Thursday, 6 May 2010


“He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster.” - Friedrich Nietzsche

The latest events in Athens have left me exasperated and quite distraught. As I wrote in this blog a couple of days, the financial crisis in Greece was bound to have repercussions and the draconian economic measures that have been announced by the government were going to be the stimulus for a massive public outcry. Sure enough, thousands of protesters (at least 30,000 people, although some estimate double that number) took to the streets yesterday in an attempt to voice their dissent and displeasure against the economic measures, which are felt to target unfairly the poorer citizens.

The protest was peaceful up to a point as the march took the protesters towards the Parliament, where the protest was to culminate. However, the government maintains that a small proportion of the protesters were the “known-unknowns” (as the Greek press describes hooded anarchists who are behind a number of terrorist attacks). These hoodlums, they say, are the ones responsible for the heinous acts of terrorism that robbed three ordinary bank employees their life, amongst them a 4-month pregnant woman.

The Marfin Bank in central Athens, housed in a restored neoclassical building was the site targeted by the protesters. Molotov cocktails and large quantities of petrol were thrown through smashed windows of the bank and the building was immediately enveloped by flames, forcing occupants to seek escape via the roof, which unfortunately was inaccessible. The tragic loss of life occurred on the first storey, as people struggled to reach the balconies. Some succeeded while others were overcome by fumes and smoke. As well as the pregnant woman, another woman died and also a young man.

The march in Athens yesterday was frightening in terms of both size and brutality. Demonstrators in wild hordes stretched several kilometers throughout the central Athens maze of streets. The protest began from Pedion tou Areos (Field of Ares, named after the god of war). It is said by many eyewitnesses, that a lot of the protesters came prepared to do battle, armed with gas masks, sticks and Molotov cocktails. Apparently, this was not a case of just the usual suspects of the hooded “known unknowns” being violent, other ordinary citizens enraged by the crisis joined in too. The protest was fought by police with tear gas and once again the protesters maintain that the police used excessive violence, which further exacerbated the crowd’s anger.

It is in the nature of Greeks to dissent, protest, voice their displeasure, march and be actively anti-government. This is felt to be part of their democratic right. However, the line is drawn by most citizens at violence. The financial crisis and the worsening economic woes of the country may have changed the position of many people who feel as though they have suffered enough. However, at this point where some innocent workers found an agonised end in a firebombed building, and where the protesting mob caused the murderous tragedy, may be a trigger for some serious soul-searching.

Ironically, yesterday was the feast day of St Irene. In Greek, Irene means “Peace”. In the country where Western civilisation was born, maybe is fitting that Western civilisation’s death will commence here also. How sad, what a pity, what a great loss for humanity, what a tragedy…

1 comment:

  1. Violence is unacceptable to any civilised human being. Although we all object strongly to some unpleasant things we do not go around killing each other.
    What is happening in Greece is similar to what is happening in many other countries around the world...
    It is very sad, but I don;t think we have seen the last of it.