Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Remembering December 2008

For most people the defining moments of their life usually come during youth when we still have the passion and energy to give a damn about the world around them rather than just sit on the sofa and curse at the TV screen.

For me, however that experience came to me in my forties, hardly an age given over to violent uncontrollable emotion, Yet something in me was woken by the news that police officers had gunned down a 15 year old for no apparent reason in central Athens. I cannot say what I expected when I joined a demonstration on the following morning, an uncharacteristically warm Sunday morning. perhaps a small march with a few hundred (if that) politically active students which would last about an hour before everyone went back home or grabbed a bit to eat.

Instead thousands of people of all ages appeared and then more and still more till the marcher numbered anywhere near 10,000. But as well as the larger than expected turn out I noticed other, more worrisome signs such as the guys rapidly stuffing the necks of beer bottles with cloth.

From the beginning there was a feeling of anger and rage from many in the march, an undefinable sense that some unwritten covenent had been broken and that it wasn't business as usual. That was confirmed when the march verred off its usual route and made its way to the central police station in Aristotelous Square. Moving a little ahead of the front of the crowd I witnessed the first wave of clashes between protesters and riot police, a scene that would be repeated endless times over the following month in Thessaloniki and every other Greek city.

The police responded with endless rounds of tear gas and baton charges yet, almost miraculously people scattered then reformed, determined not to be intimidated by them. The rage and anger towards the police then mutated as the protests went on day after day into a general sense of violent discontent with the authorities in general.

Witnessing these events reminded me of all the account I had read of the student revolts of the late Sixties including Paris in 1968. Yet these protesters were not just teens or college students but rather came from virtually every age group including pensioners who red with anger would hurl the most furious insults at police officers.

The other aspect of the events of December and January was the sense of unreality that came from listening to the mainstream Greek media's account of the events which ranged from clueless to perneciously misleading. At a loss to explain a revolt which owed nothing to traditional party politics they attempted to describe it either in terms of mindless hooliganism or shadowy conspiracy theories.

It was then that I realised the true power of internet tools such as Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and blogs as they quickly proved a far more reliable source of information than TV stations which lumbered through the crisis like a half-blind brontosauras.

Two years on the conditions which fuelled the massive protests of 2008 have worsened still further and the anger feel by many then has grown and intensified as people feel betrayed by their leaders. The ruling political caste seems even more cut off from its popular grassroots support than ever before and seem oblivious that they are standing in the middle of a pool of petrol flicking cigarette butts into the void.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Greece is in trouble. And while she burns, Mr Karamanlis sits on a yacht somewhere sunbaking. Interesting how during all this violence, chaos and unrest, there is no mention of the 'gourouni' - the pig and his henchmen who got Greece into this mess in the first place. He came along with his empty, boastful words, screwed things up for the little people, then pissed off and left the clean-up to someone else. Now others are having to deal with the negative reactions that SHOULD have been directed at HIM. But this is what the Big Guys - to Kefalaio - want. They deliberately orchestrate these things so that it makes the Labor parties look bad. It happens all over the world, and it gives them the opportunity to come in and f--k things up even worse, each time filling their pockets with more booty. You'd think they never stop to consider their future, their deaths, their children's children. May they pay for all the pain they have caused.