My next post was going to be a fairly innocuous account of the odd experience of celebrating Halloween in Greece is, but something occurred in the interim I couldn’t not comment on:
I first heard of the story just as I was on my way out of the house by my mother informing me that two ‘kids’ were shot in front of the Golden Dawn office by masked men. When I asked the clarification of whether she meant Golden Dawn members/sympathizers and she answered in the affirmative, I got the full power of the Greek Mother Disappointed And Disapproving Look at my breezy “Then good riddance.”
To clarify: despite the callousness of my reaction to the deaths, I don’t actually approve of vigilantism or killing for ideology. My gut emotional reaction might be verging on the bloodthirsty, but I have no problem differentiating between my visceral desires and what I approve of in terms of action. Much like my personal feeling is that I think that rapists and child molesters should be castrated and flayed, but I am by no means campaigning for a justice system that reenacts scenes from the third series of Game of Thrones.
Beyond the ethical implications of the shooting itself and the loss of two lives I frankly can’t conjure one iota of sympathy for, the reason I was unable to think or talk about anything else since it happened is the knowledge that big picture-wise, this can only make things worse. Whether it’s the fact that it’s effectively martyring sympathizers of Golden Dawn, or suddenly changing the language used to refer to Golden Dawn members from ‘knife-wielding thugs and criminals’ to ‘those boys and their families we extend our warmest sympathies to’ by everyone from the media, to politicians in general, to the general public. This, of course, is ignoring the possibility of both of both of those descriptors being true to an extent, without in any way excusing or mitigating those mens’ choices or ideals.
Regardless of who the perpetrators of the attack turn out to be, I personally dread what’s to come in months ahead. The oncoming media circus, political opportunism and blame game is pretty much a given. I refuse to entertain some of the more ominous predictions I’ve seen at this point, like the Greek politician who in a supreme demonstration of irresponsible and inflammatory rhetoric actually used the words ‘civil war’, like a modern doomsday prophecy Cassandra. What bothers me the most is the inevitable result of this being that we will all be having the wrong conversation.
Because it’s not even about Golden Dawn. Of course killing two minor supporters of the party will not only not be a blow to it, but rather have the opposite effect where public perception and their ability to recruit new members is concerned. Anyone who truly believes the opposite is likely to be as much of a hotheaded, ignorant, violence-loving pawn as the members of that organisation they oppose. But even if any out and proud, card-carrying GD member was suddenly magically erased out of existence, it wouldn’t even make a dent in the underlying and systemic problem making their very existence possible. Golden Dawn is simply the most extreme and easily identifiable symptom of the cancer spreading into every level of Greek society. It’s in the casual racism I hear expressed by people in my neighborhood I’ve known since childhood, and who don’t exactly strike me as the ‘going out at night looking for illegal immigrants to beat up’ types. It’s in the way Golden Dawn was tolerated and occasionally aided for years by the Greek police even before their rebranding from insane tiny fringe group to yet another European nationalist party. It’s in the speed with which the questionable parentage of one blonde little girl in a Roma camp turned into international media hysteria and Gypsy witch hunt (because we may have the Neo-Nazis in Parliament, but by no means hold the monopoly on racist sentiment and prejudice). It’s in all the small and great ways of slowly chipping away at Greece’s very soul.
So yes, violence accomplishes nothing, because people are a lot easier to kill than ideas. The only way to fight a bad idea is to offer a better one, and as much as I’d like to embrace optimism for once, I don’t see this as being one of the possible outcomes of last night’s events.