Living in Greece

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

Profile of a Greek riot police officer

Greek police car during riots
Photo from Eurokinissi

The Greek riots in December 2008 captured the world’s attention, not only with unforgettable images of damage done over weeks, but also because it spotlighted a teenager’s murder at the hands of a mentally unfit police officer.

It was Day 4 when I wrote this, rioters were fewer and less aggressive, which some attributed to fatigue and the closure provided by Alexi Grigoropoulos’ funeral; the Panathinaikos game temporarily diverted our attention, and shop keepers fought back to protect their livelihood. Their efforts would be in vain as recession soon took hold.

Whatever respite we enjoyed was gone when a 24-hour general strike stopped flights, transport, media and public sector offices. Some hoped protests would be peaceful. Others used it as an opportunity for violence that continued for days as youth set fire to everything from banks, car dealerships and local shops to riot police officers and the Syntagma Christmas tree. It only stopped when near freezing temperatures forced many to take refuge inside.

Photo by Evi Zoupanou, AP


International media did a better job than Greek media in reporting events, but there has also been incorrect interpretation of the ‘why’ behind the riots and little done on the human aspect of participants. Presumably because many foreign correspondents cannot speak or read Greek, do not have an interpreter at their disposal and/or lack the proper contacts, therefore depending on questionable English-speaking sources that may have only a superficial or incomplete knowledge of Greece and the Greek language. Local media have no excuse.

Most photos distributed by the media are those of Greek riot police beating protesters, not of protesters beating, throwing rocks at and setting fire to riot police, which biases the audience.

If I could recommend only one article, it would be “Riots Prove Europe Can’t Overlook Greece” by Michael J. Economides. He deftly sums up everything with historical and factual evidence, not theories and conjecture; and his article supports what I wrote and my readers have been discussing.

As we entered Day 5 with a palatable tension and frustration from rioters, strikers and the general public, I took the opportunity to see the December riots through the eyes of a MAT officer (Greek riot policeman).

MAT Officer — Vasilis, 33

MAT officers
Photo from Petros Karadjias/AP

Perhaps the most loathed civil servants of Greece — and the most visible during riots and protests turned violent — Greek riot police officers make up part of a special forces division (MAT-EKAM) that guard embassies on politically charged anniversaries, watch over peaceful demonstrations, and handle riots according to orders passed to them by the government.

* Note: EKAM is a separate, special forces division of highly trained anti-terrorist police.

Kat (K): What made you decide to become a police officer?

Vasilis (V): Well, I did not have many choices. I’m from a village near Preveza, my family has three boys, and my parents could only afford to send my oldest brother to university. His tuition was paid because he did well on exams to win his place, but the university was in Thessaloniki so they had to pay some things.

I did not do well on exams for the subject for which I had interest; it’s not like other countries where you can choose any course of study. So I graduated with a technical degree, but there were no jobs in my area. Instead of being unemployed and taking money from my parents, I came to Athens and went to the police because they had openings, and I would be paid on time.

K: And you signed up for special forces?

V: Yes. It is voluntary to sign up. I’m lucky because my best friend was in the academy with me, we graduated and signed up at the same time, so we had each other (parea). Otherwise, I think it would be very lonely.

K: Why special forces?

V: I did not want to be sitting in a station, and I thought this was a good option. But there are times we sit on a bus or stand outside in the cold/heat, so it’s not that much better.

Greek police outnumbered and cornered by protesters./AFP

K: How was the training?

V: To be honest, I don’t think very good. It’s difficult to say because I have nothing to compare, but I hear from you that police officers in the United States have very rigorous checks, exams, training, shooting practice, scenarios and with the best equipment. Honestly, that would be a dream for us, but I know it will never happen here.

Also, I don’t know if the training I had 10 years ago is better, worse or different than training given today.

K: So you don’t feel prepared?

V: No, but I think the government likes it that way. In other countries, the police have some power. That will not happen here because the government does not want us to have power; they want to keep us down, so they can control us.

K: Why do you say that?

V: For two reasons. Because they are weak, and because they have no respect for us. They do not give us training, they do not give us good equipment, the buses they give us are very old, without AC and heat, and we are not paid very good. If I tell you my salary, you will laugh. Most of all, they do not allow us to have lives.

K: What do you mean by that?

V: Mainly I do not have a schedule. None of us do. We are required to call every day to find what time we are working, so that means we cannot make any plans, except during our vacation. Even if I am told at the end of my shift that I am working at 8 a.m. the next day, it could change to working at midnight instead. Sometimes I work the night, I have a sleep, and then I wake up and find I’m working afternoon, then morning the next day. There’s no way I can even have a good night’s rest. It’s like being in the army, but worse. All of my life is the last minute, and this is not sane.

Btw, I’m not complaining. I’m sure many in the world suffer more than me. I’m just telling you how it is.

K: During a conflict like this, do you work more hours?

V: This is a rare situation, but yes we work many more hours because we are needed and spread out now in many cities, not just one place. This is bad because then we are really tired and irritated and without patience — just as any human being would be — plus we are under pressure and must restrain ourselves under any circumstances. Can you imagine what that’s like? To have 4 hours sleep, stand on your feet all day, have people spitting, yelling, hitting and throwing things at you for 8-10 hours and you can do nothing?

I’m not justifying anything. I’m just saying that as humans we all do the best we can.

Image seen around the world. — Associated Press/To Vima

K: What about the images and footage they show on TV of the police beating and dragging people?

That happens, yes. But often they don’t show what happened before that. I mean, do they ever show on TV the injuries, beatings and times we are jumped by a mob? Of course they don’t, but it happens a lot.

K: Did you know the police officer who shot Alexi?

V: The guy who shot the boy isn’t someone I know, but his nickname “Rambo” explains it all (Note: The accused officer was part of the special guard division integrated with police in 2008). I don’t want to know a person like this, but policeman around the world probably all know a co-worker who is (what do you call it?) irresponsible and trigger happy. All professions everywhere have bad people.

It is a tragedy, and I understand why people are mad. All the MAT are paying for him, whether he is guilty or not.

K: And how do you feel about your job right now?

V: I didn’t feel good before, but these days I feel worse. On one hand, I can understand that people are mad and want justice, but I don’t think violence is the answer. It just makes things worse. They say they are mad about education, unemployment and job prospects and the government. Fine. I was worried and angry for the same reasons at their age, and I didn’t riot or burn my country in front of the world. I looked at the options that did exist, moved to Athens without even knowing how to cook or take care of myself, but I learned and here I am. That’s life. Plus, my parents raised me better than that, I hope.

But if you want to know what I really think, I think these rioters are better dressed and have better lives than I did when I was a kid and even better than my life now being a hard working person, so it’s just recreational violence.

Regardless of what I think, I am hated for the uniform I wear and used for target practice all day long. People want to kill me. That’s my job, to be a target. Isn’t that great?

In other countries, they have curfews and arrest anyone who violates it. I think the government must stop being afraid to take action and give us the power and call in the army to help bring order back to the country. Greeks look like fools right now, and there’s too much damage to everything — image, reputation, buildings, businesses, jobs, economy. Who’s going to pay for all this? Us. It makes me sick and ashamed. The government needs to stop talking and start doing something, not just with riots but with everything and fix this country. That’s the real reason for the rioting. The country is broken.

Anything else you would like to say?

Yes. I’m sorry for the boy who was killed, but I want people to understand that many police officers are good. People call us pigs and hicks, and yes there are a few. But we’re human and have the same problems as everyone else, and we care about this country.

Thank you for the chance to speak.

* A few things he did not mention. Candidates must pass written and physical exams before enrolling in the police academy, plus undergo psychological testing that is mandatory after the shooting that set off December riots and an incident that killed an embassy guard.

The majority of Greek police officers pay for their own bulletproof vest, which costs them one month’s salary or more; and those claiming financial hardship are given a vest up to 25 years old. Most earn a salary of only 700-1000 euros/month, so any out-of-pocket expense has impact. All police complain that their equipment is horribly outdated and not at all modern, as the media claim.

If you are interested in learning more about Greek police or what it takes to become an officer, go to the Ministry of Citizen Protection, Hellenic Police or Astynomia. Websites are in Greek, with limited English versions.

In the news

Police to undergo racial sensitivity training” — To Vima
Some police officers deemed unfit to carry gun after psychological evaluation” — Kathimerini (July 2010)
70 Questions asked by police & intelligence officers” — Eleftherotypia (June 2010)
Hoodlums slash & rob Greek police” — Kathimerini (April 2010)
Five Molotov cocktails thrown at MAT” — Eleftherotypia (March 2010)
Gunmen seriously wound Greek riot police officer” — Reuters (January 5, 2009)
Gunmen kill Greek anti-terrorist policeman” — Reuters (June 2009)
Two Greek policeman shot in Athens” — AFP (April 2009)
Officers victims of hysteria” — Kathimerini (December 24, 2008)
Greek police car toppled” — AFP (December 23, 2008)
Shots fired at anti-riot police bus” — Reuters (December 23, 2008)
Greek riot policeman: Simply a man doing his job” — Kathimerini (December 19, 2008)
To police or not to police” — Kathimerini (December 11, 2008)
Protesters attack Greek police stations” — CBC
Witnesses tell stories of Greek police brutality” — BBC
Father to son: If you get good grades, I’ll take you to the riot” — Kathimerini
Greek riot police ask to be withdrawn after 14-hour shifts, continued injuries” — Kathimerini
Professional soldiers allowed to join special forces” — Ta Nea
Off-duty policeman jumped, dragged and beaten by hooded mob” — AP
Half of policemen voted for neo-Nazi party” — To Vima
Police chief extorted foreigners” — Kathimerini
DIAS cops twice as likely to die off duty in moto accident than civilians” — To Vima

Related Posts

“I feel a deep sense of despair, as I watch my country roll down an endless hill” — Kathimerini
If you have money, you’re innocent” — BBC (Your Stories)
Who are the protesters?” — Al Jazeera
Riots erupt outside Athens courthouse during police testimony” — CBC

Source note

Vasilis is one of many MAT officers I know, and the interview I originally published above with a Greek rioter chosen at random was removed. I’d hoped to present that interview, along with an interview with an anarchist referred to me by a reader but he never agreed to an appointment or answered my questions via email after I sent a questionnaire.

I would like to thank my readers for their constructive criticism.

Personal note

I have riot fatigue, so this will be my (next to) last post on the subject. People who know and/or live in Greece understand that strikes, demonstrations and riots are quite common so this is, as one of my readers put it, “Same sh!t, different day.” Yes, the sh!t is worse than normal, but this isn’t something new. It’s part of life in Greece, especially if one resides in Athens.


Because of expletives and name calling, I will once again state that all comments are welcome, but my policy in “Comments, Questions and Contacting Me” will be enforced. People proved me wrong about it being unnecessary to address manners.


  FMS wrote @ December 10th, 2008 at 15:04

Your interview with Vasilis is very revealing, and I think represents well the difficult position of the MAT forces. One general point, in response to Vasilis: Greek politicians have no respect for anyone; their own self-adulation and greed is what drives them, occasionally covered by a veneer of “respectability”. We have seen beneath that veneer recently, with the extensive corruption involving the two main parties.

THe interview with the anonymous rioter is less satisfying, and I think reflects the random choice of interviewee. There are legitimate grievances, and some of the rioters are more articulate than your interviewee about why rioting is the only option. On the other hand, the lack of a focused objective, and the lack of any actual demands made of the government, show the inexperience and naivete of most of the young rioters. It also shows how the corrupt traditional politics of patronage have failed the country: I doubt that Karamanlis or Papandreou will care though. In that sense, many of us are in some sympathy with the motivations of the rioters — although not with the consequences.

  Zoe wrote @ December 10th, 2008 at 16:45

Speaking to people from both sides of the fence gives your readers a glimpse into the reality of things. As for your rioting interviewee, I got the heebie-jeebies reading his responses to your questions, and am dumbfounded by how his parents (and so many of these rioters’ parents) are aware of what their kids are doing, and not saying one damn thing. So many of these kids live privileged lives… they’re “fighting” a system that has only helped secure the food they eat, the clothes they wear and the (private) schools they attend. It’s horrific and appalling.

  Perry wrote @ December 10th, 2008 at 16:52

I read your blog and I think you do a great job mostly, but I think you failed here. By your choice of subjects to interview, you have set up an extremely black and white view of the struggle. I don’t live in Greece and so I don’t know what the right perspective is but 50 years of living has shown me that it’s never, ever this black and white.

You have done yourself a disservice because unlike me (who reads you regularly), a person who comes to your blog through this post will likely find you to be one-sided and agenda-driven. I hope you take the criticism in the constructive manner with which it was intended.

  Vasilis wrote @ December 10th, 2008 at 16:59

Some of us suspect that criminals and bored children of the middle class make up a large percentage of the rioters. And when it comes to those bored well-off kids, they take out on society their frustration at their parents and their parents’ choices. And their parents let them inflict havoc on innocent people. And this makes some of us very angry. With the kids and their idiot parents.

  Luis wrote @ December 10th, 2008 at 17:01

No me creo que ese chico pueda ser un arnarquista. Realmente es indignante que un periodista coja a un crio y le haga preguntas para colarnos una entrevista que no es otra cosa que un insulto a una ideología.

Ese crio no sabe ni lo que es un gobierno como para saber lo que está haciendo. Puede que haya muchos chicos así en los disturbios, pero también habrá poetas y escritores, catedráticos y sobre todo ciudadanos libres con las ideas claras.

Por otro lado aunque el policia que han escogido parece muy majo debemos recordar que son policias, y por lo tanto que su finción es quitar libertad y defender a los poderosos. Basicamente oprimir.

  Leondias wrote @ December 10th, 2008 at 17:08

i don not think that putting in comparison a voice of a MAT officer that is clearly a thinker and a voice of a rioter with no reason provides the gists of the hole citation. It looks like the hole article is kind of biased.
No offense.

  Leondias wrote @ December 10th, 2008 at 17:45

my bad if what i said sounded like i was accusing you. I was only trying to say that from this post someone could not get subjective opinion of the situation. He / She could easily understand that people with no kind of any ideological background take advantage of the situation and unfold their violent emotions.

  Alysia wrote @ December 10th, 2008 at 17:58

I’m glad you did this story. It’s unfortunate that the rioter didn’t have something meaningful to say besides his omissions of reason.

I really enjoy Greek modern history, and have (in my limited circle, which has broadened a little) sensed the dissatisfaction with this government, as eventually happens every few years.

I also understand that everyone wants something better for themselves, but no one takes any responsibility.

Youth in my own family have certainly had some VERY unfortunate experiences with the police here – I am told that the police are usually quite young and volatile. And I have also heard that they are more interested in provoking than policing. Who knows, really.

Re the rioting, and taking into consideration said experiences with police, my dad who was at the University the year before the University violence 35 years ago, said “Let them burn the city before we quietly accept the death of one child.”

But thank you for taking the time. I always enjoy the information you provide.

  Kostas wrote @ December 10th, 2008 at 18:00

Excellent interviews. I don’t know any MAT, so it was interesting to understand more about their job and struggles. I also don’t know any rioters, but there are a lot of young people in this generation who believe the whole world is owing them something. This comes frm the sense of entitlement they feel given to them by their parents. That it’s ok to mouth off, take money, whine and complain until they get what they want without having to do hard work and earn their way in life. It’s not a far stretch to understand that some of these same kids might be responsible for destroying things in riots without feeling there are doing something wrong or takes any responsibility for his actions.

Maybe when they grow up, they will see the error of their ways. But I suspect that most never grow out of a habit and instead pass it to their children, and it goes on and on…

  Christopher wrote @ December 10th, 2008 at 18:06

I’m going to have to agree with the critique given by the others. The main problem is you ask a lot of leading questions. I know obviously you’re not a lawyer or professional interviewer, but the leading questions definitely make the piece seem agenda-driven, as another commenter stated. Also, if you had found a glib rioter and an idiot cop, the whole piece could have come off completely opposite of how it actually did.

I know you say you’re done with the issue, but if you do wish to interview a true anarchist, one who is actively involved with the anarchist organization (an oxymoron, I know), I can put you in touch with a friend of mine. He will provide a better picture than some random kid off the street.

Besides that, thanks for making these posts, and all your posts in general! It’s much more interesting reading something written by a non-Greek resident of Greece than by some CNN reporter dispatched to cover the news.


  Perry wrote @ December 10th, 2008 at 18:13

Kat, I just had one more thought. The interview with the MAT officer published alone may have made this a better post. Once again, just my opinion. Your blog, your choice. Cheers!

  George wrote @ December 10th, 2008 at 18:43


Thanks for fascinating and very useful reportage. I’m a Greek -American who travels to Greece fairly often and has strong ties to the culture and I’ve been following the events closely. While I agree that the interview with the demonstrator found “at random” was probably not very representative , I think it did serve a purpose as an actual example of the worst extreme version of a typical sort of clueless overprivileged young “neo-ellinaki” sort of kid. You might want to restore it in some other context.

On the other hand, there is a justifiable rage at the Greek class system, with its culture of corruption and kleptocracy , which I suspect is motivating the less mindless teen and college-age “rioters” and deserves to be seen as a balance to the MAT officer’s sympathetic portrait.
Keep up the good work, it is being appreciated.

  Vasilis wrote @ December 10th, 2008 at 19:04

It is “balanced’ to show an interview with well-read anarchist with strong philosophical foundation ONLY if you think this is the majority of the rioters. And it is NOT the majority of the rioters, no one claims it is the majority of the rioters, not even bloggers participating in the riots themselves.

The policeman may have been an acquintenance but he is still typical in terms of his upbringing, level of education and other characteristics, as it seems. Christopher’s friend does NOT sound typical for the crowds that looted Athens the past three days, he sounds like a presumptive intellectual or leader. Please DO NOT advance ex post rationalizations, greek TV is full of them.

  George wrote @ December 10th, 2008 at 19:09

As Americans, we have to admit (or at least this one does-) how amazing and sort of humbling it is to watch a nation’s entire generation of kids be motivated to rebel in the streets over the notion that authorities have murdered one– just one, mind you– of their own. And how astonishing it is (for an American) to see the extent to which that anger at a murderous abuse of authority (real or exaggerated) is exhibited also by much of the official media establishment.

I don’t necessarily disagree with your perspective on contemporary Greece, as I understand it.
But- Say what you will about modern Greeks– and there’s plenty to complain about- at least they are not yet a nation of sheep. Unlike some other societies we may know…

  photene wrote @ December 10th, 2008 at 19:21

I think that trying to say that this post should be a “gallup” type is unfair, this is one person’s experience trying to get another person’s experience “on the record” for people outside of this conflict.

I find it enlightening, that the person who chose to speak to you can’t clearly express himself. Why? Because he has no fundamental understanding of why he’s doing what he’s doing.

He enjoys all the priveleges of an “upper class lifestyle” but when push comes to shove, he doesn’t do the “right thing” and stand up for what his family has built – he decides to “go to a party” and that in my opinion is exactly what’s going on – mob mentality.

Greece, if not for the British troops after WWII would be a communist state, it’s clear that while Greece wants to have the freedoms that democratic nations both suffer and enjoy, she is most definitely not ready.

In my opinion, the influx of immigrants, rising unemployment, the ongoing corruption of the government (on all sides), the natural disasters she has faced as a result of greed, etc., and the ongoing belief of her people that the government owes them a job, paycheck, pension, and a quality of life that rivals the countries she most despises, the UK and the US primarily, is a clear indication of her primary issue – an “identity crisis”.

Greece was not ready to join the EU and is still not ready to join the world as modern nation that is willing to make the fundamental changes she needs to in order to gain any respect or influence on the world stage.

Until such time as Greece decides to “GROW UP” she will continually face the issues she does today.

These riots have broken me down to tears.

Bottom line for me – these riots are the result of criminals – home grown terrorists in my view – and until the government decides that they’re not going to allow criminals to disrupt the country – let Greece burn. Maybe then the government can give all these folks jobs – digging graves and shoveling ashes – definitely resume building careers that they can take back with them to wherever…..

  Tauros wrote @ December 10th, 2008 at 19:23

Hi Kat!

I look forward to reading your interview with the “true anarchist”. Be especially interesting to hear what he might say regarding the various conspiracy theories that abound concerning the organizing of actions; eg, a political party, extremist right wing groups that desire a return to a dictatorship, etc.

Regarding the hoodlum you interviewed, he is one of the great many herd-following idiots who have caused such damage over the last few days. My circle of very close friends includes a large number of Greek public high school teachers that I have known for years. FWIW, I can assure you that your random interview with him very well captures the thought-process (or lack thereof) of a great many Greek high school students. It appears that they only start to mature into some kind of responsible adulthood when they are forced to face the prospect of actually having to work for a living. It’s clear your interviewee hasn’t yet reached that point. (And when he does, he may well demonstrate from time to time, but will more than likely eschew the idiotic violence.)

I know quite a few police officers ranging from “street cops” to very high-ranking officers, though I don’t actually know anyone in MAT. Regardless, Vassilis’ comments are also very typical of the thinking in the police force. The great many want to do the right thing, but feel under-trained, underpaid, over-controlled, and un-respected. And the sad fact is, they’re right on all counts.

Overall, despite the various critiques you received on methodology, you captured very well the thinking of two of the main groups in this matter. Adding an interview with the “true anarchist” will round out the article, but I recommend you not delete the interview with the rioter above, because in the last few days, people like him greatly outnumber the “professional” rioters that usually cause the violence, and the aspect of their significant involvement should be considered when addressing this issue. Look forward to part 2!

  Barbayiannis wrote @ December 10th, 2008 at 20:13

The interview with the policeman shows a decent man trying to do his best in a difficult situation. I’m willing to believe he’s typical.

As for the rioters, their political psychology has been described with admirable cogency by Lenin in his classic essay, Left-Wing Communism: an Infantile Disorder:

“A petty bourgeois driven to frenzy by the horrors of capitalism is a social phenomenon which, like anarchism, is characteristic of all capitalist countries. The instability of such revolutionism, its barrenness, and its tendency to turn rapidly into submission, apathy, phantasms, and even a frenzied infatuation with one bourgeois fad or another — all this is common knowledge.”

  k asimakopoulos wrote @ December 10th, 2008 at 20:32

I had the gumption to approach a “rioter” this Monday night, close enough to smell the gas on his hands and clothes. My probings were similar to Kat’s…The answers, chillingly similar as well. The similar thing between my interaction with a participate and Kat’s is that they both seemed unsure of why they were doing what they were doing. Let us all stop critiquing the blog and discuss the subject of the matter. Maybe this could help us all… The ones that love Greece.

Oh yeah…its grand not hearing helicopters buzzing around my street like the past few nights.
Goodnight Athina

lets hope you wake up tomorrow

  Tauros wrote @ December 10th, 2008 at 22:32


This is way off-topic, but felt I needed to say it. Delete, edit, amend, copy, whatever you see fit.

Photene wrote “Greece, if not for the British troops after WWII would be a communist state…”

That is a gross over-simplification of a complex subject that has many books devoted to it. Thus a response in this forum is necessarily also over-simplified; howver if one had to state the three main factors in the defeat of KKE (formed in 1941 with EAM as the political arm and ELAS as the military arm) in the Greek civil war (1944-1949) they would probably be: (1) British support until 1947 (including an agreement they later reneged on with KKE to allow them a part in the Gov’t — ELAS had been the primary organizers of the Greek resistance during the war and could easily have taken control of the country in 1944), when they were unable to continue supporting the Greek Gov’t as a full-scale civil war broke out; (2) The massive US aid that was provided from that point on under the Truman Doctrine; and, (3) The split between the Tito and Stalin (and a subsequent split in the Greek communists’ loyalties that led to neither the Soviets nor Yugoslavia providing much more than moral support to the Greek communists).

Bottom line is that the British played a significant role in the fight against communism in Greece, but it’s a very hard argument to make that Greece did not end up a communist state after WWII if not for British troops.

  graffic wrote @ December 11th, 2008 at 00:37

Just amazing. Everybody repeating the same things we could see in the streets without giving any more light to the problem with “the police”. And then you came up with the interview idea. Great!

Not much to say, just thank you very much for the reading. My RSS reader is waiting anxiously for the other interview :)

  Margaret wrote @ December 11th, 2008 at 01:45

Kat, thanks for publishing this fascinating interview with the MAT officer. Your writing seems much more immediate and closer to what is happening than anything I read in newspapers here, and your interview humanises an otherwise alienating set of events. I shall be very interested to read the two interviews you intend to post.


  Kat wrote @ December 11th, 2008 at 01:57

FMS — I believe my interview went better with Vasilis because we know each other and he trusts me, so there is a comfort level and candidness that’s lacking when you interview a stranger. Plus, the rioter and I were on the street and he was technically “working.” Not the best circumstances, but I do the best with what I’m given. Through my informal survey, it does appear that most rioters are similar to the profile I presented. There’s just no way to know, and what is “average” anyway?

Zoe — There are only a few hundred rioters, so I’m hoping the other millions have very good parents that keep them in check. Difficult to say though because I’ve met both strict and lax parents. Many of my Greek friends say they were allowed to do as they pleased growing up, no real rules and no real questions; but their parents made it clear that participating in any sort of violence was unacceptable.

Perry — Mostly do a good job? Hmmm. OK.

Vasilis — True. Many people echo the sentiments you expressed. I wanted to see if it was true or not by interviewing someone at random, which I did, but…

Perry, Luis & Leonidas — My source notes at the end of the post clearly disclose that I knew the MAT officer and unfortunately had to choose a rioter randomly from the street. Why? Because I do not personally know a rioter or anyone else who does, even though I made a point of asking around. Therefore, my selection was limited to whoever was on the street AND someone who was willing to speak to me (a non-Greek). At least a dozen people said ‘no’ before I found this person; and because he did not know me, nor I him, it is possible he held back his answers and did not feel comfortable to elaborate as Vasilis did. There is also a 10-year age difference, their parents clearly raised them differently, and they’re from different social classes — all of that is made obvious in the interviews from their answers.

While Greeks in Greece have told me through comments and in personal emails that they find the rioter interview true to life, I do realize that it looks unbalanced, but there’s not much I can do about that if others refuse to speak. If I had not made the disclosure, then you could accuse me of bias and trying to present a black-and-white situation. But that’s not what I did — I told you up front. They are also conversations that I let go where they may; neither was a bait-and-see or prepared question type interview.

I also do not claim the profiles represent the whole situation, as only interviewing every person in Greece would accomplish that. There are never only two sides; there are dozens of sides. This post is about two people who agreed to speak. That’s all. Please take it for what it is.

Alysia — It’s true that many police officers start young, usually right after the army since many of them do not go to university. MAT officers are recruited young because they are in their prime, and in a sense the job demands that. I’m sure many people have issues with police; after all, no one likes them.

Like your father, I’ve met some people who are totally OK with burning down a city without knowing if someone is guilty or not. All they see is an innocent dead and want someone to pay, which is ironic because I doubt they would be this vigilant if it was someone they knew personally…or if they themselves were guilty. Then it becomes about what they can get away with. Just to be clear, I’m not directing my comment at your father, just society in general.

Kostas — Nice to see you again, and thank you. Indeed, many beliefs and behaviors (good and bad) are passed through generations without questioning why or stopping a known pattern. Why change (painful) when you can blame (easy)? Btw, I’m not saying this is unique to Greece; this is common worldwide.

Christopher — Actually, I let the conversation go where it may. I did not have prepared questions, which in my opinion would be leading. I also did not intentionally seek out a particular person, just someone willing to speak freely. Randomness is a part of life. But I do respect your and others’ opinions and constructive criticism. I will take you up on your offer, however I almost think this would be more intentional, leading and biased than my original interview because I am being led to a certain person. Lastly, thank you for your compliment.

Perry — I had the same thought just as your comment came through — we must be on the same wavelength. The original and different interview will be published together.

George — Hello and nice to meet you. There’s no way we can we judge if he was representative or extreme because some people say ‘yes’ and others say ‘no.’ The only way to do that is to interview every rioter, and I don’t see how that’s possible. I still believe the profile served a purpose, as you said. Perhaps it was too much of a stark contrast when presented with the MAT profile. And for the record, I did not portray the MAT officer in a sympathetic light — he is what he is, and his words are unedited. Thank you for the compliment and encouragement.

Vasilis — I agree with you wholeheartedly, however let’s just see what happens. Two more contacts to rioters were offered, and I’ll check them and choose one (again at random) without prescreening.

George — It has not been proven to be murder, so I believe such destruction against innocent shop keepers and businesses is unwarranted. Law and order is a basic civil right, and respecting that does not make one a sheep. Lawlessness is how the government got so f***cked up to begin with, and there is plenty of apathy to go around. Many won’t bother to ask questions or raise a complaint about something legitimate because they figure, “Why bother? In the end, I will have wasted my breath, money and energy for nothing.” And it’s easy to understand that attitude if you’ve ever been to a public sector office for five days in a row trying to take care of one thing. I’ve developed the opposite trait of vigilant stubbornness, and this comes from being nearly invisible as a non-Greek female immigrant. I don’t mind if you do disagree with my point of view, just remember that the context in which you see and experience Greece as a male of Greek origin is completely different than mine as low woman on totem pole. There are many perspectives on Greece, and all of them are correct.

Photene — You sum up exactly what I was trying to do. Just get one person’s thoughts on the record without presumption, prediction or preparation. I cannot address the midsection of your comment because I do not know enough to speak intelligently, but I’ve entertained thoughts of hoodlums being rounded up, detained and having their parents pay 5000 euros apiece to break them out to help defray the cost of damage. (I know it won’t happen, but anyway :) ). I don’t think the government’s offer of assistance should come from taxpayer money or be loans that need to be repaid.

Tauros — Because of your experience and knowledge, I appreciate the validation of my original interview, just as I appreciate others (such as Vasilis, Kostas, et al) who also said it was an accurate portrayal. I also believe Vasilis is typical. The other MAT I know are similar to him, then I know one superior officer and one newbie who is a bit primitive. I temporarily removed the original interview and will present it with the next. They may still be two extremes. Tha doume.

Barbayiannis — You always present succinct, thought-provoking references, as does Tauros. It’s very much appreciated.

KA – Nice to see you here again. I appreciate the validation from your random, real-life experience, and thank you for sharing that. I believe we can all agree on one thing: We all love Ellada, and we do not want further destruction to come to her. Be careful out there!

Meg — I didn’t publish your comment as requested, but I wanted to let you know that you have my permission to do what you said regarding this post and the other (if you like), as long as you cite this as your source. It’s never a bad thing to clearly communicate independent information to create understanding.

Graf — As you know, I started this website to present something different, and I try very hard to keep doing that. I think all of us are tired of the same things over and over, night and day on different channels in many languages; it just contributes to the fatigue, in my opinion. Filakia and good night my friend.

Margaret — Thank you stopping by and for the kind words! It makes it worth it, when I hear things like that. :)

Unfortunately, the riots continue this evening. That means I need to turn in and look forward to another long day tomorrow! I’m hoping to wake up and find peace. Goodnight, everyone!

  Simon Baddeley wrote @ December 11th, 2008 at 02:30

Thanks so much, Kat. This shows how quality narrowcasting now competes – successfully – with broadcasting when it comes to a covering a complicated fast moving crisis. I’ve been listening and watching mainstream news in English, but the extra insight provided by you and a blogger in Corfu (I’m in UK at the moment) is invaluable. I’m not surprised you have riot fatigue. It’s tiring to watch things unfolding even 2000k away. I find it very difficult to know what to think, but I feel grief. Greece is not a foreign country.

  Perry wrote @ December 11th, 2008 at 03:42

Kat, you wrote, Perry — Mostly do a good job? Hmmm. OK.

One of my comments must have got caught in your spam filter. Taken in context with my other comments, I think you would find that my opinion of you and your blog is much higher than it appears here without the comment. :)

Be that as it may, let me be perfectly clear:

You’ve done a great job here of reading/responding to comments and keeping an open mind. Your blog reflects a labor of love and is of the highest quality. Thank you!

  Steve wrote @ December 11th, 2008 at 05:19

A very insightful interview – well done. While I can sympathize with the Police officer I don’t believe that a tougher response would lead to a long-term solution. The real failure belongs to the Greek government who have ignored the fact that this is a political issue, not a law and order issue. To defuse this crisis they need to put forward a plan to address Greece’s universally acknowledged political problems. The MAT officer is likely correct, there is more than an element of childishness about these riots (one particular Youtube video shows these demonstrators mounting a concerted attack on a recycling bin!) but despite this, there are real problems that need to be solved. Containing the frustrated Ipod generation is one thing – but if Greek workers took to the streets, with similar levels of anger, then defending the state would probably require lethal force – something that must be avoided at all costs.

  YooNoHoo wrote @ December 11th, 2008 at 07:12

I’ve had some experience dealing with MAT in the past. I was assigned to the US Air Force base at Helleniko during the late 1980s, and I found the MAT officers very polite, and professional considering the abuse they attracted from the less desirable citizens of Greece.

I tend to believe the Greek Police in situations like this, and not some half-baked screaming protesters.

Just my opinion, and to Photene, actually, it wasn’t because of British forces that Greece did not fall to Communism, but rather Truman’s Marshall Plan. Unfortunately, many Greeks today either forget or are too ashamed to admit the US actually helped Greece.

  George wrote @ December 11th, 2008 at 07:16

Just wanted to reassure you that I tend to agree with your impressions of the typical perpetrators of street violence.

You wrote, picking up on my comment–“Law and order is a basic civil right, and respecting that does not make one a sheep.” Quite so; however when the people fail to recognize those times when lawless authority must be challenged, then they risk becoming “sheeple”– just to clarify, I was making that point more about my own USA — which I often think of as a nation of sheep–than about Greece. I did want to point out that an ethical framework that claims to put so much more value on a single human life than on property provides quite an intriguing contrast to the contemporary US. However, the sort of street violence you have been suffering through is, I agree, totally not justfiable, and largely the work of insipid clowns like your “rioter” interviewee.

And yes, as a male of Greek heritage, who has spent time in Greece but never lived there, I have the luxury of making these sort of observations– whereas you have to live amongst all the nuttiness in your own circumstances.

Thanks again

  toomanytribbles wrote @ December 11th, 2008 at 11:08

although i found your interview with the MAT officer very revealing, i find that your choice of rioter was not indicative of the rioters’ level. i consider both groups to be victims, as are the shopkeepers, residents and innocent bystanders. and most of all alexi.

and the people who are truly responsible still stand.

  phillip wrote @ December 11th, 2008 at 14:52

Hi Kat, I enjoyed reading this article, and I think it shows the riot police in a better light, as it’s not exactly fair what’s happened to them either, and the officer makes references that puts more of the blame concerning this crisis on the government for not doing its job, which is what I believe to be the true reason behind these riots. It’s a strange irony, though. Your MAT officer expressed a lack of job satisfaction, low pay, horrible working hours and random schedule, no training. I mean, this is exactly why some of these rioters are rioting. And he’s supposed to be containing the rioters. Obviously Vasili is a good guy who doesn’t believe in destroying things to make a point. And in the beginning I didn’t believe in destroying things either. But I have a hard time now believing that peaceful demonstrations would make a difference. The government just does not care, and I think the only thing that’s gonna get their attention is what’s going on now. They would laugh at anything else. How many labor strikes have we had and little has changed as a result?

I don’t like seeing squares that I used to frequent surrounded by shops with smashed up windows. I don’t like seeing downtown streets empty or passing by a burned Christmas tree in the middle of Syntagma square. I find it incredibly sad. But I just can’t blame the rioters. I can’t find it in myself to blame them in the least bit. The ones that are joining in with a mob mentality that don’t really have a point except everyone’s doing so why not I? That’s not what I mean. It’s the premise behind the whole thing, and I do believe there is a premise, a point. Since I’ve been in this country, which is not that long–3 years, I have met so many Greeks that are so unsatisfied with their country, and they feel totally defeated that they will find anything better. There’s a bleak future for them here, same as your interviewee. Who’s fault is that? Theirs? I don’t think so. Do they want to destroy things for no reason? I don’t think so. There is a reason. A pretty good reason actually.

So, in your last post I wrote that I thought the government should resign. I still believe that. I believe they’ve lost the right to run this country. No, they probably won’t be replaced by any heros who will rescue the floundering economy or create a bright future for the youth of Ellas. So in that respect, what’s the point? If no one can fix it, then what’s the point of doing anything except watch it fall? Is Karamanlis capable of fixing anything? If so, what would make them do it? I don’t think my suggestion of changing the guard will really solve anything long-term, but it might stop the rioting in the short term, and that’s an improvement over the current situation. But I think what’s most important is that this government has clearly lost its right to run the country. It had its chance and it squandered it. I know PASOK has many problems, and the smaller parties don’t seem to agree on hardly anything, but a lot of my friends remember the PASOK days as being better. Maybe those days are over forever, I don’t know how to fix things other than to make things look better, and I think Karamanlis’ resignation would look like someone at the top who’s taking some responsibility, or at least acknowledging that they screwed up. That’s a beginning.

  photene wrote @ December 11th, 2008 at 15:47

To all – I was not attempting to boil the civil war after WWII down to one country’s support – it is my understanding that the first troops that rolled in to support the democratic gov’t were Brits. I absolutely know that it was a much more complicated and organized effort.

I was merely trying to express that Greece has a history of leaning left – and extreme left at that and that without the support she received after WWII – IN MY VIEW!!!! – Greece would be a communist country today if not for that effort.

My two cents – I wish you all the very best.

Keep it up Kat, this blog is fantastic.

  Nick wrote @ December 11th, 2008 at 16:21

Firstly, I would like to say thanks for your great blog. I’ve only recently discovered it (a few months ago) but have found it very accurate and prepared to tackle to some difficult issues.

I feel compelled to write as a half Greek living in the UK with a Greek father (and extended family) living in Athens to offer my views.

Firstly I would like to say that I’m very sorry for the family of Alex – this was a horrible tragedy that should never have happened. If the policeman who shot him is found to have done so through anything less than a terrible accident, he should face the most severe punishment possible.

However, and I know that this probably won’t be a popular view; I do feel that the Police and government were to some extent in a “no win” situation in the events leading up to this tragedy. Only a few weeks ago I was reading in Kathimerini about the pressure they were under from people living in Exarchia district (and others – including Omonia Sq) to stop the crime and anarchist attacks there from spiralling out of control. It seemed that everybody had a view about it and Kathimerini were giving them a real hard time (deservedly) over their inaction in these areas. So, when I was last in Athens at the end of October, I was surprised to see the number of police patrolling the area around Omonia and pleasantly surprised at how different the atmosphere (which, let’s face it, was getting more dangerous by the minute) seemed to be in the area. That this action has somehow come to a head with the death of a young boy is, to me, even more tragic.

The problem that I now see for the future of Greece (and particularly Athens) is that this situation will make the government and Police take a backward step and stop trying to tackle these issues – just as they may have been beginning to see some results. This could plunge Greece into an ever increasing violent crime problem with the Police and government powerless and reluctant to use any force to prevent it.

The worst thing I could see happening now would be any kind of a cover up of what happened that night. To my mind there must be an immediate enquiry that must be honest and totally transparent.

This, of course, doesn’t tackle the other problems that the rioters were demonstrating about – but those are issues which should surely be looked at within their own right and should not be amalgamated and confused with this awful event.

Of course, I am writing this as someone who is a visitor to Athens, and not as a resident, and so I realise that I may not be getting the whole picture.

  Tauros wrote @ December 11th, 2008 at 18:50


I need to correct something I garbled in my previous post regarding foreign aid to Greece after WWII: KKE was actually formed around 1918; it was EAM and ELAS that were formed in 1941 in a KKE-dominated coalition.

In any event, Photene is right that the first troops (in any significant number) to arrive in Greece following WWII were British. This was due to agreements that Churchill made with Stalin (Brits would have Greece, but would leave Romania to the Soviets) and with Roosevelt, whose main concern was that Greece not fall into the Soviet sphere and was perfectly willing at that point to let the Brits take the task of supporting democracy in Greece. It was also significant that in return for being promised a place in the Government of post-war Greece, EAM agreed to the Brits’ presence. If they hadn’t, few historians believe that any country had the strength and/or desire to fight their way back into Greece against a battle-hardened force of 70-80 thousand fighters that made up ELAS at that point. It is interesting to note that one of the main reasons ELAS was so strong at that point is the very significant aid that they received from the British during the war. (Arguably a mistake – in hindsight – that the US has made a few times herself. :) )

Greece has a history of leaning left? Probably fair to say that. Extreme left? Very arguable. KKE was the really the first extreme-left group of any significance in Greece as far as I can tell, and they appeared about as successful as Morman missionaries in converting Greeks to their cause. They did do very well with various minority groups, reaching a height of about 9% of the vote in 1935. Then of course Metaxas seized power, set out to destroy the communists and was very successful in strongly repressing them until war with Italy diverted his attention and then his death in 1941. How much support would they have from 1936 to 1941 if not repressed by a dictatorial regime? No one knows. They were very strong during and for a while after the war, not so much for their idealogy as for the fact that they had formed the bulk of the active resistance against the German occupation and thus gained a lot of popular support. Since then, they have not played a significant role in the big scheme of things in Greece

Finally, Photene, please don’t take offense at my long-windedness on the subject. Some people in Greece throw rocks at policemen and destroy property to vent their frustration, in this case I took a dead horse and beat on it some more. :)

  Kat wrote @ December 12th, 2008 at 01:22

Simon — A compliment from you is high praise indeed. I’m flattered, and thank you. :) Enjoy your time in the UK until you return to the patrida.

Perry — I do appreciate the constructive criticism, just so you know. There are off days, and suggestions for improvement are welcome if “mostly” is deserved. Thanks!

Steve — Hello and welcome! It is about serious political issues and the government’s refusal or inability to enforce them. I couldn’t agree more. Workers taking to the street happens a lot. In March-April, for example, many of us were without electricity, mail service, water, garbage service and gas. The general public suffers more than the government, which means they are not affected or compelled to take action. It goes back to having no respect for us.

YooNoHoo — There are good and bad guys in all professions. I wouldn’t be friends with these MAT guys if they were bad.

George — In the USA, the strategy would need to be different. For example, I’ve seen people get things through boycotting a brand because consumerism is (or used to be) king, so speaking with your dollar is powerful. There is a lot of coordination between authorities at all levels, so riots usually break out during natural disasters when state police, fire brigades, etc. are stressed and stretched. I’d also like to call the USA and Greece, “our” countries since you and I belong to both, regardless our legal domiciles.

TMT — I did not premeditate choosing this rioter, and I feel this was more real because he didn’t know what I would ask and his answers were spontaneous. And if he was indeed not indicative, then why has there been confirmation by others that he was? Was I supposed to pick and choose until I found an intelligent, articulate rioter who would say what I wanted to hear? The fact is, we’ll never agree on who is the average rioter even if we survey the whole lot because we all have personal biases and reasons to deny what’s shown to us. Therefore, I stand by my interview and feel people should take it for what it is. You know I still like you, right?

Phillip — As a non-Greek female immigrant, I’m twice as likely as any other group in Greece to be unemployed and have the lowest salary. But as a sensible person, I know that I can’t do anything legally or illegally to force a result. That doesn’t mean I have reason to smash and destroy things; there are other ways to vent anger and frustration — sports, exercise, moving away from the country, etc. If rioters wanted to really get the attention of government, I say go to their houses and wreak havoc there, not on innocent shopkeepers and businesses upon which this economy depends.

Nick — I appreciate you saying ‘hello’ after reading me for a few months. It’s always nice to make the acquaintance of readers and understand their thoughts. I and many would agree with you that it’s a ‘no win’ situation, and yes Alexi’s death puts them in a very precarious position. You don’t always need to be in Greece to understand a situation if you know its history and are in touch with people on the ground who can give you a range of perspectives, then do a thoughtful analysis. I believe you’ve done that. Lastly, transparency is a major issue here, and part of the reason this website was created.

Tauros — “I took a dead horse and beat on it some more” LOL. :D

  Demitris wrote @ December 12th, 2008 at 01:24

Thanks for the story Kat, very informative. I think that picture of the guy screaming at the MAT officer just about sums it up. People are afraid that crime will continue to increase or even spiral out of control due to all these events. I can agree with that. The Greek government seriously needs to look into training it’s police officers a lot better.

I stay in a country with an unacceptably high crime rate where people now rely on private security firms for their protection. I hope to never see that happen in Greece but if the current situation doesn’t improve it could very well become a reality in the next 10-15 years. Greeks are already super paranoid about the immigrants living in the country and playing the blame game. I can see things getting very ugly indeed.

My general impression of the Greek police is mostly positive though. I think the majority of men and women who are in the force are dedicated to serving the public and I think they do us Greeks proud rather than shame us. It’s just that they will be able to do a better job with more support from the government. Citizens should also stand beside the people who protect them and pledge full support. Calling them pigs and humiliating them is definitely not the way to go.

A very important thing that citizens should not do is allow fear and paranoia to take over, that’s the first step at losing the battle against crime. People also need to become more community orientated and this is possible even in big cities like Athens.

Some people often say that the police should be using more force, that should strictly depend on the situation at hand but in most cases it does more harm than good. In many inner cities the police have applied more force only causing criminals to become more violent, organized & make use heavier arms. Today’s Nigerian drug lords who have pretty much taken over the inner city of Johannesburg were running prostitution rings a decade ago. Back then they would merely carry knives and the odd gun, today they carry weapons on them that would shame most armies.

The police tried to drive them out using extensive force, at times it seemed like the good guys were winning. All that happened was the criminals would upgrade their weapons, their numbers would swell and many times even outsmart the cops. Today it’s a hopeless situation where these thugs own the streets and have taken over property that doesn’t belong to them while running their lucrative illegal drug empires.

I think this should be sobering for most.

  phillip wrote @ December 12th, 2008 at 15:29

Yes, it’s not in my nature to smash windows, and I can’t imagine throwing a motolov cocktail at a bank or rocks at the police. It’s not in your nature either Kat. You don’t agree with that, or condone it, and you believe there’s a better way. I would like to believe that there is a better way in this country, but I’m just not so sure. I believe that in Greece, you have to apply a different set of rules in order to make things work, and then things may not work anyway. Or the point is not to make things work, but to make a mess. I think about the way things are in the states, that there’s organization, people stand in lines and wait in queues. Here they just go for it. Forget planning, don’t organize, just go for it. Not all Greeks are like that, but a lot are. And some of them may not even want to do things that way, but so many other people do it that way that you find that if you don’t it yourself, you lose out. So you become more aggressive.

But concerning the rioters, the ones who might be doing this to protest a lame government… Of course, I’m not in their situation. In so many ways I’m not in their situation. I’m not from this country, only an observer. I’ve got better opportunities in this country than they do. I do have to work more than one job to have money. I’m in their situation in that respect. But I’m able to make a good salary. I would say I’ve had a fairly OK time in Greece so far, although I think that could change at any moment. And no, I won’t go smashing things if that happens. My opportunities are still too good. I do have something to lose. But in the event that my jobs dry up or my company closes and I had to leave, well… I could find myself having to leave because it’s not working out anymore, if the economy tanks so bad, etc., and why would I suffer so much to live in a country that I’m not from and to fight for a country, for a better life here, when I’ve only been here a short time? The thing is…I CAN leave. Just sell my stuff, get a plane ticket, go somewhere else with more stability, go back to the states (gag, never). But what are the rioters and protesters who are Greek and can’t leave or don’t want to leave but want to stay and fight for their country, for a better life here, to take away from the hands of the rich, powerful do-nothings what they deserve better–what are they going to do? They are just sick of it. They have so much anger and rage, and I don’t think exercising or just picking up and moving is gonna work. The parents of these young rioters–why don’t they keep their kids at home? Because they understand and they feel the same way. There is a blackness to souls of these people who move through the night like phantoms, fighting to change the rules of this country or simply fighting to destroy what those who cheated and stole hold so dearly until they know how it feels. Yes I know there are many of them who are just jumping on a bandwagon and are like sheeps themselves. One man’s freedom rioter could be the next afendiko. And some of them don’t know what they’re fighting against. But for those who have a point, I don’t think that they think there’s a better solution. The peaceful way would fall flat for them. No one has died, actually. The riots have not been that violent, when you think about it. The only one who has died is the one who’s death triggered the riots in the first place. Amazing that the death of one kid would spark such fury.

We are adults and foreigners from countries where if you even dared throw a molotov cocktail at a bank you’d be in jail for a year, if not longer. And you’d have to pay for the damages. But the situation in the states, in Britain, Australia, wherever–it’s the same everywhere. The rich are getting richer, politicians aren’t fixing anything but just taking the money, and that can’t go on forever. I’ve thought about what peaceful protests would be like here. I can see them not changing a thing. How many people protested the Iraq war in San Francisco? Like, half a million, if not more. And the war still happened. Even these riots in Greece, it’s doubtful that they’re gonna change anything. The storefronts on Amalias sparkle with new glass already. The shop owners–undoubtedly there will be those adversely affected, and that’s not fair. It’s not their fault that the economy is bad and that job prospects are bleak. But the majority of the stores hit were chain stores and banks. Bank branches on Filelinon shined this morning as I drove to work. Eurobank looks brand new. Better, actually. Cleaner.

I thought for a while that things would get better, but I realized that that was just my situation that was getting better. I’m pretty sure things are gonna get worse, so I imagine the shop owners should invest in solid rollers to protect their glass, and hopefully when the riots start again, because I’m sure they will, they’ll be protected. And if they can’t afford the rollers or get them installed in time, perhaps they should fly the black bin liners on their door handles, because the government won’t protect them, that’s for sure.

I’m just looking for a reason and a solution, as an observer from a foreign country, who came here to teach English and learn Greek and who doesn’t plan on leaving anytime soon. I’m learning that backwards is forwards here. It’s an interesting case in Greece, if not tragic, if not cyclical, if not irreparable, if not all as it should be. But it’s truly interesting to think about, when applied to the ways of this country…

What really would make a difference?

  Blackbird wrote @ December 13th, 2008 at 11:19

Thank you so much for your interview with the MAT officer.

It is a very sad time indeed when I must scour the internet to get both sides of the argument, instead of being able to rely on the ‘neutral, truth-seeking’ news.

  Nicholas wrote @ December 14th, 2008 at 03:37

Phillip, I totally agree with you…

  Demitris wrote @ December 14th, 2008 at 14:46

@ Phillip, you’ve pretty much nailed it. Though there are a few points I want to make. Having spent significant time in Greece, UK, South Africa & Australia I can safely say that Greece is no more backward than the other 3 countries. The big difference is that things are more in your face in Greece. And in all honesty, Greece’s problems are miniscule by comparison.

This is not a defense for the way things are in Greece I am just trying to put things in perspective. The biggest favor Greeks can do for themselves is get out of whinger’s club and look at the opportunities available to them (as Vasilis did). If they say that there are no opportunities, then it just seems to me that they favor complaining & procrastination over doing what is best for themselves.

  Izzy wrote @ December 14th, 2008 at 16:15

I want to qualify the following comments with this statement: I am a Northern European who chose to come to Greece. I care passionately about this country.

The recent riots have exposed the true face of Greece. Chaos has broken through. There is a political vacuum. Both major parties have failed. ND by inertia and corruption, PASOK by systematically destroying the state and brainwashing a generation with the romance of Panepistimio. The minor parties offer nothing but narrow dogma at best and dangerous sedition at worst. The media is a circus of lies, hysteria and theatrical wrangling. Politicians are businessmens’ whores, taking a fakilaki and shafting the nation.

How does the working man live on 1000 euros in a state where you must pay for an adequate level health and education? After nearly 20 years of socialist government, Greece is the least socialist country in Europe.

People have every right to be angry. But, what do I see? I see a nation where everyone does what he gustarei. Stand outside a supermarket and see how much care the average Greek has for his fellow citizen; see how he double parks to avoid walking ten paces. Take a look at the roadside at the piles of rubbish to see how the Greek loves his country.

The people get the government they deserve and until the average Greek takes a good hard look at himself and say, “yes we deserve better but it has to start with me the individual, or nothing will change.”

  bios wrote @ December 15th, 2008 at 06:36

” The big difference is that things are more in your face in Greece. And in all honesty, Greece’s problems are miniscule by comparison.

This is not a defense for the way things are in Greece I am just trying to put things in perspective.”

you obviously didn’t learn much from living in some of those other countries then.

how are the problems in Greece ‘miniscule’ compared to Australia? the job market is nowhere near as flexible. the streets are not as clean. the hospitals are in even worse condition. the public sector is plagued by corruption and lazyness.

if countries like Australia have a problem is that they are too organised for their own good sometimes. But to say that Greece is no more ‘backward’ than a country like Australia is just stupid.

Greece is at least 10-15 years behind most of the countries in the OECD on a number of significant issues.

“There is a blackness to souls of these people who move through the night like phantoms, fighting to change the rules of this country or simply fighting to destroy what those who cheated and stole hold so dearly until they know how it feels.”

nicely said.

  The Scorpion wrote @ December 15th, 2008 at 08:01

Izzy, I couldn’t agree more. Even some of the Greeks themselves seem to notice this. Have you seen the Greek TV commercial for a brand of GPS system that shows all the “screwed up” road signs covered by graffiti, stop sign in a lake, etc. The announcer says something like “In Greece you need GPS to get where you are going”. Ironically, it’s sad that this is the normal way of things even to be admitted by the elite, rather than fixing it. Sure, average Greeks may not have the sense or ability to fix things, but what of the elite who run this country and have been to the USA and see how infrastructure works. Why can they not bring this back with them upon their return from studying at Harvard?? They bring Starbucks, McDonalds, and all the other crap things of US Society but superior US infrastructure seems to have alluded them.

  Demitris wrote @ December 15th, 2008 at 22:16

@ bios – And you are obviously very ignorant of the problems facing your country. Granted Australia is a good, organized country – a great country that it’s made out to be by some it is not. You’re at least 20 years behind at addressing race issues. You also have the highest disparity between races & communities than any of the countries I’ve mentioned.

You have beautiful cities, which are already showing the typical signs of urban decay that most cities the world over go through. Yet your rural areas & smaller towns are in a sad state. They’re in far worse state than their equivalents in South Africa, which is saying something. Not to mention, just like in SA you have far more homeless people than there are in Greece.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I could give you a whole laundry list of problems Australia faces that you conveniently never mentioned. Perhaps these problems don’t effect you personally but they do effect other Australians & immigrants living in your country.

Don’t stick your hand in the sand. People are owning up and pointing out the problems facing Greece, which is an important first step towards finding solutions. It would be smart for people living abroad to take a long hard at their own countries and ask some serious questions. Before you wake up one day and ask what went wrong.

Kat Reply:

This article is about a MAT police officer. Please try to avoid infighting and straying too far off-subject. Thanks!

  spyros wrote @ December 17th, 2008 at 08:44

once again…well done Kat!

It is true, after dictatorship of 1967-1973, both police and army lost power because politicians wanted this, in fear that these forces might take charge again in the future. So now, they are simply manipulated by each goverment and have no power. I would really like to have stronger police, in such way to avoid all these riots. If police were stronger, 50 people would not be able to protest every week and damage shops and cars.

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