Sunday night, February 11, 2012 the center of Athens, and some other cities in Greece, erupted in violence and flames. Huge demonstrations held to protest implementation by the Greek parliament of further austerity measures in order to obtain funds to stave off a default on the State’s debts to the international banks degenerated into clashes between young men, police on one side, small numbers of “hoodies” armed with molotov cocktails and chunks of marble ripped from buildings on the other.
Yesterday (Monday) I went out, like many others, to survey Sunday night’s damage.When we went to bed Sunday night, a pall of reeking chemical smoke hung over the city, held in place by the humidity. When we woke, our balcony was sprinkled with ashes, including some pretty large chunks.
Riding the metro later that morning I saw the same expression on every face, stunned silence, shock and dismay. People are just tired of this shit. My path for the day led me past the area around the university where a lot of the burning took place. I saw the hulk of Starbuck’s and the adjoining art house cinema where I have seen quite a few arty films. I was impressed with how quickly Starbuck’s stripped the building of any corporate identification, I suppose to avoid having photos published around the world which showed Starbuck’s in ruins, perhaps to avoid encouraging further coffee house conflagrations. (This is the second Starbuck’s to go up in flames. During the 2009 spasms, the Omonia Starbuck’s met the same fiery doom.) The whole area smelled charcoal-broiled, seasoned with a chemical pong from teargas, not unlike the plastic reek of burning crack. (Don ‘t ask how I know this). Everywhere is the white powder bloom left behind by exploding tear gas grenades. The nose itches, the eyes burn. I was a sneezing fool.
I have little to say about the politics of this situation. I don’t know anything. I am too ignorant of Greek history to make an informed comment, though this doesn’t stop anyone from spewing drool all around the internet. I am especially dismayed to see how many Europeans, Germans, Belgians, Dutch, show so little care for the plight of others and are so ready to talk at great length about those Greeks out of other orifices than their mouth.
I do see that whoever the assholes with the molotovs are, they succeed quite nicely in diverting the eye of the world away from the thousands of people out airing their grievances in a legitimate and civilized manner. I see that similar types undermine the efforts of the people’s uprisings all around the world. These are ancient tactics. Infiltrate your enemy’s ranks with berserkers and paid agents in order to discredit them by spurring them on to violence and excess. The mongoloid eye of the world’s media is ever diverted by scenes of flame and destruction. I like John Stewart’s simile where he compares ‘the media’ to a hyperactive puppy following a stick wherever you care to throw it.
Who are the morons doing the burning? There are undoubtedly those among them who believe that they struggle in a cause, but there is always a hidden agenda around here. There are those who want to burn down a losing business to collect insurance. There are also those “protection” types who want to punish people who won’t pay up. There are those who want to buy up land cheap who recruit from the milling hordes of aimless and pointless immigrants to perform all sorts of mischief, burning, looting, distributing drugs in certain areas to bring down the price of real estate. Among those thugs will be elements of the police. Many people around here assume that there are police plants among the hoody miscreants throwing rocks and molotovs.
This whole damn situation is one titanic drag, a bummer of massive proportions. I never thought I would end up living in a country undergoing such a catharsis. Hell, the word ‘catharsis’ is Greek anyway. It means “a cleansing”. It was coined to describe the psychological aftermath of viewing a really nasty Greek tragedy (or a really funny comedy). Those who romanticize at a distance about revolution and upheaval have probably never dealt with the pitiful daily insult of this situation, have not had to go about their daily business against such a frustrating backdrop.
Here are some photos of the damage.