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Archive for the ‘Greece’ Category

Mythological Crisis

In Greece on 26 April 2013 at 16:03
Perseus arming for his quest, photo Wikipedia

Perseus arming for his quest, photo Wikipedia

Thessaloniki, April 26

Dear people,

After a sudden burst of anger following the reelection of the 88-year old president of the republic, the Italian Revolution fizzled out. The two major parties have embraced each other and will soon form a government that has three major priorities. One, protect the economic and legal interests of Silvio Berlusconi. Two, prevent the other political force from disintegrating as a result of a multi billion dollar scandal involving Italy’s oldest bank, Monte dei Paschi di Siena. And three, make sure that the Five Star Movement is neutralised in any way necessary. The establishment knows they will have to succeed. If they don’t, then sooner or later, they will all go down together.

In the meantime, I made my way down to Greece. I didn’t plan on visiting this country again, but here I am. It has been a year since we marched to Athens. Back then, we came from Italy, and from the looks of it, Greece was definitely in a bad shape. Now, I come from Bulgaria, and things are different. All things are relative, and Greece is doing great.

Circumstances, and custom, make me put my convictions to the test quite often. I try to keep questioning the things that many of us have been taking for granted. And this time, in Thessaloniki, I have come to the conclusion that there is no crisis. At all. You people have been fooled by corporate media and left wing propaganda. Come take a walk through Thessaloniki and marvel at all the tantalizing windows of the luxury shops. See the flashy cars drive by over the boulevards. Observe the dense crowd of fashionable youngsters shooting pictures with their latest model iPhone. Try to find a place on one of the many terraces of the expensive cafes: you will have a hard time, they are full, everywhere. This crisis is a myth, a Greek one.

Or is it? Some people say that the crisis is real. Those people haven’t been to Bulgaria, or to most other parts of the world. They say things used to be so much better in Greece a few years ago. For me, after witnessing the exuberant hedonism of Thessaloniki, it’s hard to imagine.

But let’s hypothesise that it’s true. There is a crisis. Greece is really suffering. And there is a reason for that. Over the last few decades, the Greeks have lived a lifestyle that they couldn’t afford. They have destroyed all their towns and villages and rebuilt them with cheap concrete. They have joined a currency that they never should have joined. And now that it’s payback time, they blame the powerful international institutions and/or the defenceless immigrants. Some of them blame the Germans. Undoubtedly there are some who blame the Turks. Only a few of them, the most courageous ones – and we have met these people, they are the best – acknowledge that the Greeks have only themselves to blame.

Or have they? Let’s hypothesise that this isn’t true either, that the Greeks themselves are not to blame. Let’s drop the guilt question all together, and ask ourselves what the Greeks are doing to solve the problem.

They resist. My god, they resist. And I have to give them credit for it. Many other peoples just abandon themselves to self pity, but the Greeks are always on the barricades. The trouble is that they are all fighting a different war.

Your average Greek is mad because he is not as rich as he was. He feels that the government (or whoever, the corporations, the Germans, the immigrants, the Turks) is looting his wallet, and he just wants to go back to the times when he lived a life that he couldn’t afford. Your nationalist Greek is usually a fascist. He thinks this crisis thing is about more than just money. He is convinced the Greeks are the greatest people on earth because of all the invaluable things that Greece has left the western world. He wants a national awakening, he wants the immigrants out, he wants to pick a fight with the Turks and he dreams of a renaissance of the great Byzantine empire.

Then you have the believers. They say there is only one god, his name is Karl Marx, and Lenin is his prophet. Others believe in the same god, but they say that his prophet is Trotzky, or Mao. Some even say that his prophet is Jozef Stalin. These churches don’t get along. And what’s more, they are split into numerous different sects, who all claim that their own interpretation of the words of the prophet is the only real one. The thing they share is their firm conviction that one day, god will come again to reward his faithful. The true believers will live in the earthly paradise of the workers and the peasants, and the sinners will be sent off to spend eternity in the gulags of Siberia.

Then you have your anarchists. They only believe in freedom. Some of them build a kind of theory around it, but most of them are nihilists. They go rioting whenever the opportunity arises, because it’s the only thing that gives any sense to their existence.

Finally, there are also people who are content with the situation as it is. These are mostly civil servants. Compared to the total population, there are a lot of them, many more than you would need. They have a job with a fixed salary and hardly a chance of ever losing it. They support the government, any government, because they know that a real change, for them, can only be a change for the worse.

All these spirits add up to different forces, pulling the country in opposite directions, with the result that everything is immobile. Maybe the only way to speak about it, the only way to understand it, is to turn it into a myth. A story in which the communists and the fascists and the anarchists and the politicians and the banks and the international institutions are all mythological monsters. A story in which common sense is the true hero. A hero destined to succumb, but nevertheless unyielding, to the bitter end.

There was one thing I saw here in Thessaloniki, which lifted up my spirits. A protest concert at the White Tower square on the seaside. Against the rising prices of utilities. People had photocopied their bills and hung them up as a kind of decoration. There was no big crowd, there was no police, but also, there were no signs of any political party. These were unaffiliated citizens, rocking for a better world.

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Letter from Greece #3

In Greece on 24 November 2012 at 00:06

Protest against the fascists. The banner says ‘exclusively public, for free health for everyone without terms and conditions’. Photo via http://taxikiantepithesi.blogspot.gr

Dear people,

I received another excruciating letter from a friend in Patras…

“Things are getting worse and worse. Fascists now make raids in public care and check if the health booklets of patients belong to a Greek citizen or a foreigner. They keep terrorizing the people undisturbed.

On Saturday we had the celebration of the Insurrection of Politechneion (university students in 1973 went into the university, occupied, made a radio station, stayed there and demanded the fall of the junta of Papadopoulos). Every year we march. This year police officers were so harsh even here. They threw teargas in the middle of the crowd to break up the march.

My friend and I feel that we live under a junta again, and the biggest problem is that Greek society cares about silly things on youtube and on TV. They are blind (…)

Many people commit suicides… last month only in Patras I heard about 3 people from 15 to 34 I think (…)

I want to leave Greece. I don’t want when I narrate the story of my life to have a civil war as a chapter. I love Greece, I really do, but I can’t stand fanaticism, racism and violence. I don’t know how to react to all this. I don’t know what to do. I want something creative to unite people. Greek society won’t go out on to the streets for another “useless protest”, they don’t believe that something can change. You were here, you saw, you know. We are people that wait for someone else to save us and we don’t care if this someone else is crazy, or fascist, or murderer.”

El Dorado

In #GlobalRevolution, Greece on 24 October 2012 at 12:23

October 24

Dear people,

“Greece, which is also fast-tracking state property sales, is set to overtake Finland as the continent’s largest gold producer within four years, as regulators in Athens sign off on mines kept on hold for more than a decade by red tape and environmental rules.”

From an article in the Independent, October 15. It was all about investment opportunities, about the mining potential of Greece, about the employment it would bring to the region, about the money the government would make so that it could pay off its debts. It’s a long piece, only around the end it notes that “Environmentalism and local opposition remain the biggest obstacle to gold mining in Greece,” and that “local villagers and mining protesters from Thessaloniki clashed with police at the Skouries site last month, according to local press reports.”

At Skouries, an Australian Company and a Canadian company called ‘El Dorado’ plan to dig up “757 million dollar” worth of gold by 2016.

This month, protesters clashed again at the site. On the Real Democracy Greece blog I found a witness account of what happened. I post some excerpts, read the original in Greek and English here. This is a story about greed in its purest and most visceral form, and the way it is narrated makes it also irresistably Homeric…

“Yesterday’s demonstration was maybe the biggest regarding the mines and for sure one of the biggest in the Chalkidiki region. More than 2000 people coming from the surrounding area but also from even more far away like Thesaloniki, Kilkis, Thrace gathered in Ieriso, where the car cortege started its course towards Skouries. It was the first time that young people joined our struggle coming from villages apart from Ierisso (where it is considered the ‘heart’ of our movement). People from M. Panagia, Ammouliani, Ouranoupoli, Nea Roda, Metaggitsi, Gomati, Ormylia, N. Moudania, Polygiros, Plana, even from the villages that have workers at the gold mines (Stratoniki, Stageira, Paleochori) ignored the propaganda and joined hands.

The road to Skouries was not blocked by the riot police (as they did several times in the past) but we were informed that about 4 squads were waiting for us in the village. We kept walking the next 8 kms passing through the beautiful forest that they plan to destroy. A small group of 200 remained in Hontro Dentro in order to prevent riot police to coming from behind. Recalling today the brutality of the police, this plan sounds naïve…

When we finally arrived in the village, a wall of policemen was blocking the public road in front of the company’s premises. Behind these policemen they were standing riot policemen and behind them company officials and ’secret’ policemen. In order to keep the atmosphere calm, women stood in front and we all asked to let us pass. They denied completely. Standing in front of their shields we shouted slogans and tried to start a discussion with the policemen that showed no reaction or expression.

’We are your wives, your mothers, your sisters and we are protecting our land. We are fighting for our children and our future. Why do you hit us? What are you gonna say to your own kids when they ask you?’

It was getting dark when the police decided to get rid of us. The attack was ordered without any previous assault or provocation from our side. They started throwing a huge number of teargases, screaming ‘bitches’ ‘fagots’ chasing and beat the ones left behind. I could not run so I entered the woods. I was lying down inside a cloud of teargases with riot policemen walking around me. As soon as I managed to escape from them, I joined small group of demonstrators who were ready to return back with a small truck. There was also a young boy badly beaten in the ribbons.

This was the last image that my camera captured. What followed is hard to describe… Like mad dogs they started attacking everyone and throwing tons of teargases. Women were pulled by their hair, people were beaten while they were trying to enter their own cars and whoever was lying down were trampled violently. The cars could not move fast due to the big number of demonstrators and the traffic jam. Many drivers collided. The riot police was running among the cars, breaking glasses, opening the doors furious and kicking everyone out. One of them saw me wearing a surgery mask and tried to open my door calling me ‘bitch’.

I saw with my own eyes a policeman breaking a glass and throwing a teargas INSIDE THE CAR! The interior of the car turned black from the smoke and the driver was thrown out and beaten. They did the same in many cars.

Without any doubts I claim that the police order was ‘SMASH THEM SO THEY WILL NOT RETURN TO THE MOUNTAIN’. They didn’t want just to disperse the mobilization (this is anyway easy for them with the plastic bullets and the teargases while we were not prepared). Their attack (as we were departing from the place and we were no harm to them) is an organized crime (there is no other way for me to describe it) and I am sure that if they had guns they would have used them.”

The Independent article ends like this:

“Eldorado’s Moure is betting more than $3 billion that objectors to expanding gold exploration in Greece will be swayed. The company intends to invest about $1 billion in the next five years. ‘I think people realize we are part of the solution, that part of the economic recovery will be due to mining,’ said Moure. ‘I’m convinced that people who oppose our projects will come to realize that mining can be a positive force for change.'”

(This video is from a similar protest in Romania)

 

Letter from Greece, follow-up

In Greece on 16 October 2012 at 21:36

Dear people,

This is the follow-up I received after I responded to the letter from Greece:

“The general political situation in Greece is that after the election people have lost hope, they are so disappointed and they don’t believe the political parties in power can save them from the economic crisis (the truth is that they understand it a bit late). In everyday life the only news that we learn about is the actions that fascists do. People don’t react because they are afraid and they think that it is not so important and that whenever the system decides to marginalize them it will be something easy.

The truth for us is different, we believe that the system wants to create a situation that leads to a “civil war”. They have made 2 groups/fields, one that is fascists and the other that is left or anarchist or communist.

All the time in the news you have to see fascists – guys from the gym, like gangsters wearing a black T-shirt – hitting immigrants, destroying, hunting artists and (some) journalists. Fascists control also youtube!!! When you go to this website the top videos are from a speech of a deputy of them (Chrisi Augi). Examples:

(the most shocking video. The title is “Crisi Augi cracking down the illigal trade”)

(this image is from the popular meal they organised only for Greeks).

(in this video Chrisi Augi with some religious people have been outside the theater protesting about a play that insults God. Their slogan is : “Greece means Orthodox”)

In all theirs attacks always the first man will be a deputy of this party so the police obviously don’t do something.

The other field/group is sleeping. Don’t do a thing all the time, the only things are talking, blaming or a march.

Another thing that the system have done is that it not only controls all the press but now they started to threaten and to arrest bloggers that don’t like them. The accuses most of the times are ridiculous, for example insulting god!!! Day by day we become a more conservative and religious oriented society.

The purpose of all this we believe is that they want to control the situation after the imminent default and the expected insurrection. So they have to feed us and fill us with fear… The people watch from a distance and they don’t want to be involved, they are afraid.”

 

A Letter from Greece

In Greece on 16 October 2012 at 20:33

Dear people,

I got a letter today from two very dear friends whom we met in Patras on the March to Athens. I was shocked. This is Europe, AD 2012…

“Here in Greece things are getting worse every day, but except for some strikes one day per week, no one seems to care. Everyday fascists attack the immigrants. Now they want to know how many immigrant children are in kindergartens. Anarchists don’t do much about it. The only time they do something is when the mayor decides that the buildings they occupy must return to the city. The people that wanted to “clear” the occupied buildings were the fascists of the political party Chrisi Augi [Golden Dawn]. So only then anarchists react and burn a fascist hideout. Police arrested them…

Yesterday we were passing in front of the political office of the fascists and they were there with shields and bats like they are in a war! I was so afraid. Now they expand and attack artists and journalists as well.

In my life now I am officially unemployed. Greece is dying and we can’t do something about it.

Please send me your news and something to hope for.”

Μ & Σ

Reflections on Revolution

In #GlobalRevolution, Athens, Greece on 25 June 2012 at 19:25

Athens, June 25

Dear people,

In Spain the summer marches are getting under way, like last year. Only this time there are just three marches confirmed. The Northwest column from Galicia, the Northeast column from Barcelona and the Southern column from Málaga.

A few weeks ago Mami told me that this spring, leading up to May 15, there have also been various Catalan marches directed to Barcelona. I believe there were four. They entered the city along the river valleys and over the ancient trade routes.

Some of us have left Athens to join the Barcelona column going to Madrid. Again like last year, the columns are expected to arrive at Puerta del Sol on July 23.

Me, I’m still in Athens. You can find me on my rock, growing a beard and contemplating the fact that I know so little. Yet as a longtime revolutionary and veteran of many campaigns, people come to me sometimes and they say: “Oscar, what do you think of all this?” The marches, they mean.

Usually I scratch my beard in a very wise and meaningful manner and I respond something like: “Things are not what they seem…” Or: “Fire, walk with me!” But that is just because I used to watch a lot of Twin Peaks.

In fact, I don’t know. On the one hand, it has been done, and it’s never going to be the way it was the first time. On the other hand, by all means let there be marches. Any initiative is better than no initiative at all, especially now that Spain is in the situation that Greece experienced last year.

Also, a recurrence is a good reason to reflect. When you return to the same places after a year, and you continue to return there, you will be able to see changes. You can detect what’s improving and what isn’t. Most of all you can share your experiences by speaking about what’s happening in other towns, regions and villages.

It’s important to keep making revolution every day, all year round. But if the revolution doesn’t advance to the next level, the popular impulse will fade away. It’s what happened in Greece last year. During the occupation of Syntagma and the massive daily protests outside parliament, the Greeks came very close to toppling the government. They could have done so. But they knew that even if the popular revolt succeeded, the outside world would intervene to reestablish order in one way or another.

If there is still any hope left in Greece now, it’s hope for some kind of divine providence to turn things around sooner or later. But people here don’t seem to believe that they can make a difference themselves any more.

In thinking about the concept of revolution, I’m convinced I’m starting to understand some things. Not yet on a rational level, but more intuitively. Both about people themselves, and about the system that keeps society together.

Sometimes, while contemplating modern society my greatest worry is that this is us. All this mindless exploitation and senseless consumerism is simply what we are. In that case, there is no such thing as revolution. It’s a fairy tale like the ones religions are made of.

Fortunately, there is often someone who reminds me that this isn’t true, not completely. The variety in human forms of organisation is huge, just like the variety of values on which humans have founded their societies in the past.

If modern society is what we are, it’s because it’s us who hold it together, but it hasn’t got anything to do with human nature. It works both ways. We give shape to the system, and in turn it’s the system that shapes our mindset.

The same goes for the crisis. It wasn’t caused only by the banks. It was caused by every one of us. A bank shouldn’t give easy credit to people who can’t afford to pay it back and then sell off that debt to someone else. That’s not fair. But as a client, if you can’t afford it, you have no business taking a loan in the first place!

With this I don’t mean to say that there isn’t something inherently wicked in our current banking system. There is. First because money is created out of debt by private enterprises for the sole purpose of private gain. And secondly because of the phenomenon of interest and inflation.

These two are obviously linked. They serve as an incentive to invest, to make sure money keeps roling. You have little choice, because if you put your money in an old sock, it will lose its value. Interest and inflation are at the core of the Gospel of Economic Growth. In certain societies – most notably in the muslim world – interest is forbidden by law, and money is first of all a public asset.

But the economy is only a part of the story. On a wider scale, before we even start to think about change, let alone revolution, we have to be aware of the fact that we have only recently entered a completely new era. In the last fifty years human society has been subject to change in a way which can only be compared to the agricultural revolution at the basis of civilization, and the industrial revolution, of which it represents the final stage.

What I mean to say is that all throughout known history human society was rooted in the land. City life was only made possible because the majority of people were working the soil, producing more than enough for city dwellers to be sustained.

With the advent of industrial agriculture the ancient link between people and the land was broken. Machines had taken over, life in the city had become the heart of society and the country side was reduced to an appendix of the city itself. Rural life as people had known it throughout the centuries, had ceased to exist.

Today, in a world where population keeps growing exponentially while precious resources are being depleted at ever increasing rates and the climate shows signs of a potentially devastating change, the most important problems are not economical.

A revolution will have to be a change towards sustainability. And as such it will have to include a reevaluation of rural life. Not that people should go back to being farmers, or live together in hippie comunes. I don’t believe in all those things. I see it more like an evolution towards a hybrid of country- and city life. Or, in other words, a redistribution of space.

In general, we all have our own very small private space in the city. We work most of our lives to be able to pay for it and call it our own. This space, and often the furniture, is similar to that of other people. Hardly anyone lives in a space that is authentically his own.

All around our little home, life is dictated by the fast pace of the outside world. The thin layer of neighbours, friends and collegues is not enough to divide the two.

A redistribution of space would mean first of all amplifying and personalising the private space and establishing contact with the outdoors. Second of all it would mean the creation of an intermediate community space, where you can be part of a society on a human scale. Then all around this community space, there is the world.

It’s going to take a long time, people. And it’s not going to start here in Greece. Tomorrow morning, at daybreak, I will make another attempt to escape from Athens.

If I’ll make it, you’ll know.

Helpless

In Athens, Greece on 19 June 2012 at 16:07

Athens, June 19

In 1948 the Italians were asked to vote on the future of their newly founded republic. If they voted the right, Italy would become a liberal democracy under the umbrella of the United States, and as such eligible for Marshall funds. If they voted the left, Italy would become a socialist state under the influence of Moscow. There was no third way.

The right wing Christian Democrats presented themselves as guardians of civilization, with a shield and the holy cross as their symbol.

The left wing socialists and communists had united in the ‘Garibaldi alliance’, after Italy’s iconic hero of the wars for independence.

The election campaign was completely based on fear. In people’s consciousness it wasn’t the name of Garibaldi that became associated with the leftwing parties, it was the name of Stalin. If Italians would vote communist, it would mean another barbarian invasion, and it was going to be worse than Atilla and Barbarossa put together. Or so the establishment predicted. From the Vatican, the pope didn’t care too much for subtlety when he excommunicated every single communist.

It worked. Italy voted for the right. The country became a member of NATO, and a founding member of the European Community. The Christian-Democrats gained power, and clang on to it throughout the Cold War, until the first republic was blown up by a corruption scandal of epic proportions in 1992.

Dear people,

No-one came after me any more, the house still stands, and with a little twist of fate, I’m still here. Long enough to witness yet another general election.
For some reason, the Greek elections of May and June this year reminded me a bit of what happened in Italy in the wake of WW2. Only now the big question on which the people got to decide was if Greece should stay in the eurozone, or if she should default and start all over.

The left wing has managed to unite into an alliance which ranges from social-democrats to various radical communist denominations. They don’t want to pay the debt. They want out of the euro.

The right wing, which includes both major parties, wants to stay in the euro, and they based their campaign on fear. To them, a default and a return to the drachme would mean complete collapse and misery. Simply because Greece doesn’t have the economic basis to stand on her own. She needs Europe and the rest of the world.

Naturally, a majority of Greeks doesn’t want international institutions and markets to dictate national policy, but that’s not what the election is about. There is no third way. Either you want in, or you want out.

Greek society is so deeply divided on the subject that two rounds of general elections have been necessary. The first one was held on the day after we arrived, and the second one was last Sunday.

Nothing really changed in the mind of the Greeks over these last few weeks, so the results were pretty similar. The only scarry news is that the fascists gained even more than last time. As if to say that Greeks didn’t vote them out of frustration. Almost ten percent of the electorate support the neo-nazis, and they mean it.

In general the results show the following. There is a small majority that wants Greece to stay in the eurozone. There is a large minority that wants a return to the drachme combined with an evolution towards a certain degree of socialism. There is a small but significant minority that wants to turn Greece into an independent nationalist dictatorship, and there another small but significant minority that doesn’t want any form of government at all.

Last year’s dream of direct democracy and popular participation is not an option. There is no spirit of revolution in the air. Instead you can feel the desire of many people to return to how things were before the crisis started. It had only been a generation or two since Greece had turned from basic rural misery to urban consumerism. People had only just got used to the western way of life.

Now, even if people really wanted to make a real change, a revolution, they wouldn’t know where to start. And this goes not just for Greece. We modern city dwellers might be the best educated generation in history, but when it comes down to practice, we are absolutely helpless.

On average, we have no idea of how to work the land. We hardly even know which crops are typical of our climate, and in which season they grow. We don’t have any real technical or mechanical knowledge either. We wouldn’t know how to build a shed, or a fence, or a house. We wouldn’t know how to fix a car or a pump. We don’t know much about electric circuits and how to create energy. Finally, we haven’t got any profound knowledge of computers, be it hardware or software.
We are perfectly capable of using the front end of the system, but we haven’t got a clue of what’s going on under the hood.

Sure, we can learn, but who is seriously prepared to do so? To many people it feels unnatural, as if it were a return to the past. We came from being hunters to being farmers, to being artisans and labourers until we reached the final stage of evolution. Our own office chair.

Once you’re there, in the office chair, it’s hard to go back to doing or making real things. And so you delegate.

The Greek people have delegated. They have given the traditional parties a mandate to negotiate a way out of this crisis. They want them to get this train back on track, or else things could get unpredictably ugly.

In the midst of all this the only true revolutionary gesture that I haven’t even witnessed, but heard about, was that of a compatriot of mine. He came to Greece years ago, he fell in love, and now he bought a piece of land with the ferm intent to make it bear fruit.

About Last Night

In Athens, Greece on 13 June 2012 at 05:00

Athens, June 13, 5 a.m.

I have been too cynical after all, I admit it. Life is not easy in Exarchia. To me, and to those who came here with the march to Athens, it might have seemed that way, especially after months of walking and camping in the public squares, but that doesn’t give me the right to say life is easy for people here in Exarchia.

Also, I admit that it is incoherent of me to speak about ‘drugs’, if I have been saying ‘grass’ and ‘weed’ all along to indicate the same thing.

With that I rectify what I said in the original first paragraph of yesterday’s post. I also explicitly add that all views expressed on this blog are my personal views only. None of the people from the march, from the squat, or from the photographs is to be held responsible for what I say.

Dear people,

I didn’t manage to escape last night. And maybe it’s better that way, because in my naive cynicism I could have left burning ruins in Exarchia, without even being aware of it.

At three o’clock this morning three people came to the door of our squat. They were looking for me. They demanded access in order to beat me up, all because of the former first paragraph of yesterday’s post. I do hope they didn’t read any further.

The Old Man denied them access. They threatened to come back this morning with a hundred people to burn the house down and club us all out.

It was slight overkill. A heartfelt but pressing advice would have been enough for me to rectify. Because I am a reasonable person, and as such I am perfectly willing to admit I’m wrong, in case I really am.

Also, as a reasonable person, I think that violence is a problem and not a solution. The threat to use it against people because of their opinions is not going to create a fruitful debate. It’s also typical for those repressive societies that many of us, free human beings, are so determined to fight.

I don’t know exactly in what kind of society I would like to live, but I’m damn sure it’s a place where I can freely share my views without having to be afraid to go out on the streets, or to stay at home.

It’s 1515. Nosotros turns out to be closed. If anyone wants to speak to me, come to the house at 1900. Without arms. If I’m not there, last chance tomorrow at Nosotros 1400 hours.

Oscar.

P.S. For those who are wondering what this is all about, and for completeness’ sake, I add the original first paragraph of yesterday’s post:

“It has been a month and it’s time to get out of here. Exarchia is like a trap. Life is too easy in this place. You can find abandoned houses anywhere, rampant consumerism brings in more than enough food to be recycled, drugs are abundant and cheap, and illegal tobacco as well. You don’t need much here to get wasted every day.”

Escape from Exarchia

In Athens, Greece on 12 June 2012 at 14:36

Comrade Cansino / Kourasmenos

Athens, June 12

Dear people,

It has been a month, and only now the last of the marchers are leaving Exarchia in small groups. The road that took us here has been long, and for many of us the road out of here has been hard to find. Some of us went a couple of days to the islands on holiday. Me too, I went to Paros with a comrade from the indignados in Paris. We did ‘Occupy Paros’, and the ‘March to Naussa’, eight kilometres. In Naussa we came across two Greeks who live in Scotland. Last year they participated in ‘Occupy Dundee’.

Cat on Paros
Having experienced live abroad, they were pretty hard on their fellow Greeks. For once I didn’t hear the usual story of the evil IMF trying to enslave the poor Greek people through a fictitious debt. Instead they gave the simple example of a normal Greek family who goes to the beach and leaves the place littered with trash. “They don’t care. And as long as they don’t care, things are not going to get any better around here.”

We also met an entrepreneur who has been living in Greece for years. He complained a lot about Greek mentality, in particular the buraucracy and the corruption. Nothing special for a businessman to complain about, I know. But this man wasn’t from England or Holland or Germany or even France. He was from the Dominican Republic. And if I’m not mistaken, the Dominican Republic is one of those countries who regularly top the charts when it comes to corruption and bureaucracy.

Goat on Paros

Sundown

Camouflage

Back in Exarchia things were the same as before. Only some people had managed to escape. I don’t know if they ever made it out of Greece.

It has been an interesting experience living in the anarchist quarter. It’s a very peculiar place. On the inside you won’t find any police. The cops are around. You’re in a ghetto that is under siege twenty-four hours a day. Usually you find four officers in riot gear guarding each of the exits, with a bus full of backup on standby.

Within their own neighbourhood, it’s the anarchists themselves who uphold law and order. Fortunately they don’t have any clear ideas on either subject, so they usually won’t bother you. But if they do, you better watch out. Standard anarchist armament consists of clubs and helmets. Supposedly it’s the only thing that Greeks use their helmets for: to smash them on other people’s heads.

I’m sorry, I’m getting cynical. But that’s not my fault. It’s the result of three months of living in Greece. Still there’s no need to worry, I’m working on an exit strategy.

So, Exarchia is a fascinating place. If I had taken university seriously and had a couple of years to spare I could have written a monumental sociological study about this neighbourhood. And it would have been worth it, because the organisation of anarchist society in Exarchia is absolutely striking.

I’ll try to give you the short version.

Comrade Sabina, heroine of the revolution.

First, there are the upperclass anarchists. They gather in their own exclusive societies where you can only enter if you have reached at least Political Awareness Level 7. You also have to be able to quote fifty pages of Bakunin by heart. Not for us mortals. You need Political Awareness Level 4 just to talk them on the street.

Second, there are the bourgeois anarchists. These people don’t lock themselves up in exclusive clubs, because they want to be seen. They drink their expensive Nescafe frappe from cocktail glasses on the terraces of luxury bars named ‘Revolt’, or ‘Che Guevara’, or something similar.

Comrade Leonidas

Third, there are the middle class anarchists. They take their frappe ‘to go’ in large American-style plastic cups, and they drink it out on the square. In the evening, they switch their instant coffee for various international brands of beer.

Fourth, there are proletarian anarchists. They roam the square and the streets all night to collect the empty bottles of beer. If they bring back seven empty bottles to the store, they get a full one in exchange.

Fifth, there must be some anarchist anarchists here as well. They probably have their own block on the neighbourhood somewhere.

One thing that all the anarchists have in common, maybe the only thing, is that they think they are cool. They are cool in ways that we normal people will never understand. As a matter of fact, they don’t even consider us, normal people. They only consider themselves (‘cool’), the communists (‘losers’), and the fascists (‘assholes’). All other political or social denominations are rigourously snobbed.

Outside the house

In case of conflict, the anarchists take their clubs and helmets and form their own ‘anti-fascist’ militia. These are very hard to distinguish from the fascists themselves. Both have a preference for the same dark colours and for the same primitive type of violence. The difference lies in the fact that the fascists go out to beat up immigrants, and the anti-fascists go out to beat up fascists.

I’m sorry, am I being cynical again?

I don’t think so. Take a look in the mirror.

Another striking aspect of life in a decaying city like Athens is recycling. There is only one impelling incentive that makes people really care about recycling.

Hunger.

As a result, you see people loading up their shopping carts at the dumpsters. Most of them are immigrants. If they find metal, paper or other potentially useful things, they sell them. If they find food, they eat it.

The sight of these backdoor shoppers is nothing special in a city where entire districts are shrouded in the chilly air of bankruptcy. For now, there is still enough production being stashed through the throat of the system for people to live on all the things that get crapped out without having been digested.

A Duck, a Renault 4 and a Beetle.

But if the input decreases, the competition at the dumpsters will grow. And then people will start to behave like chickens. The weakest ones will be picked on, so they don’t get to eat valuable food which could nurture the strong. This phase has already started.

At the moment, the weakest creatures in this henhouse called Greece are the immigrants. They get picked on, because they have no protection from the law. Only from the anarchists.

Thank God for the anarchists.

It all doesn’t make the situation any better. I’m breathing a creepy 1930s atmosphere. I see apathy turning into despair. I feel the spectre of violence.

For me it’s enough. I can’t stand all the petty ideological divisions. This is not why I joined our movement. Quite the opposite, I joined because our movement is aimed at tearing down all the artificial barriers that divide us, so that we can start to reason together as free individuals.

“We are workers, unemployed, retirees, youth, who have come to Syntagma Square to fight and give a struggle for our lives and our future. We are here because we know that the solutions to our problems can only be provided by us. We call all residents of Athens, workers, unemployed and youth, to come to Syntagma Square, and all of society to fill the public squares and to take their lives into their own hands. In these public squares we will shape our claims and our demands together.”

That was last year, the ‘Declaration of the People’s Assembly of Syntagma Square’, adopted on May 27. I was moved to tears when I read it in the tent of the Communications commission on Puerta del Sol. I had wanted to there.

Now I am there, here, in Athens. And I want to get out. I want to find some hope somewhere, before I get too cynical to care anymore. I must go now. Only a handful of people from the march are left, and they are ready to go.

Tonight, under the cover of darkness, we will make an attempt to escape from Athens. Destination unknown.

If we’ll make it, I’ll be sure to let you know.

Take care,
Oscar

P.S. Today our two comrades got judged for carrying bottles and weed and for resisting arrest. Comrade Bernard got acquited. Comrade Elisa got sentenced to 6 months conditional. It’s an outrage. The judgment has been appealed. Elisa’s equipment has surfaced and was resistuted, minus the memory cards.

Cats on Paros

Photos and Update

In Athens, Greece, March to Athens on 2 June 2012 at 10:54

On the Cote d’Azur. All photos by Laurent.

 

Dear people,

I present you a series of pictures from the early stages of the march, between Nice and Rome. They were taken by comrade Lorenzo.

Also, a short update. Four days ago, two of our comrades were arrested while taking pictures of police officers at an anti-fascist demonstration. They were kept in custody for the full three days. Only after two days we found out that they had been arrested.

They will be judged on the twelfth. Their crime was that they carried dried herbs and empty bottles around with them. The herbs are said to be illegal, and the bottles could have theoretically been filled with an inflammable substance to create a Molotov cocktail.

One of the people who got detained is a guy from France, the other is comrade Elisa, a girl from Valencia. She carried her photo camera with her, plus her laptop and harddisk. All of this mysteriously got lost during the arrest. The data on the lost hardware contained photos and films from one year of 15M revolution.

I have encountered Elisa various times this year, in Paris, in Brussels, and here. She was with Occupy La Défense among other initiatives. The material she shot is unique.

So I wonder who should actually be judged here. If it should be our comrades for the dried grass and the empty bottles, or the Athens police for ‘losing’ valuable equipment and priceless historic footage.

*

Before departure in Nice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mimo at the Italian frontier

 

Genoa, Piazza dei Ferrari

 

Tuscany

 

Ollie and Bobo’

 

Communications Commission

 

Christmas tree

 

Siena

 

 

 

Unloading the van

 

Camping in the Christmas stable