Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

The death of Alexandros on 6th of December 2008


  Memorial plate for Alexandros in Exarchia

Much of the graffiti and slogans written on walls are a mixture of revolt against current state of affairs and anger over so much corruption committed by the older generations. That loss of dialogue between the generations became very clear once the death of fifteen year old Alexandros on 6th of December 2008 sparked street riots throughout Athens and Greece. In its wake, the memorial plate for Alexandros became something like a political shrine with ever more graffiti and other tags on the walls to remind in what situation everyone finds him- or herself in.

6th of December 2008

What happened on the 6th of December can be reaccounted as follows. Given the date, it was the name day of Nikolas. For all those called in Greece by that name, it is a bigger celebration than the actual birthday. It amounts to observing the Greek Orthodox tradition, itself a system of how memory is organized through a highly decentralized and diffused system orientated towards the worship of icons.


                       Shrine at Lycabettou School                        Jan. 2014

It is so happened that Alexandros went with two friends with that name to Exarchia, in order to celebrate. Altough they did not live there, they wanted to be in that special milieu. An eye witness mentioned it had become a familiar meeting place of old school friends. (1)

Upon entering this special area of Athens, they encountered a skirmish between about 30 anarchists and the police. Verbal insults were thrown back and forth as if words were stones. Out of some unknown reason, however, it did not escalate into direct violence or in the police making any arrest. Rather the two groups dissolved shortly thereafter and the 30 anarchists made their way down one street.

Alexandros and his two friends decided to take another street. They wanted to continue their search for a place to have a drink and something to eat. Apparently what followed was that two policemen in seeing the three now being alone, took after them. They got into their policecar and stopped the three at the next street corner.

Again verbal abuses were exchanged as some provocative argumentation took place between the two police officers and the three boys. At one point, one of the three but definitely not Alexandros tossed an empty water bottle at the policemen. After that incidence one of the two police officers stated apparently: "wait, I show you what I can do!"

It is said that he pulled out his gun and shot. However, there exists a conflicting version as to what happened next. While the police version is that the bullet must have gone astray and deflected of something to hit unfortunately Alexandros, the versions of the witnesses say it was a direct shot. No matter what, Alexandros was definitely hit by the bullet. Although killed right away, the official declaration of his death came only after he had been brought to hospital.

Review of conduct by the police officer

Interpretation of such police behaviour could begin by examining what motivates the police to go further than what is both legally and practically speaking proper or professional conduct? Anyone hearing about the shooting of Alexandros would pose immediately the question, if that police officer had ever received proper training? It is an unconfirmed rumour that many policemen who were posted in the Exarchia area had not gone through the required full training period. Instead they were posted despite of having received at the most a bare four month of training in an area known to be quite difficult to handle.

An imaginary re-enactment of what took place can help establish if improper behaviour brought about this tragic death. Clearly established has been the time and place where the incidence took place. Also clear is that the two police officers faced off three young boys. One prime conclusion can be drawn about whether or not the police officers were under any threat at the time. The answer has to be definitely 'no'. Since the three boys were unarmed, the police officer had not need to make use of a gun.

As a matter of fact, it can be concluded without having been at the scene, that this police officer should have never pulled out his gun even if only to threaten them with what he could or might do with it. What ever dispute the police officers had with the three boys, any possible confrontation with verbal assaults could have been resolved without resorting to use of violent force. For any gun is a lethal weapon so that making use thereof would require, if at all justifiable, extraordinary circumstances. But given this being a democracy and civil society, resorting to violence is inexcuseable when in fact an all out effort should have been made before and after this incidence by the police to stay in dialogue with the youth.

Witness say that not one but two, if not possibily three shots were fired not to injure, but to kill.

Important would be to verify in the aftermath, if the police officer did indeed say prior to him pulling out his gun and then shooting at Alexandros: "I will show you what I can do!" Since he is a father with two children himself, it is a puzzle why he did it. One hypothesis could be that something angered him so much and as result a stroke of rage must have over whelmed him. If that were the case, then the lack of training would explain further why the kick-back of an unresolved complex very much like a horse suddenly kicking out could have prompted such behaviour. Definitely the police officer had no in control over himself.

In practical terms, alone the carrying of a gun poses already a threat since it is a lethal weapon. Thus to make use of a gun by opening fire, especially when in a dispute with unarmed youth, it does not make sense. Even if the youth provoked the officers, this extreme action prompts immediately many other questions. One would be if some misjudgement on his part was in play? Another possible one would be if a complex is triggered off, then by what to become that extreme, insofar as the readiness to kill is not exactly the role of a policeman. The latter would only be the case if the other i.e. the boys were viewed as an absolute enemy and not as youth of the Greek society which the police supposed to protect.

Something went terribly wrong once a troublesome complex was triggered by 'wounded pride'. Another variation of the same complex could be a sudden experience of fear not to have any self-esteem in the eyes of that youth. Such an 'absolute' loss of authority may have prompted the pulling of the gun and then even to use it. Even if done with the purpose to intimitate, in order to restore authority, it was a gross misjudgement especially if the context is taken into consideration. It happened in Exarchia and at a time when relationships between the police and a rebellious youth was at a particular low point.


        No comment                                            Ippocratous Street Feb. 2014

Usually in the streets of Athens these kinds of clashes end up being nothing more than street theatre. Everyone joining in on the act has not to take everything so serious that no more play is possible. There is, however, a thin line which should not be crossed. That is the case when the other feels deeply insulted. Quite often a sense of 'false' pride plays a tragic role for it leads to over reacting. Things are taken then to the extreme.

Usually such extreme cases go hand in hand with personalities not flexible enough to be considerate of the other. Rather than allowing empathy to play a role in a subtle mediation process, lack of imagation leads to misunderstanding of the other's intention. Everything said and done, even if only a mere gesture, is taken as a threat and confirms merely the absolute negative. Philosophically speaking, this leads to the negation of the other as a human being.

Once the tragic conclusion is drawn that the other has only negative intentions, namely to insult not only the state but one personally, the 'unconscious pain' becomes louder than words. For it results in a feeling to be oneself excluded from being taken into consideration as a human being. Again this sense of exclusion is the case once self esteem becomes the sole matter. Rage kicks in when nothing else matters for the proof is there that everything is lost and no matter what else one might try, this loss of faith in humanity strikes a deeper discord than what a loss of face may stand for in the case of Japanese culture. In the latter case, this leads very often to suicide. In this case the opposite takes place. For once the negation of the other becomes something like an absolute necessity, then nothing else needs to be taken into further consideration. Aggression becomes then like moving in for the 'kill'. It is a fake manlihood which erupts to negate any possibility of a dialogue. What matters most is to stand your own ground vis a vis the other(s). This alone counts, nothing else. It is both a stupid and a tragic act.

Since all the accusations levelled by the youth against the police since the 6th of December underline more than a kind of deep bitterness, it explains in retrospect why the death of Alexandros could trigger off such a huge street protest. Something more needs to be said about this attitude of the youth towards the police, and this along following lines of thought:

Pulling the trigger can be perceived as an act of unloading a pent-up hatred against an unjust society. If that is the case, all the more reason to believe that there are still more difficulties in store for Greece. The latter is indicated by the rise of the Extreme Right and the increasing use of a language of hate. In anticipation of European elections in May 2014, an article poses the question whether Europeans shall allow themselves to be united by hate? (2) Whatever fear drives them, they wish to be recognized as ultimate, equally absolute power. Again self exclusion from humanity plays here a substantial role in how they seek to assert a national identity as compensation for the personal ones they have lost and why they hate themselves so much.

The radical readiness to militancy can be explained by imitating the kind of terrorism which was enacted by Hitler's Gestapo. A closer observation thereof shows how the Extreme Right propels power through fascination for the absolute. It is a wish to make finally a stand after having been pushed around for too long. Their desire for 'law and order' is expressed mainly by an over use of a symbolic language. It has the subtle aim to instill still further fear in everyone. For instance, the imitation of the Swastika is in reality an inverse negation of life. It underlines to where perversion of love can lead to. With it goes the cult of the leader or such historical distortions as the Holocaust denial. The latter reflects a wish not to be held accountable for anything which might have happened in the past, and states at the same time a wish not to be held personally responsible for humanity.  

Due to their tendency to Extremism by this emerging Extreme Right, further analysis is needed.  In Athens and Greece, their existence became evident, publically speaking and world wide, once the party called 'Golden Dawn' or in Greek 'Chrysi Avgi' gained 18 seats in the Greek parliament during the elections of 17th of June 2012. Since then they persued the logic of terrorism by using forms of intimitation e.g. if a single mother went to school to complain about the increasing tendency among teachers to strike a more nationalist and religious tone, three of their members would visit her at her house and threaten her to be silent or else leave. This fear became wide spread until mid September one of their members stabbed to death Fysson, a rapper. That was a turning point since the government had to undertake something, so that that 'law and order' party would no longer prevail unchallenged. They would literally take to the streets and/or street markets to hunt down migrants. Their way of acting made the inner peace of Greece even more precarious and a threat for future developments. (3)

The special territory of Exarchia


About the fight between the youth and police, that state of affair existed already before the 6th of December 2008. Within the police itself the police station in Excharia enjoyed a special reputation. It was well known before hand in that area the Anarchists are more in control than the police itself.

Presumably that danger was heightened once the two police officers saw even young high school students of the same age as Alexandros entering that area. It must have been to them like a dangerous signal of ever more youngsters joining such a highly rebellious movement growing larger by the day. Thus entering the Exarchia area came close to a symbolic proclamation and equally provocation to the police. News had it that the police feared ever more this movement as attacks coming out of their ranks grow more audacious. Just two months before the tragic incidence on 6th of December, anarchists and others had attempted even to put the police station in Exarchia on fire. None of the police felt really safe nor had they clear instructions from above on how to deal with such a situation. Danger in terms of state authority is usually identified as situations threatening to go out of control. Pressure upon the state to respond can also grow at the same time. Not only will parents admit they have no longer their kids under control, but also teachers and others feel over demanded once a youth decides to break all ties and go down another street.

There is still another aspect in need to be taken into consideration. Once a young police man has been stationed in Exarchia, and this without proper trainging, he would encounter his own helplessness once he becomes engaged on a daily basis in various kinds of skirmishes with a rebellious youth. Once they join the Anarchist movement, all these youngsters of various ages make sure to let the police know in no uncertain terms that they are the most hated ones in this world. By December 2008, it boiled down to the anarchists laying claim that Exarchia is a territory where only their own rules matter and nothing else.

Street riots

The news of the death of Alexndros spread like a wild fire that evening. Like light the news travelled fast and swift throughout the city and soon gripped the whole of Greece. Soon the entire world took notice. It was a shock when compared to the images Greece had managed to send out during the Olympic year in 2004. In retrospect, the death of that boy was that famous spark which can ignite everything. 

"Molotov cocktail"                                                            Exarchia January 2014

For the next two weeks leading up to Christmas, riots in the streets continued unabated. With the police at one end, the protesters on the other, streets were transformed into pitched battle grounds.

Along with barricades being erected in the streets with the help of overturned rubbish cans, the outburst of violence did not make halt in front of prime targets such as windows of banks. Likewise cars were smashed during broad day-light. Suddenly out of no where anarchists appeared. They were masked, carried knapsacks filled with stones or even bricks. Swiftly they went down the street such as Skoufa in Kolonaki framed by them as being the quarter of Athens where the rich and privileged drank their coffees in over filled bars and restaurants. In a split second, so it seemed, they went down the street as swift as a sudden wind. They left behind a trail of smashed cars and windows.


                  Damaged cars in Skoufa                               Dec. 2008

The outburst of protest was not confined to only Exarchia or Athens but rather to the surprise of everyone, it spread throughout Greece and soon had its solidarity following throughout Europe and in the world. Especially Greeks living, working and studying abroad were keen to reflect if this was a first real sign of hope something for the better would happen to Greece, politically speaking. At the same time, the ruling parties and those in opposition had difficulties in coming to terms with this rebellious movement of youth, Anarchists and just those who had been waiting for such an opportunity to let off some frustration over their own desolate situation. It meant not having any illusions anymore as to what this system would and could offer, namely nothing but exploitation and corruption. The negativity thereof had poisoned practically the climate so much that any constructive dialogue about political alternatives were automatically swept aside as if mere nonsense or just as someone afraid to take up the challenge. A whole series of new and old enemy pictures emerged to justify the uncompromising position taken by the overall movement. That meant things were heading towards an absolute confrontation on the basis of nothing or all with the latter not at all specified as to what that would mean, politically but also economically speaking.

With everyone watching what would happen next, even the big Christmas Tree put up at Syntagma Square was torched not once, but three times. The establishment was being challenged seriously. Then surprisingly as Christmas Day approached, things quietened down and the shoppers returned into shopping malls, but it was an uneasy peace.

Uneasy peace and instead of 'nomos' the rule of the street

One reason for this 'uneasy peace' is that modern Greece presumed since 1974 that inner peace and political stability could be upheld by a social contract which was drafted after the military junta had been toppled finally in 1974. However, this social contract was merely between the ruling powers and privileged classes in Greece. For instance, shipowners were granted freedom from having to pay taxes. Such a distribution of privilege solidified merely the power of primarily the Conservative forces. They sought this arrangement out of their need to govern as they had done before the Junta seized power with the exception of having no longer the King around. His rule was abolished in a referendum as he was partially blamed for having triggered off that military coup. 

Practically the 'social contract' of 1974 left the traditional establishment and those who had gone along with the Junta untouched, while the Left was left largely outside the state institutions. Power unfolded thereafter along traditional family lines and connections to the well established party of Nea Democratia. It is always said that the problems of Greek politics can be explained largely by being a clientel orientated affair. All the power is in the hands of those with connections. They seemed to be able to do whatever they liked best.

Consequently many bad practices went unchallenged. That includes letting forest fires getting out of control. In 2007 fires raged during the summer and in August it got so bad that 46 people died. The Prime Minister Karamalis declared a state of emergcy but still many people felt left alone, without any protection from the side of the state. As if an omen for still worse things to come, these fires ignited above all the youth and made them ever more furious about the inept attitudes of many people around them. (4)

Break-out of fires in August 2007

In reality, these forest fires had become pre-texts for illegal constructions. In Greece, the law stipulated no constructions are allowed in forest areas. Consequently many people believe these fires were set deliberately to make way for these new types of buildings. For once the forest had been burned down, then bulldozers moved in quickly and facts were created, so to speak, on the ground. The new house was a 'fait accompli' before the state could react and do anything about it. The slow response, if at all from the side of the state nourished only further the suspicion in the population as to what was going on behind the scene. What infuriated many environmentalists and others even more so was what usually followed during the next election. The party which was swept into power would immediately after the election was held, proceed to legalize the illegal constructions. Sometimes it was done in exchange for a nominal fee but which was very often not even paid in the end.

One clear indication of something being amiss is the endless controversy about the land registrary. Even though the European Commission had provided repeatedly enormous sums of money to set up such a registrary, it has not been completed to date. There is a deliberate intention behind that, and it stems in part from the kind of resistance Greeks practiced during the times when Greece was a part of the Ottoman Empire and ruled by the Sultan who managed to collect taxes in a certain manner. To date this resistance means the state should not know everything what goes on. By-passing the state is ingrained in almost everyone.


       Fish stand with Greek flag as part of a street market held every Saturday


This state of affairs explains as well the black market which flourished so much by 2009 almost 40% of the economy. This includes the entire sector in which payments are made in cash and no registration or receipt given to give notice to the state what was the amount of the transaction. Whether construction workers, service men or those selling agricultural products in street markets, it is the informal rule which counts and nothing else. 

All this and more signs of crafty deals linked to nepotism and still further going forms of corruption weakened the belief in many, that there was any reliance upon the state to ensure proper governance of Greece. Above all, it left seriously in doubt what law did really apply. In this vacuum no wonder then that there developed something like the law of the street.

Literally speaking, it is akin to which political group manages to control a certain territory or area of the city. Along with it goes the myth of the state or anything being 'public' is highly inefficient. Besides the well established and rich classes, it meant different kinds of arrangements made business deals work out, so it seems, all by themselves. There seemed no clear commitment or any intention to make payments on time if not convenient. Since almost everyone was involved in more than one job, therefore hardly ever present or on time in one of the many categories of work undertaken, it meant endless negotiations to gain time in order to complete something. All this created a moral morass to allow for some nebulous legitimization whenever anti-state actions were undertaken.

Such a system of nebulous reasoning works only as long as everyone benefits. That things were in reality not at all alright became evident once the youth went into complete revolt. That day came when they learned Alexandros had been killed.

Reasons for the revolt

One prime reason for the outburst by the youth was anger and even more so rage over all this corruption. The other reason was as explained already the hatred of the police. The revolt became the outcry of an entire movement called the 'anarchists' and was first noticed after 6th of December 2008 to have become a formidable force in need to reckoned with.

As always the case when the youth revolts against the state and its police force, there is a fine dividing line as to who justifies violence, who not. Jürgen Hofmann, student activist in 1968, describes in his collection of story stories reminiscent about 'Those were the days, my friend' that violence comes at times like a snake ready to bite anyone willing to undertake that risk. It is like poison and leads to condemning all those who seek another way to resolve the crisis.

Often it is a mere stroke of fate not to be drawn into this whirlpool of a radicalism leading on to Extremism. For their own future, whatever they do now, it will determine to a large extent as to what they shall do later on in their lives and uphold even at an old age and when faced by another generation of a youth wishing to question everything. The solution for every new generation which comes to test the limits of the political system is to enter a social dialogue with a critical, equally creative mind. In the case of the youth which refers to December 6th 2008, this revolt was atypical to what previous generations had known and therefore there was a lot of misunderstanding at first, while the real challenges are still lying ahead on a road which leads one very often through Exarchia when another meeting is called for to decide what to do next.

The revolt against corruption

One prime reason for the revolt, indeed outburst of more than mere anger, was that the youth could and would no longer put up with all the corruption around them. Corruption had become by that time epidemic. It was something generally referred to in the form of complaints or jokes, but was quickly shrugged off as fate or something with which one had to live forever. For the youth it remained vague as many adults merely hinted at its existence and more often they tried to hide from their own children their own entanglement. Generally speaking the problem with corruption arises although talked about then never specific enough, in order for the youth to know what they were up against. It seemed to them as if a permanent struggle with some invisible force which tried to pull them over and corrupt them likewise.

More than any form of corruption, the worst one is in reality 'corruption of the mind'. This form has never been identified since most of the time the common understanding thereof is merely to put money into your pocket by not justifiable means. However 'corruption of the mind' goes with a kind of rationalization whenever something goes amiss or is not working. Often mere scant attention is paid to the real reasons. A common saying seeks to gloss it over with following expression:

  δεν πειράζει

or in English: "it does not matter!" Another way to overcome something is to say 'intaxi': "in order" or "it is okay!"  It made it nearly impossible to know where the fault lies for all the misery and more so loss of any ethical orientation. Linked to that have been a series of bad practices brought about by false compromises.

Too many a times the youth has heard their parents, teachers, but also politicians and experts give all sorts of excuses while all along they witnessed close at hand how they have changed over the years to become unrecognizable as 'human beings'. The estrangement of the parents and peers from the youth brings then about an inverted perception of the other. Literally speaking, it means to use continuously the lie - whether now in private or in public or more so in-between family and political relationships. Once any possibility of being honest is denied as not being wise, the face takes on mask like expressions to hide inner emotions from the other.

As Sypros Bokos would put it, "nobody thinks what they feel and nobody says what they think." Such a disposition leads to an overall conspiracy against the self. While assuming since everybody does it, all are therefore equally 'corrupt', a kind of self censorship is practiced as if no one wishes to hear the truth - the best justification for the use of the lie and in upholding the practice of 'mendacity' as described best by Martin Jay. Most telling is then the precautionary advice written against the wall in Exarchia and which shows that this problem has not been resolved by the revolt in 2008.


                "Think before saying something and don't say what you think" 

                                                                                Exarchia Jan. 2014

What made it all the more difficult for the youth growing up in such a world is that even parents which stayed more or less honest would remain on the side lines and not do anything about what the youth felt was really amiss at school and in the streets. Another problem was added once corruption became so wide spread that everyone knew everybody is doing practically the same. In that sense, it became in Greece a kind of 'honest dishonesty' since it was an open secret shared by all. It was known to get a building permission, the officials at the office in Piraeus had to be bribed.

All this went hand in hand with a kind of conspicious consumption and an overt behaviour which would lavishly throw around money. Such a consumption may come in the form of a new car, yacht or else in building not a second, but third or even fourth home preferable on an island already overcrowded with villas having all swimming pools or else in illegal spaces like former forest areas. The surest sign of something being foul was how often EU funds were misused for all other purposes but to get the work done.

The youth saw with their critical eyes especially the lavish life style displayed especially around the times of the Olympic Games held in Athens 2004. All the developments leading up to that can be compared in retrospect like meat being thrown into a water full of sharks. Global business came to grap the opportunity while everything was overprized. Naturally a lot was done to renovate hotels and to build new roads. But the speculation of this bringing in even more money meant as well burning still further forest areas near and around Athens, in order to cash in on a housing market supposed to be expanding. There were then made many miscalculations. The latter can be understood alone in terms of having to foot a much greater electricity bill once the old apartment has been left behind and instead the family has moved into a luxury apartment with three bathrooms and a swimming pool. The youth was supposed to understand this as moving up the ladder in terms of status and as a country in becoming equal with the rest of the rich countries in Europe. Not seen was what amounted to overdoing the lavish life style while the question but who is going to pay for all of this was never posed, never mind answered. All the more the youth began to understand that all, parents included, were under the same blanket. With that they covered up their deals and kick-back practices. However, far worse was that they pretended as if they had nothing to be ashamed of, and therefore to be more than just being simply proud to be Greeks.

The long trail of corruption

There is a long trail of corruption which can be traced back through the ages to see not only how power was misused, but how the worst is brought out once there exists no longer a culture of honesty and modesty. Humbleness would go along with that virtue of knowing as well means and ends have to correspond, if a person can add to the ethical foundation of a society.

One reason why the Junta managed to stay in power so long, that is from 1967 until 1974, was the method they used. It amounted to bribes on the one side while imprisoning and even torturing those who opposed. Primarily the Junta succeeded to break the 'back' which upheld all those values linked to honesty and human kindness. The latter is something that amazes repeatedly visitors when visiting Greece. They come across simple people in the mountains or on islands who are of such a free giving nature, that they are willing to share with any stranger not merely food and wine but also a place to stay overnight. Hospitality is what many early visitors to Greece experienced over and again. No hotel was needed for much more important was a smile and a willingness to trust the unexpected. Likewise many Greek families would before 1967 camp outdoors for their holidays and they left, they would take all their belongings with them. It was reflected in Seferis' famous saying that when the boat takes away the tourists, they give the beaches back to the winds. Indeed, that untouched nature was the backbone of many values for it entails moments of perception outside any social curtailment and can, therefore, be also linked to a novel spirit of freedom. All that was put to a new disposition by the way the Junta used power to influence people done most effectively by corrupting them.

The junta managed to stay in power by establishing a system of cruel suppression mixed in with corruption. The latter was made especially explicit by granting building permissions where no construction had been possible until now. These limits had been set in accordance with common shared values and amounted to a cultural consensus which is much stronger than any law. For instance, the informal consenses upheld that everyone should have free access to the sea. By destroying this cultural consensus, the Junta perverted completely the value system which had been upheld in Greece over centuries and this mainly due to not having a system based on conspicious consumption.

Once a value system is broken, then it is difficult to repair. What followed in Greece after 1974 was servitude to those in power, but which amounted in reality to a regular abuse of special connections. It is often a fake power which keeps a system operating insofar as privileges are granted which do not cost apparently anything, except that they disadvantage everyone else and therefore prompt all to try to do the same. Like the old lady seeking to overlook the people standing in cue and who are waiting to take their turn, everyone in business wanted and sought to obtain favourites from the politicians.

Doing business in Greece

Once corruption goes with doing business, politics shall be misused to cover up these kinds of 'arrangements'. It prompts the kind of contrived reasoning which has deep impact upon how people how they conceive doing business and getting their way to earn money. And it becomes a general malaise once everyone starts to think if the others do it, I would be stupid not to do it myself as well. It can start by paying without receipts or just bribing the official at the office where building permissions can be obtained, but does not end there. Mothers will use their connections to get their children through school and then thereafter into special posts preferable within the civil service as this has a secure salary. At the same time, coalitions were created to ensure both sides have something of the pie, but in so doing they forget that the whole of society will have to pay for this.

Once this grips the state, the administation included, then the costs for society are going to be huge. For years no one asked really that question but who is going to foot the bill in the end? In 2008 only the youth had the sense to anticipate what was to become reality after 2009, namely a state at the edge of default. One example of such corruption no one thought of as being 'illegal' or 'dishonest' was the law signed for public procurement projects. This catered clearly to the interest of major construction companies who had to make a bid which had to include an estimate as to the overall costs of the entire project. The law stipulated that originally stated costs may exceed by not more than 50%, provided the civil servants in charge of these procurement procedures would sign on. What the construction companies did to ensure this signature was to pay the civil servants not on an one time only basis, but rather an extra account was established from which they received in addition to their monthly pay an additional amount. The latter could be as much as 1000 Euros. Once that becomes the norm, it is no longer perceived as something extraordinary. On the basis of this much higher income naturally consumption fueled the economy and explained in part the extra high economic growth rate the Greek economy experienced in the years 2000 to 2009. 

Doing business in Greece meant joining in on these practical arrangements. Those who did not were left out. Already Doug Tilden, the chief architect, made the remark when ATTICO Metro was built, it was not international standard to have just one company constructing the tunnels and laying the tracks; usually there were three and in case one did not perform according to contract, that company could be fired. Not so in the case of the one construction company used to build ATTICO Metro. Like any monopoly, it meant over prized work and delivery just on time so that the chief architect could not make any objections leading on to the need to correct what was planned to be done in the next phase. For if he would delay, the fault of falling behind was not that of the company but of management. Given all the time pressure it was a subtle form of coercion. These are called the tricks of the trade. Without knowledge of them, doing business in Greece was nearly impossible.

A joke is not a serious matter

The biggest joke making the round was a question-answer gimmik of what was at play: "what is your name?" "me" to be followed by the answer "me too!" It meant the system was perceived in a perverse way as if there existed the constant need to get around it. Ingenious ways started to influence common practices so as to ensure that there was always a way to get around state or formal obligations. It meant bribes and kick back practices were expected whether now asking a doctor for treatment or else when obtaining a job. For the one giving a contract to someone expected that this person was willing to pay back some of the money received due to having gotten this contract. Once exemptions from the rule (or law) become the real law, nothing functions except when there are bribes involved. As lubricant of the system, it means literally making a business wherever there is inconvenience producing artificially another need so as to get around it. The outcome thereof was an inefficiency of enormous dimension and people satisfied altogether with false results.

Literally it meant creating new rules while going along. As in the case of the many illegal constructions, may that be in forest areas where no construction was allowed or granting a private beach even if it had been so far the general consensus that access to the sea should be granted to everyone all the time, such violations became the general rule. 

This trend towards corruption was increasingly questioned by a youth no longer willing to be drawn into this game by their parents and peers. They became most critical of a system covering up all the lies and ill practices by glossing over them or else authorities pretending to be beyond any doubt or of ever having made a mistake in their life. Already they saw the parents going to the casinos to gamble or else they witnessed during the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games what Greece still had left, namely a night club scene with everyone dancing on the table. Since Zorbas the Greek it had become a kind of myth that in Greece the only thing worthwhile doing was to enjoy life under the sun. An advertisement campaign of the Greek Tourist Ministry shouted out the slogan to potential tourists with the advise 'come to Greece and live your own myth!'

The reality lived and experienced by the youth could not be farther away from that sort of illusionary package offered to a tourist market obliterating the fact that Greeks have to suffer because of being steadily forced to import its 'past'. How difficult it is to come to terms with modernity and the present once the outside world only wishes to see the Ancient Past, this is reflected in the fact that no museum of contemporary art exists until now. Although Anna Kafetsi tries her best to realize as designated director of the promised museum, the prospect that it will finally open in 2014 is still not certain. Even if the building is ready, the current financial crisis makes it hard to predict if the necessary funds for the needed staff and daily operation shall be found. It is as if an intention of the ruling political power not to let the people to come to terms with their own present. For then they would discover quite other public truths which matter on how things are viewed and judged.

Setting a new time frame


      "1945 - 2008"                                             Didotou Street  December 2013

Obviously the death of Alexandros marks a turning point as far all developments in Greece are concerned. For it touches upon everything ranging from education to a youth becoming political. But once a new time frame is set due to an outstanding event, then the youth will try to go its own way. Obviously they have come to a crucial turning point. Insofar as they distrust anyone having to do with the established system, they wish to rewrite history so as to have quite a different memory base for their future activities available.

Significant about opening up to the time span of 1945 - 2008 is that it will allow for a different reading of history as an important prerequisite for organising the work of memory differently to what had been the practice in the past. All that was over dominated by the state and church. That time span can be sub-divided into several phases marked by war or dictatorship, and then followed by enormous efforts to undo these negative suppressions. The end of Second World War is generally marked as being 1945 but in Greece the war did not end there.

Thus 2008 fell into the period when Nea Democratia with Karamalis was still in power with the main opposition being PASOK under the leadership of George Papandreou, the son of Andreas Papandreou. It seemed as if political power in Greece rested permanently with the well established families.

Setting a new time frame shall alter how memory works. So far Greek culture is all about short term memory while everything else is at risk to be erased. Even the Junta period 1967-74 seems at times to be completely forgotten. Only when the crisis started to affect people in their daily lives, then certain hardships suffered in the past were recalled. On the surface, all this was apparently due to the state being near to complete default due to an insurmountable debt, yet people felt and judged that the severe austerity measures which were introduced to regain credibitability on the financial markets were both crude and unjust. It left the privileged untouched while the most vulnerable ones were taken severely to task. It was then that people took to the streets to shout: "freedom, bread, education", and thereby evoked memories of what people had shouted as well during dictatorship.


      Demonstrators shouting 'Freedom, Bread, Work'       Solonos 5.Feb. 2012

Evidence of the time frame setting free new inspirations is a theatre play called 'Alexis: a Greek tragedy'. It reminds of Antigone and a similar fate of her brother who was left to die and exposed to the elements since no proper burial was allowed. Likewise the theatre picks up the message given by the mother of Alexis who says he was killed twice; once when he was shot down, and the second time when they left him in the street. (5)

The work of memory and breaks in history

To understand a bit better how memory works, and meant by this is not just to follow the usual national narrative, there needs to be thematized first of all the breaks in Greek history. The official state ideology refers to the past as if an ongoing present. Melina Mercouri was famous for saying always 'now as then'.

Moreover while Greece was under the rule of the Ottoman Empire for four hundred years, the rest of Europe went through many different phases such as the Renaissance and the Enlightenment to mention but two very distinct but important periods. All that makes the correspondence between Greece and Europe at one and the same time stimulating but equally highly problematic. Literally speaking, there seems to be always a readiness to give more room to misunderstandings than to working out differences.

Repeatedly this myth of the past prompts many Greeks to make reference to Greece as birthplace of democracy and thereby tend to suggest as if being exceptional. Interestingly enough this plays a similar role in how American politicians tend to assert their nation as being 'exceptional'. Always this is linked to the so-called classical foundations exemplified by state buildings supported by pillars which remind of the Parthenon and the high vaults such pillars can support as free standing space. 

In the Greek case, it goes hand in hand with highlighting the fact that its culture is next to the Chinese one of the oldest in the world. Linked with such a claim of continuity, there is an enormous 'pride'. Not seen is that such an acclaimed identity can easily lead to self-isolation and a lack of self critical awareness how such an ontological mindset appears at times for outsiders to be highly absurd. Still the claim is repeatedly made with a kind of pathos as if the Greeks bear not only responsibility for democracy as heritage to be preserved in their own domains but also world wide. Since these claims are made within anarchronistic time structures, they are not only outdated but stand in stark contrast to the reality Greece finds itself in with all the corruption charges. It perplexes all the more so if it leads constantly to a parade of false pretense.

The elders tactic to corrupt the youth as sign of a 'conspiracy against truth' and the demand for truth by the youth

For a critical youth growing up now in relation to Europe and a globalized world, modern Greece has apparently only very little to do with what the Ancient Past stood for. However, critical studies of practices of the elderlies would lead to conclusions that there is a sense of continuity, insofar as the youth wishes to protest against loss of truth in society while those have already compromised in their lives these values will seek to corrupt the youth, in order not to be challenged by them. This ritual process of integrating the youth into society i.e. circle of the elders and therefore become an integral part of the decision makers in society, can be called 'conspiracy against truth!'

To date the breaks in-between a honest life of the youth, still free of corruption, and a heavily compromised one which follows integration into the society of the elderlies, they are not recognized never mind seriously discussed as to the social, political, moral and human implications. Instead these breaks tend to be blended out by assuming a 'continuity of identity' prevails, so 'now as then' can be assumed as if the past and the present blend so easily into a single understanding of culture. 

Some reflections about the charges the Polis levelled against Socrates can illuminate upon the constant dilemma every youth faces anew when it reaches that critical age i.e. when turning 15, at the latest 18 or 21. To recall, Socrates was accused of misleading the youth. To prove the contrary, Plato describes what took place outside the Polis, that is while Socrates was awaiting to stand trial, for there came a youth running. Socrates stopped him and asked why the haste. The boy explained that he intends to accuse his father for having mistreated a slave. The boy insisted all human beings should be treated equally - but this meant being against the legal system which prevailed around that time in the Athenian Polis, namely no one should mix with the slaves, and moreover two different laws prevail, one for the slaves, another for the citizens of the Polis, so that even Aristotle was not recognized as citizen of the Polis and could not inherit the Academy of Plato once the latter had passed away.

The interesting outcome of the dialogue with the youth is that Socrates manages to talk him out of his intention to accuse his father in front of the Polis. Presumably Plato wrote it to prove that the charge against Socrates was unfounded but in fact Socrates did mislead that youth. For he made him accept a double standard in the legal system with one law being upheld for citizens of the Polis, quite another for the slaves. It was also well known that a strict law in Ancient Athens forbade anyone from mixing with the slaves.

The youth is always at risk to go through such a perversion of values in order not only to adapt, but to go conform with the laws of the society they are forced to grow up in. As it amounts to be a 'conspiracy against the truth' once the elders manage to entangle the youth in their political game, the youth has a lot to lose.

In Sparta, it was a ritual to test a youth before recognizing him as having become an adult and thereby could join the circle of the elders who made all the decisions. The test was designed so that he had to prove his bravery first of all. In Sparta, it meant the youth had to live three days amidst the helots or slaves and then before leaving their encampment, he had to murder one of them and get out before the other slaves would capture and kill him out of revenge.

The purpose of such a ritual initiation of manhood was very simple. If the young man refused, he was excluded from the circle of the elders; if he had killed a slave and was accepted, he could no longer accuse the elders from mistreating the slaves. Being incriminated by own actions makes it nearly impossible to demand any truth thereafter. This is how society protects itself against its youthful critics, but explains why societies tend to remain more than in just a pervers disregard of the need for a public truth to prevail, so as to ensure honest words can be spoken in public spaces and thereby people know what is going on.

The national myth

Modern history starts in Greece by developing the national narrative once some parts of Greece managed to liberated themselves from the yoke of the Ottoman empire in 1821. But while the sultan was driven out, it brought in immediately the new yoke of the Western powers. Fore mostly, it meant installing a Baverian king. Royal symbols were used to uphold not only a fake unity, but to support a Greek elite which entered thereby a coalition with the European elite wielding power elsewhere in Europe. It helped to establish in Greece an upper class which had little or nothing to do with the poor but honest people working the fields, and this outside of Athens on the islands or in other remote areas of Greece. That difference in honesty has been appreciated by such people as the film maker Angelopoulos.

Since 1821 Greece went through a horrific time, including dictatorship before Second World War, German occupation (1941-45), Civil War (1945-48) and Military Dictatorship (1967-74). And even after all that was over, it was still a long time to go to a degree of normalization which started only in 1981. The Left was till then constantly prosecuted and pushed into disadvantaged positions by the established Right. It was an uneasy inner peace. Social rivalries as much as jealousies, but also clumsy grabs for power or granted advantages in business deals all contributed towards all kinds of interventions by the king, the military, political forces and trade unions, and reproduced a climate heavily favourable to shady deals and various forms of corruption.

After Greece had returned to democracy in 1974, the new PASOK party under Andreas Papandreou picked up where his father had left and challenged in the name of the popular Left this establishment. In the 1981 election PASOK swept into power and began a long period of governance which lasted until 2004. The PASOK grip on power was interrupted only by Mitsotakis from Nea Democratia who was prime minister for three years.

From 2004 until 2009 Nea Demokratia with Karamalis as Prime Minister was in power. By 2008, there had set in already such disenchantment amongs the youth that the uprising after Dec. 6th should not have come much as a surprise. And yet it took the established society due to complacency by utter surprise. To that state of affairs contributed as well the KKE which kept pounding with its dogmatic criticism against politics due to being dominated by specific families like the Karamalis and Papandreous. They had a heavy influence upon students but by 2008 many of the youth had enough of this lack of an independent voice from political parties. Since even student councils at university level were traditionally dominated by either the Conservatives or the Communists, these two mill stones grinded any other political opinion to mere pulver. Hence many students and youth feeling to be 'strangers' in a system completely ignoring their needs had started to identify themselves with the migrants and as well with those kept under inhuman conditions in prison. There were already before Dec. 6th 2008 many such vigilants in front of prisons. It was an indication of things to come.

Break with all traditional political parties

When the death of Alexandros sparked the riots in the streets, it meant that the younger generation had become not only disenchanted with Conservative party, but equally with PASOK and the Communist Party as part of the Left Wing opposition. Basically they rejected the politics which the older generations had been practising ever since 1945, and thus the revolt marked another kind of discontinuity.  

The older generations of the Left had been mainly politicized during the sixties. Its most radical wing is known as the Polytechnia generation. They all relate to what had led to the revolt against the military Junta. Since then that tradition of revolt has been kept alive during the annual demonstration on 17th of November to commerate that historic student uprising. Since it was believed that the USA was behind the military putsch, that anti American ressentment was expressed repeatedly by these yearly demonstrations.

An indication of politics tending to become not only largely ritualized and in fact ineffective, but inconsistent are the yearly 17th of November demonstration is organized. They commemorate the student uprising against the Junta on 17th of November 1973. Since then it has become self understood that each year the demo ends in front of the American embassy. Driven by a strong anti-American sentiment, the ritual itself was accentuated upon further by the November 17 movement. The latter had became known until their arrest prior to the Olympic Games in 2004 through numerous assassinations. That anti-American spirit was captured by Andreas Papandreou, author of the book called 'Democracy at gun point' and leader of PASOK, even though he was American educated and had taught at Berkeley University in California. He took up this strong sentiment after the dictatorship fell for everyone felt, knew or speculated that the CIA of America had been directly involved when the Junta had staged their coup in 1974. Papandreou finally won a landslide election victory in 1981. He could do so because he had managed to win the support of the radical anti-NATO and anti-Europe forces making up a large portion of Greek society. However, once in power, he went completely in the opposite direction by joining both NATO and the European Union. In doing so, he acknowledged thereby the real power structures which dominated in the West during the Cold War period but it left Greece and especially the critical Left with a new form of inconsistency.

Two aspects should be taken into consideration when seeking to appraise evolving political attitudes after the military Junta was toppled in 1974 and Greece returned as perceived by the outside world to a functioning democracy. While there were played out from 1974 until 1981 still the old Left-Right fights which had brought about a bloody civil war from 1945 to 1948, the entry of PASOK under the leadership of Andreas Papandreou into power and therefore government in 1981 ended on the surface this dispute between the Left and the Right. This was due to two measures or developments. First, there was given redemption to the Left who until 1981 did not receive any health coverage or pension. Second, many who had been a part of the Left movement against the military dictatorship entered positions if not of power, but of influence due to assuming various posts in Ministries or at university.

This integration of the Left opposition which had remained till then outside any serious institutional framework meant Greece over the subsequent years of developed ended up without a real voice of opposition. The youth had to seek and to find its own voice, if it was to articulate in opposition to how things were being within the system. That was needed since they witnessed and experienced repeatedly on how not really qualified people were hired but only those with party and family connections. A deep concern to them was especially at university level the lack of independence from party influences.

As one student would describe it, already on day one when he enrolled into the university, he was approached by various representatives of the prevailing political parties if not he would join them. Likewise no independent voice on the student council could not be heard. Anyone elected free from party affiliation to the council was quickly malmed by the big party stones grinding away. Likewise all kinds of privileges were distributed in a way which cemented the quasi official norm of everyone in need of being affiliated to one or the other party. At social level individuals started to feel being stupid if they would not do what everyone else was doing. In short, corruption had engulfed the entire society as it proved to be an effective method to drown any effective opposition and to gather support for the well established powers.

Once entry into the European Union and adoption of the Euro was a fait accompli after 2001, the overall tendency towards massive corruption accelerated. It became evident above all in how European funds were used but was prompted as well by the easy access to huge sums of money even if on the basis of loans. The latter did not matter as long as there is an economic growth and re-payments can be deferred into an unknown future. People started even to pay with dated cheques and thereby created a kind of fake secondary money market. Also countless people started to speculate on the Athenian stock market. At first, some made a lot of money really fast, but as the news of easy money spread and ever more entered in the hope to win the same, no one thought anymore about the likelihood that it could crash one day. And when it did then not only unexpected, but so fast, that many people lost huge amounts of their money.

The crash of the Athenian stockmarket was foretelling as to what was to come once the state itself could no longer raise money on the market to keep up paying its obligations. The crisis became one of 'morality of payment'. And nothing seems to alleviate this. For even six years after the crisis broke out into the open at the end of 2009, there are still people waiting to be paid by the state. Despite money being ear marked for specific payments in need to be made, the sums are diverted to stuff a hole in the budget and therefore used to appear vis a vis the creditors as having books which are in order and austerity measures taken so far successful. This exlaims the claim made by the Greek government that the state has managed a primary surplus in 2013 but which the Troika and its auditors do not trust completely. To them simply said, the figures do not add up!

At that time in 2008, all this was already in the air but no one would really speak about these problems in public. Consequently any act of revolt linked to remembering things would come to the conclusion it was better not to focus so much on words but rather on images. The latter gives prime value to the sense of sight while it is equally directed more towards the emotional and not so much intellectual life of people in the city of Athens.

As this applies equally for reflections of the ancient past as for things to come in future, 'the work of memory' requires a set time frame to articulate reflections in a certain way. Thus by turning attention to the period 1945 until 2008, two aspects become crucial. For one, it departs from the usual time periods in Greece and relates more directly to what people in Europe remember since the end of Second World War. One the other hand, there is still a need to distinguish lived through times of the parents since that war from what official culture in Greece refers to a continuity from the ancient past until the present. Famous for this is the saying by Melina Mercouri 'now as then', but in the wake of these events this turns out to be more than just an illusionary identity, for especially the youth cannot detect any continuity whatsoever. At the same time, the discontinuity or the many breaks are not really thematized or rather there is another continuity in need to be resolved. For when they see no change in how one government after the other, whether during Civil War, afterwards, in the time of the Junta or after 1974 when democracy supposed to have been restored, has helped the elite and the established interest groups prevail at the cost of the rest.

The new calendar since 6th of December 2008

The graffiti along with all the writings on the wall contradict the propaganda and national narrative as taught at school and which has been solidified by the church. Being of Christian Orthodox tradition, there exists anyhow a different calendar. That has a significant impact on how memory does work or is nullified due to not only an annual repetition of the same religious days but because of entering different time zones when compared with how the Western world relates to history.

The relationship to time according to experiences made is significant in how things are observed and recorded for this becomes a part of an understanding of history which is passed on from generation to generation. Since Homer and Thucydides story telling and historical recordings mattered on how one decided to travel with Herodot. This includes the willingness to contradict any myth being upheld e.g. in the case of the Greeks their claim that they had invented the Gods and not the Egpytians. Likewise it is clear that at any given moment when something extraordinary equally tragic happens, there will be myths and other narratives flourishing to justify the path of development taken thereafter. Interestingly enough the philosopher of science from Hungary but teaching at London School of Economics, namely Lakatosh had always said when Einstein came along many still held onto the theory linked to Newton. Only much later it became clear that Newton was not wrong but not as exact as Einstein's theory, as proven that it sufficed to fly to the moon on calculations based on Newton's assumptions, but when wishing to fly to Mars, then Einstein mattered. Likewise no one seems to know in the present if the path of development taken will be in the end the right one. This matters all the more so when a society enters a deep crisis and no one is sure which path shall lead out of it.

Something else needs to be added if the specific time lived through in Athens since 2008 is to be understood. If Michel Foucault could observe that anyone who went to Istanbul and crossed the Bosphorus could come back from there utterly confused when re-entering the worlds of Paris, London or Berlin, something similar happens after Northern Europeans have stepped into the light of the South. Klaus Heinrich would put it as to what happens to oneself as follows: if someone takes holidays in the Scandinavian countries, that is up North, and even if for three months, upon returning home everything would run together like rain drops on a washing line into just one day, whereas three days in Greece would seem once back home like three years.  

History and religion are made explicit by the formal knowledge taught at school. Students are forced to memorize things in order to pass especially the entry exams into universities. It leaves really study and learning based on research and open inquiry short changed. In retrospect the youth which emerges out of this system of education considers it to be nothing but 'criminal' for they feel ruined for life. That then is the real crisis even if human impulses are given by some outstanding teachers and even some moderate forms of reform have responded to some obvious needs. By 2014 schools have even started to teach courses on how to work together and how to find a job. 

However, the national narrative is also based on a proud assumption about the Ancient Past. Consequently in combination with archaeology, the illusion of continuity of identity is being constantly perpetuated as if 'now as then' the same things matter. Democracy is, therefore, not upheld as an ideal but assumed to be the real measure of all things. Even Western Civilization has adopted the Parthenon as key symbol. Despite all of this modern Greece has proven to be much more a country of discontinuity.

Lessons learned from 2008 - the revolt against Western value system

Until the break out of the economic crisis in 2009, it seemed as if political life in Greece seemed to be dominated merely by the two main parties, PASOK and Nea Democratia, and this along with ruling families. While those playing the role of opposition kept hammering away on these points, no one saw what was developing amongst the youth. The uprising of the youth in 2008 was a clear sign for things to come but few anticipated that the corruption had gone that deep and affected the whole Greek society.

Michael Theodosiadis cites in his essay „Lessons from 6 December, 2008“ one particular writing on the wall, namely that the revolt after the death of Alexandros on the 6th of December “was not the answer but the question”. He goes on to explain the question as being about moral values not merely linked to work, but life in the community:

"a question on puritanical mores, such as the work ethic (more specifically, on the philistinism of labour and the deprivation of stimulating work), hierarchical obedience and the nationalistic narcissism, and simultaneously, the awakening of the fully human spirit of openness, solidarity, joyfulness, companionship seen through big demonstrations ending up in street dance or outdoors theatrical performances, music concerts or film screenings and documentaries in the squares." (6)

As Kouki (2011 p.169) puts it, “by living an egalitarian moment [...] we were transformed from invisible solitary figures rambling around in our urban misery into political subjects who managed to challenge […] the situation itself. Undeniably, it is not easy for the Northern European societies which blindly follow the Protestant dream of work-for-everything/ask-for-nothing, to conceive the political significance of December events to despise their institutionalized norms and embrace the logic of community, friendship and direct engagement in public life, where worldliness and plurality enhance freedom and humanity, beyond the walls of the private sphere, of the pre-political realm that has taken over every human incentive, resulting to uniformity and excessive antagonism. This is the real challenge of contemporary Europe, to uphold the possibility of re-determining what should be regarded as moral and fair."

Some conclusions as to what lies ahead


    Graffiti at bookstore and cafe 'poetry and crimes'                        Nov. 2012

Since 2008 it has become more than obvious on hand of all the graffiti on the walls of Athens that the very act of revolt wishes to express itself freely. The latter is linked to an unconscious wish to remember the 'good things' but due to feeling this to be denied at home and at school, all institutions of society will appear to be hostile and suppressive of this wish. Consequently this search for free expression will focus not on words but on images.

Graffiti and tagging of walls gives prime importance to sight while being highly defensive in terms of space and confidence. As both are linked to childhood memories, any negation thereof will weaken precisely the strongtest amongst the youth and push them more and more to the fringes of society. All this is being reinforced by something emerging in recent times, and not at all familiar to those who know Ancient Greece in contrast to modern Greek history. For in Ancient Times sacrifice was ahold and made only in the way of material gifts to the Gods, the modern revolt has introduced the term 'sacrifice' as element of an anti-hero cult by which the youth is sucked into something it cannot comprehend as being highly misleading. But the term has come into use once politicians and others started referring to the need to make sacrifices in order to get through what was portrayed at first as being only an economic crisis.

Since 2008 this illusion is gone or at the very least the youth no longer shares this way of presenting what is needed to escape from a miserable reality. They see that while nothing apparently works except for some obscure business, politics continues to deepen the crisis. Yet they do not face conciously as of yet some contradictions to this negative trend. There are some dedicated professors at university who keep up teaching and the learning process even in times of strikes. Nurses and doctors uphold high standards at public hospitals despite everything having become tighter. Journalists produced even better programmes once ERT was shut down in 2013. While many are puzzled, they still refer to Dec. 6th 2008 as the new reference point on the political calendar.

Most important about the events which followed this date is the answer of the youth to what had been simmering anyhow underneath the social surface of pretense. They questioned the status and privileges of the established part of society but could not shake off entirely the need to show pride as a man or woman - even though Pablo Neruda had said already a long time ago that this should be the first to be abolished for it leads only into social isolation and into false fights. 

What the youth wanted was what poets and others sought already back in 1821, namely a free spirit from any tutelage. At that time Lord Byron incorporated the romanticism of freedom but which is linked to the narrative about the birth of nation state. By contrast the youth of today does not depart from that romantic vision for they emerge out of a history which has seen Greece go since then not merely through wars, including a bloody civil war 1945-48, but since the military dictatorship into a political gamble with the future. Practically it meant politics had lost not only the youth but also concepts and methods, but also a culture needed to keep politics honest and straight forward in terms of respecting and upholding human values. 

For want of a better world, the youth started to create their own movement. They call it 'Anarchism' not of the old but of a new kind. It is made up of many different streams of thoughts but when the eruption came on 6th of December, it took many by surprise how large a movement it had become by 2008. Moreover, contrary to what some might wish to claim, including Akis Graviilidis, those who participated in this uprising did not disappear thereafter, but have gone on to stay alive as a wide spread movement, and which expresses itself freely along the walls of Athens. It may not be a theoretical, but in fact it is a deeply poetic and philosophical way to communicate with the others in a public sphere called the streets of the city. (7)


Text and photos by Hatto Fischer

Athens / January 2014



1. „Eyewitness statement on the killing of Alexandros Grigoropoulos - 06 December 2008“ http://libcom.org/library/eyewitness-statement-killing

2.Andrea Mammone (2014) „Europeans United, in Hating Europe“. New York Times. January 1, 2014 http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/02/opinion/europeans-united-in-hating-europe.html?_r=0

3. David Mantell, Family and Aggression, reveals that those who volunteer to go to war grew up in families which pray 'law and order', hit their children if they misbehave and do not see what 'illegal acts' these youngsters do already at an early age e.g. with 12 years they may have raped already a girl. By going to war they think to be able to do everything they had been doing 'illegal' or underneath the appearance of law and order, now sanctioned by the state. They seem not to have an independent moral judgement and depend upon being sanctioned in whatever they do by an authoritative figure and finally a state ready to use violence to uphold this 'law and order'. See David Mantell: Familie und Aggression. Zur Einübung von Gewalt und Gewaltlosigkeit. Eine empirische Untersuchung. Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt a. M., 1972 ISBN 3-10-047101-6#

4. ANTHEE CARASSAVA (2007) „Greece declares Emergency as Forest Fires rage“ New York Times, August 26, 2007 http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/26/world/europe/26greece.html?_r=0

5. "Motus mixes Antigone with 2008 Athens protests in Alexis, A Greek Tragedy" by Stephen Hunt, Calgary Herald February 18, 2014 http://www.calgaryherald.com/entertainment/Motus+mixes+Antigone+with+2008+Athens+protests+Alexis/9522224/story.html

6. Michael Theodosiadis (2013) Lessons from 6 December, 2008“: http://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/michael-theodosiadis/lessons-from-6-december-2008

7. "This reason (for the uprising) was a totally unpredicted, contingent event: the pointless murder of a youngster by a policeman, which sparked a wave of massive and angry protests for several days in Athens –including in neighbourhoods where no demonstrations had ever taken place in living memory- as well as in all major Greek cities, and several minor ones. These consisted in mass rallies, mainly by equally young people with no previous experience in social protest, occupation of public buildings, “sieges” of police stations, but also considerable damage on private property and some looting of shops by the demonstrators and/ or others. The difficulty to tell a demonstrator from an “other” was precisely an important part of the whole picture, as no political or other body or organisation had made any official call for these protests. But this does not mean they were “spontaneous” in the usually pejorative sense that this term has in the left-wing tradition; many of these actions displayed a high degree of efficiency, accurate coordination, and organisational skills. But they were prepared, and performed, by a subject-non subject; a subject that did not pre-exist, it came to being through this very action, only to dissipate and vanish afterwards. This dissipation was not the mark of a lack or a failure, but rather formed a constitutive part of the mobilisations from their inception. This punctual and circumstantial existence was their only possible form of existence." Akis Gavriilidis, "Laissez faire, security and liberalism: revisiting December 2008." Discussion paper for Conference 'City at a time of crisis", 2014. http://crisis-scape.net/conference


Akis Gavriilidis Laissez faire, security, and liberalism: revisiting December 2008

Discussion paper for Conference, Athens, May 9-10 2014

"The city at a time of crisis" http://crisis-scape.net/conference

Neni Panourgiá (2010). "Stones (papers, humans)" Journal of Modern Greek Studies, Volume 28, Number 2, October 2010, pp. 199-224 (Article)
Published by The Johns Hopkins University Press DOI: 10.1353/mgs.2010.0423

Michael Theodosiadis (2013), "Lessons from 6 December, 2008": http://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/michael-theodosiadis/lessons-from-6-december-2008

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