Wednesday, December 10, 2008

On the riots

However much I love being in Greece, I am an outsider and the riots only betray my ignorance. The crisis continues and reading some of the reporting and comment now coming out of the country I am struck by two predominant sentiments. One is the general sense of horror and despair at the events, the other is anger, in particular at the current Nea Dimokratia government, but also at the state of Greek politics in general.

In the mainstream media, Helena Smith seems to captures the mood well, whilst the blogosphere has produced this passionate piece of angst from Hope Dies Last. On Comment is Free, the Liberal Democrat, Antonis Papasolomontos, writes harshly about the rioters, making the observation that, "The majority of Greeks, whatever their grievances, are welcoming, kind and passionate people, hugely proud of their history and of their status as Europeans", a view I can endorse. However, it sits very uneasily with his cod sociological observation that the blame for the disurbances lie in "the Greeks' cultural psyche, their attraction to collective disobedience", as if conformity and dutiful submission to authority are necessarily democratic virtues and their converse an automatic trigger for violence. That there might be some rationality to "disobedience" is suggested by this Economist article from September about the failings of the Karamanlis government.

I don't know enough to comment other than to make a general observation that there seems to be a parallel with Britain in the 1980's when discontent about urban policing spilled out in localised rioting across the country. That rioting took place in the context of a right wing government dismantling a social and economic settlement that was the product of an earlier social democratic consensus, leading to increasing unemployment. Recent events have indicated that certain aspects of that restructure were mistaken and policy reversals are now taking place. Just perhaps, this might throw a light on the current Greek experience as well.

UPDATE

As if on cue,
A mile away, a 27-year-old waitress had joined a peaceful protest outside the parliament building. Declining to be named, she told me she had been demonstrating since the trouble began because she was "fed up with life here".

"I have two degrees but I am a waitress. There is no opportunity for young people here any more but I don't think this is confined to Greece. The economic situation leaves a lot of young people across Europe feeling bleak and hopeless."

The case for a renewed European social democratic settlement in the wake of the banking crisis is becoming compelling. And in a nod to Shuggy,

"The weather is changing. It's getting colder. That will finish it sooner than the police can," she said
See here too. And here (via)

UPDATE 2

Kostas Gemenis writes in Open Democracy

3 comments:

Paul Stott said...

Peter - I think it is very hard to judge a country as a tourist (I know you are a bit more than that, but you know what I mean)

I can remember leaving Malaysia thinking here is a Muslim country that manages to function as a multi-cultural democracy, then visiting Thailand and finding its English language press was full of horror stories about the emerging problems for non-Muslims in Malaysia.

You just don't know unless you live there, and speak the language.....

The Plump said...

Not much more than that Paul. And yes, you are right. Still like the place mind ...

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