.

  Nicholas wrote @ December 14th, 2008 at 02:21

Just accusing these “hooligans” for what they have done does not makes us the “good” guys and them the “bad” guys. I strongly doubt that they are rich or are just doing this for fun, maybe some of them are but the majority is not.
They come from “destroyed” families, are unemployed, have never been understood and have always been neglected by society. Among them also foreigners (Albanians, Polish etc), and anarchists. Violence does not only manifest itself through the destruction of something ( burned buildings, shops, and broken windows) but violence also appears by other forms: psychological violence, domestic violence, state violence. Looting also happened. When you live in a society where materialism is so important and constantly promoted by the media, advertisments and others, what do you expect the reaction would be from the not-haves? I do not justify violence by any means but this is a consequence of our rotten society and we are all part of it. By distancing ourselves from the incidents is hypocritical.
We are all responsible for what is happening and most of all the government. Proper education at home and at schools is a start.
This is a global phenomenon, and incidents like this happen everywhere. In each country the political and social conditions are different, therefore the scale and seriousness of the social events also vary.

Kat Reply:

Nicholas — True, it doesn’t make us “good” and them “bad.” Some people identify with these rioters, and there’s not just one type — it’s not only disgruntled youth or anarchists or young professionals. It’s all types of people, including children of elitists rebelling against the very establishment that fed them. To some extent, I have more right to riot than anyone out there. Why? Well, for starters, I’m a woman (twice more likely to be unemployed and underpaid); I’m an immigrant (ditto); and I’m over 30, an age in which Greek society deems me useless and only good for babies. My job is nothing to get excited about, but you know what? That’s life. It’s like that in all countries. I’m also not the typical expat — I don’t live off my husband, I didn’t come here with money, I don’t have family back in the homeland, and I earn a typical Greek salary, which means I live a middle to low class lifestyle because there is no house given to me by my family or relatives to cushion the blow. I’m very much a ‘have-not,’ but the difference is I accept that…well, and I’m not wrecking things.

However, whenever I mention the realities of living here that apply to most everyone, regardless of nationality, I’m accused of being negative and disrespectful, told to shut my trap and go back where I came from because I’m not Greek. After 11 years of working full time, paying taxes, contributing to a pension I’ll never collect and living the same life as most people here, I still have no right to speak the truth; and I am a criminal if I riot. But when Greeks do it, ah, it’s a “social uprising” and “good for them, they’re standing up for our rights.” Sorry, but that’s crap. Unemployment, low wages, poverty, lack of good job opportunities/security, scandal, corruption, elitist cronyism and the like have been going on for decades. That’s why the Greek diaspora are in America, Australia, Canada, South Africa, UK, Germany, etc. They left because it was bad back then too, and the majority won’t come back because it hasn’t changed. And yes, one can argue that things are getting worse, but that’s no different than the rest of the world.

Can Greece change? Many say ‘no’ because it’s too ingrained in the mentality. The government is corrupt, and the people are corrupted (going back to Tauros’ original comment that “in a democracy, the people get the government they deserve”). Everyone for himself. Much of the next generation is also corrupt because from birth they’ve been dependent and given a sense of entitlement, which leads to egoism and the materialism you mentioned. That’s been going on for decades too.

The greater population here — formed over several decades and generations — cannot comprehend that some of their “freedoms” will be compromised to build the modern, responsible government they claim to want. And without the support of the people, without each person understanding that (s)he must stop complaining and start fixing, without a commitment to change and personal responsibility, then progress is elusive at all levels — social, political, economical.

This is a good post by Surviving Athens called “I don’t agree, but…,” which intersects my original post above on several points and details his keen observations. And “If Greece belongs to Greeks, it will take everyone (inside and outside the system) to make it work” by the Kathimerini. Both articles were written by Greeks.

  Tauros wrote @ December 14th, 2008 at 23:12

Hi!

One point that I think deserves clarification in the discussions following this and your subsequent article is the difference between empathy (understanding how other people feel) and sympathy (feeling like other people do). I have some empathy for the rioters, but absolutely no sympathy. For my part, if they want to find sympathy, they should look between sh!t and syphilis in the dictionary. (Either an English or a Greek dictionary will do.)

I fully understand that some of the “believers” don’t see any other way to change things, and that some frustrated high-school kids at such a time want adventure. But, having empathy for someone is not the same as excusing them. As many problems as exist here, the kind of random violence for violence’s sake that we’ve seen in the past week does not serve any useful purpose. The sympathy that many people appeared to feel last Sunday morning has largely dissipated. Some empathy remains, but the stronger feeling is definitely that enough is enough. There is simply no useful purpose to this continued violence, and it is very unlikely that anything significant will change as a result.

In fact, I’ve tried to find some point in history where such actions have accomplished anything – other than perhaps a change of political party in few cases. Maybe someone can point one out. But, with very few people participating in the actual riots, no “we want” (civil rights, independence from a foreign country, a change in the form of government, etc) that the majority can identify with, nothing will happen. All seem to agree, for differing reasons, that things suck. But, nobody can offer any concrete plans to implement corrective changes. Thus, there will be none.

In cases like this one, especially where there is no specific objective that people can identify with, the excess of violence on the part of one side almost always works to their disadvantage – be it the rioters or the authorities. The rioters have lost a lot of the “support” they had a week ago. However, there are definite indications that if they continue at this point, the pendulum could definitely swing as the police take a very hard-line stance against them, which I expect will happen soon unless things quickly die out.

As the saying goes: May you live in interesting times…

Kat Reply:

Tauros — As always, very poignant distinctions. I too sensed a dramatic shift some days ago, though riot fatigue set in for me a bit earlier because being in the heart of it tends to do that. I have nothing to add or debate, as we are again in agreement.

  Barbayiannis wrote @ December 14th, 2008 at 23:17

“When you live in a society where materialism is so important and constantly promoted by the media, advertisments and others, what do you expect the reaction would be from the not-haves?”

If the not-haves are idiots, I’d expect them to respond by ruining the livelihood of small-shop owners.

Kat Reply:

Barbayiannis — Another succinct, truthful statement.

  Nicholas wrote @ December 15th, 2008 at 13:22

This is just one part of the problem.

As we know violence causes more violence. More repression by the police would lead to more violence and hate by the other side. This does not solve the problem it just makes it worse in the long run. You also mentioned that, Tauros.

Everybody has to understand that this is a social problem, young people are alienated and something has to be done about it. If we just focus on what the rioters have done we miss the big picture.
(who by the way are only a side of the demonstrations taking place all these days). By now the large scale burning and destroying has stopped, demonstrations are continuing though.

I wonder what is more alarming for some people:

the fact that a cop shot a 15 year old in cold blod. This is not the first or the last time it has happened. About the evidence there is more than enough. Check the well informed newspapers, with tens of testimonies by people who were close to the incident. There are also interviewed people in the street.

or

the burned banks, shops, bins and cars ?

I know that all this burning and rioting must not happen again, as people are also suffering from this but I just wanted to shed a different light to the situation.

Kat Reply:

Nicholas — Police brutality is an issue, no doubt about that; but I think we’re talking about specific individuals, not an entire force. I don’t buy into what you said about alienation. If any Greek dare step into my or any female immigrant’s shoes for a day, they’d realize they have nothing to cry about. I agree that it’s a social problem, but I believe it’s one that started at home.

  Kat wrote @ December 16th, 2008 at 20:41

Not relating to anyone’s comment in particular, I’d also like to say that yes, I can leave though it’s not as easy as people think. Greeks can leave too, as EU citizenship entitles them to live/work in any of the other 26 countries without the bureaucratic hurdles I would face if I wanted to move anywhere but the USA (one country). None of us necessarily wants to leave our country or the people we love, but sometimes life forces us to make hard choices based on priorities and circumstances out of our control — ask the ancestors of anyone who immigrated, including the Greek diaspora who became some of the highest income earners in the world only after they left Greece.

This is a well-written article by a Greek-American that, in my opinion, best captures what we’ve been talking about. “Riots Prove Europe Can’t Overlook Greece.”

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