Wednesday 23 January 2013

Living in a state of fear

Fear is one of the predominant emotions if one lives in Greece at the moment. Fear of losing one's job, if one is lucky enough to have one; fear of not being able to make ends meet; fear of not having enough to pay the ever increasing taxes that are imposed by a state that cannot deal with tax evasion of the rich and which consequently imposes a whole series of taxes on the whole of the population irrespective of their income or ability to pay; fear of not having enough fuel to heat one's home; fear of losing one's home because there is not enough to pay the rent or the bills; fear of hunger; fear of being beaten up or worse if the colour of one's skin is not white; fear of the rise of far right groups and what this could lead to;  fear of the future.

'Dear God, hunger scares me'.

But, all of this fear is not enough for the Greek state. It has to manufacture more fear.

This new fear is the fear of lawlessness.

Not the lawlessness of the Neo-Nazi party who assault MPs on live television; who ride their motorbikes at night and beat up or murder anyone they can find whose skin is not white; who wreck the stalls of small vendors; who constantly disrupt the workings of Parliament; who parade with their Nazi insignia and use the Nazi salute; who spread their message of hatred and division. These people are ignored by the Greek state. They are not punished for their crimes, they are not prosecuted or denounced. They are left alone which is tantamount to being encouraged. The government is not making any connections between the rise of this group and what happened under the Weimar Republic. They are acting as if this group did not exist.

No, the enemy that has to be smashed, the enemy that has to be beaten with riot police, tear gas, batons and other weapons, the enemy that we must all fear, the epitomy of lawlessness, are... groups of young squatters.

The squat in the dilapidated Villa Amalia building, inhabited by squatters for over 20 years was raided and dissolved by the police last month. When it was re-occupied, the police again evicted the squatters. Other squats got the same treatment. Police announced they found empty bottles in the squats, a clear indication we are told, that they were going to be used to make molotov cocktails. They also found knives and gas masks, more 'evidence' that the people in the squats were planning an insurrection against the state and the Greek people. The police had to abandon a further raid on another squat, since they had neither the prosecutor's nor the owner's permission to enter the building and since they could not find any 'evidence' that the place was a centre of 'lawlessness'.

'A democratic society cannot allow the forces of lawlessness and chaos to block the country's path to development' announced Mr Dendias, the Public Order Minister, the same one who threatened to sue The Guardian newspaper when it published a report on the torture of 15 anti-fascist activists by the Greek police.

Most of these buildings are owned by the state, and like everything else that is owned by the state in Greece, they were falling apart. The Greek state has an inverted Midas touch - everything it touches turns into ruin.

In contrast to what we daily hear in the news from the government with their talk about lawlessness and the danger to public life that these squats present, the people living in the area tell a different story. 'When this building was occupied by the squatters 23 years ago, it was falling apart, it was a ruin', say Mr and Ms K. who have a shop facing Villa Amalias. 'We can still remember the sign outside the building in the 1980's that read:  'this building is about to be restored' - but nothing was done about it. When the squatters arrived, they spent days clearing all the rubbish out. They made the building habitable, they gave it a new identity'. 

The squats were used as community centres bringing locals and immigrants together: there was a coffee bar where payment was voluntary; a lending library; lectures and concerts; a printing press where payment was again, voluntary; music and sewing lessons were available as well as Greek language lessons for those whose first language was not Greek - all for no renumeration; there was also a soup kitchen.

Residents attest to the fact that drug trafficking was kept at bay in the area because of the presence of the squatters. But more importantly, the residents feel that it was the presence of the squatters that prevented the Neo-Nazis extending their stronghold from Agios Panteleimonas where they terrorize the inhabitants, onto the Plateia Victorias area. What they fear now is that with the squatters gone, the Neo-Nazis will extend the range of their activities and become unstoppable.

This is what Syriza had to say about the evictions: 'The government is trying to use the attempted re-occupation of Villa Amalias to distract the public from the Lagarde list scandal and the harsh bailout policies. For 23 years no one cared about Villa Amalias and now it has turned into the number one issue'.

The biggest fear, the one that no one is addressing, is the rise of fascism. Far right terrorism is becoming embedded in the very fabric of Greek society. It has penetrated every neighbourhood as well as the schools.  It promotes violence, hatred, division and bullying as a way of life in every aspect of society. Resistance to this evil cannot be left exclusively to the Left. Those who say that they are defenders of democracy will have to get their fingers out instead of demonising some young idealists who want to try alternative ways of living. We're on the edge of the abyss. The Barbarians are amongst us and unless we neutralise them we will be faced with the end of democracy.

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