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Background analysis III: Radical politics

Rational politics can easily be endangered not only by an increased radicalization in the streets of Athens with fights between Anarchists and Chysi Avgi supporters ready to burst forth like wild fires, but by the 'radical' way things are judged and appraised, generally speaking. Especially if it is in reality a pseudo Radicalism, the danger that arguments tend to become extreme at any moment is a practical given. No one shall listen!

While the fear to listen means a growing inability to speak really with the other, radical politics has to be explained in a differentiated way, in order to make sense as to what prevails in society.

Due an economic crisis lasting now since 2009, fear of lack of money to survive will translate itself into an ever greater uncertainty about the future. Instead of relating to reality, symbols and images shall be invoked to pretend as if still relating to reality, but one which is more powerful and dominant than the lived through experiences of the individual. Often reference to the global economy or to corporations which wield uncontrollable power supposed to state just that, namely something has gone way beyond the control of not only individuals, but even of nation states and of the elite in power.

Use of symbols and images to replace empathy and an open relationship to ongoing changes in society have a reason. They are supposed to stand for opinions; in reality, they are self assertive standpoints.

Once taken to the extreme, this kind of assertiveness has already been seen and experienced during the break-up of former Yugoslavia. It was then an ethnic assertiveness which led to genocide related criminal actions against humanity, the bombing of Sarajevo just one prime example of a city which had hosted the winter Olympic Games and which was known till then for its pluralistic openness to all ethnic and religious groups. Alone this signalled already an end of the dialogue envisioned by the Council of Europe to bring people together.

Once symbols and images are asserted, they become dogmas which are treated over time like facts e.g. migrants are bad. Of interest is in the case of Greece that during the economic crisis fact like dogmas about war crimes committed by German troops resurfaced and has led to war reparations being demanded by Greece from Germany. Even Samaras had enacted as prime minister an independent governmental report on this matter. It is now a question whether some lessons shall be learned out of Germany's way of handling the question of reconciliation initiated by its foreign policy with regards to France, Poland, Czech Republic and Israel, but not as of yet with Greece.

If symbols and images are used to evoke collective memories of a historical pain, a prime cause for having pain during the crisis will be used to evoke a reason for rejecting criticism of Greece since a country upon which injustice has been inflicted in the past. Implicitly or explicitly it will then be stated that the same applies to the current economic crisis i.e. Germany and Merkel imposing again its will to the determinent of Greece.

Since these historical wounds can also be evoked by clever politicians by making this into a platform for an own political agenda, and this in a climate of increasing Nationalism, it feeds in well with a kind of populism wishing to claim Greek independence. Thus what this kind of radical politics achieves is to block out a self reckoning with ho.w the huge deficit came about while holding outside forces responsible for both past and present miseries. It manages to convince many by combining Patriotism and Nationalism, and thus forges a new proto-type of interested people in a certain kind of justice.

That this tendency matches with Euro-scepticism and anti European forces is of no coincidence. They are growing stronger throughout Europe. It is one of the greatest paradoxes and equally most troublesome sign that Europe of the 21st century is creeping ever close to a kind of self destruction only known usually to be the trait of suicidal candidates. To want to live in Europe but to deny at the same time the need for intergovernmental cooperation and therefore a set-up of institutions which allow for European governance, is more than a mere paradox. Still, it reflects the enormous gap between daily life and decision making processes at European level. It is something Jürgen Habermas has admonished repeatedly.

The impact of all these tendencies towards radical politics is no where better demonstrated than in talk shows. Usually they end up in people screaming at each other since no one is prepared to listen to the other. It can accumulate in violent acts. The incidence on ERT with the press speaker of Chrysi Avgi striking at a woman in front of running cameras underlines just that behaviour risks to be come outrageous because all affairs are apparently just that: outrageous. The dialectic between how things are perceived, but with no reflection of the implicit judgements once facts and opinions are mixed as explained just before (Background analysis II: Tampering with the media) and what is deemed to be still an adequate response, namely a sign of being just outraged, comes here into play as if self understood and normal.

Nothing is more dangerous, warns photo journalist Kevin Cooper in Belfast, for the anormal to become the normal or treated as such. 

In this way the real crisis can buried by a pseudo debate and a demand for radical politics as nothing else seems to count, work or pay. That is the case when people have made in the past repeated efforts to alter the course but have experienced over and again that they just wasted time. 

Without the spirit of democracy, people end up to believe no one is prepared to articulate in public some painful truths. Only they may have the courage to speak up. Hence people end up believing that they can describe the system as being Fascistic or ruled by a Junta. While it is understandable what they wish to evoke, nevertheless they use terms with a definite meaning in history. Thus they use these terms out of a want to be radical in their denouncement of the government for having shut down ERT, but they do so without realizing what these terms stand for in reality, historically speaking, does not match with what they go through at present. It is always difficult for revolutions to break into the present, and more so to use present terms rather than borrow from the past by using analogies which do not hold in reality. Fascism under Hitler does differ from what Greece is going through under the Samaras government and this in relation to the EU governance despite being anything but satisfactory.

Still if art is one of exaggeration, it matters if things are blown in political debates way out of proportion. It does not make things possible but instead impossible.

Indeed, whenever radical thinking makes itself felt, it is more often a kind of denial of everything and indicates that the person has locked him- or herself in by assuming only a certain position will do, even that but confirms everything has become impossible. Often it is based but not acknowledged that the present radical viewpoint reflects a regret not to have taken sooner some form or another decision to break with all entanglement, in short with working within the system. Naturally the failure to realize an outside viewpoint means the self understanding has been determined singularly by a culture reduced to images and symbols as if they guarantee both a belonging and an inherent cohesion which can make sense in a global world. None of that is true when it comes to the need to communicate to the world why things went so badly wrong as to let a deficit grow way out of proportion, but still the denial shall be continued in order to avoid reckoning with own mistakes made in the past.

Given all these weaknesses and shortcomings, surely it strengthens as a motive the wish to be able to assume such a position that can do away with all these obstacles and see something through where all previous governments have failed. Fuelled by such a wish, the motive becomes then to find the right opportunity to demonstrate that. The often made political mistake in such a case is to wish to demonstrate strength when the situation calls in reality for the very opposite, namely a demonstration of weakness as the real truth. That is precisely the mistake Erdogen makes at the same time in Turkey by calling peaceful demonstrators 'terrorists' to justify the brutal crack down by the police of those who wanted to save a tree in Gezi Park. Equally the same applies to the decision by Samaras only in the case of ERT it is not a tree, but a public TV and Radio which needs to be preserved from virtual bulldozers.   

Unfortunately an extreme viewpoint cannot be easily refuted since based on a slanted viewpoint e.g. Samaras attacks ERT as being solely a waste of money and therefore no longer worthy to be upheld. Usually such an extreme judgement is fed by a negative energy source. It amounts to the denial of any possibility for negotiations or for a chance to modify the viewpoint. Philosophically speaking, it means such a negative frame has been installed that anything said further about ERT can only be negative. It means no other truth or assessment shall be accepted and therefore impossible to question the ontologically based claim everything about ERT is only negative or bad. The injustice inflicted upon not only the 2 700 people who work there, but also upon the viewers who make use of the program in their own way to preserve a cultural identity, is too great then, but reflects precisely the consequence of a denial of the cultural dimension by a politics driven solely by economic and financial arguments.

The denial of culture reaffirms as well that all the measures taken since Greece entered an agreement with the Troika cannot grasp what has an intangible value. This is even more strange since all projections upon the value of the EURO and its purchasing power is itself the result of a dialectic between concrete and abstract richness, and therefore nothing tangible at all. Instead it is fed by such vague notions as financial security and purchasing power i.e. the ability to command so much of the common resources as needed for private interests to be realized to continue doing business. It becomes clear in this reflection that the drive towards the private gives no longer any space to the 'public' or what is truly common to people in all walks of life. Instead a confusion follows once public truth no longer exists.

As happened during the June election in 2012, confusing times are often accompanied by a cross over from Left to Right and vice versa. It is done without really noticing how this has as well an inter generational component e.g. the parents vote for the Conservative party, while their children vote out of opposition to the parents for a radical Left Wing movement, or as is happening now in Greece for the extreme Right. The philosopher Ernst Bloch noted that there is always the danger for youth to catch Right Wing fire. They do so out of a wish to appear radical and hence tend to adopt the position of that party which seems to be most radical at the time. Radical stands here as well for being uncompromising and still driven by a wish to save the fatherland from disaster. Patriotism turned into nationalist fervor was already prone to make the German poet Hölderlin to say he wishes not to die an ordinary death, but a heroic one conceivable when fighting for the freedom of the fatherland. The heroic gesture in all of this is crucial to understand the underlying motive in all of this. 

Naturally such cross-overs may easily be reversed at a later stage in life. This is the case especially if public truth is transformed into a general denial of any chance to reform the system i.e. to make an imprint to one's own needs and likings. It can also mean to drift away from politics altogether. Usually that ends in not voting at all.

In other words, it is all too easy to give way to radical demands for drastic measures in such a politically charged climate by all kinds of extremist views. Samaras may well have been driven by all of this to take then himself such an extreme decision and out of wish to show strength he would then favor to act all alone by shutting down ERT single handed.

Samaras may have even thought that he could get away with it. He could presume rightly so that his two coalition parterns would fear nothing more than new elections. His assumption was realistic to some extent. For one, Greece had gone through a period of turmoil and nearly jeopardized the bailout funds by having an inclusive election in May 2012, and which was followed by a second one in June which brought finally this coalition government under Samaras into power. So no one has a desire to enter again a similar period of indecision and uncertainty. Also the PASOK party has been losing steadily in support according to more recent opinion polls, while Chrysi Avgi has been gaining steadily in the polls since June 2012. Some would also go so far and claim that Samaras governs with a fictitious majority due to having been given 50 extra seats in Parliament (due to a ruling which gives 50 extra mandates to the party which comes in first), and then with the implicit support of the Extreme Right (Chrysi Avgi has 18 elected members in Parliament). Definitely Samaras has been playing out the Extreme Right against Syriza, the Left wing opposition in Parliament, while he tried to keep his coalition partners, namely PASOK and DIMAR, with this threat in check. Not surprisingly Samaras kept repeating no one has an interest to break up the government and force another election round.

He may have thought as well that with one stroke he could deal a blow to ERT, gain thereby the approval of the Troika for having cut 2000 civil servant jobs as demanded, and he could cash in on top of everything else on the grievance Chrysi Avgi has with ERT. Surely he must have thought that he stands to gain from such an one sided decision, otherwise he would not have done it. All the more colossal to make such a mistake. He must have blinded as to all the consequences of an absolute shut-down of ERT. They shall become apparent in the times to come. Definitely the 11th of June 2013 will be his Rubicon.

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