Charity begins at home

Rarely could charity have had such negative connotations as on Wednesday in Syntagma Square, central Athens, where neofascist Chryssi Avgi (Golden Dawn) handed out free food to passers-by, as long as they could prove they were Greek.

The party, which gained 7 percent of the vote in the June elections, was completely open about the fact that it had taken a political choice to feed just Greeks. The sociopathic nature of this decision is self-evident. The fact that the event was a bare-faced publicity stunt is also clear. Golden Dawn’s decision to use state funding (taxpayers’ money) for “good causes” is a direct challenge to the parties accused of consistently pocketing or wasting public funds. It underlines that Golden Dawn is a product of the political system’s chronic apathy.

It is too late to correct this now, the damage has been done. Cleaning up the political system and completing the transition from the self-serving politics of the last few decades to something more productive will take time. But this is a commodity Greece doesn’t have when dealing with the rise of extremism. Wednesday’s events highlighted that the country is fast approaching social disintegration.

The discrimination exercised in how food was handed out or the fact that Golden Dawn defied a ban by the City of Athens to use the capital’s main square for its event is the least of Greek society’s worries. There was something much darker, more malignant going in Syntagma Square. Anyone wanting to avail themselves of the far-right party’s “generosity” was asked to produce an ID card proving they were Greek. This document was then taken by party members, who recorded all the details.

In other words, free citizens were voluntarily offering up to fellow citizens a document they are only legally bound to show to representatives of the state. In breach of privacy laws, the personal data on this document was recorded for the benefit of a political party. Aggressive marketing met extremist politics in the shadow of Greek Parliament.

The fact that we have reached a point where Greek citizens are willing to abandon their rights and give up their dignity for a free bottle of olive oil or carton of milk should be of utmost concern. The fact that a political party is willing to exploit this desperation or indifference by impersonating authority should be the cause of greatest alarm. This is a breakdown of the basic structures of a functioning democracy and suggests dangerous developments ahead. It requires an immediate and concerted response.

The answer cannot be just political. While Greece’s parties must realize the part they’ve played in creating this mess and discover what role they can play in rebuilding the country, there needs to be a wider response. Civil society and the media must contribute to highlighting and combating this problem. This needs to be tackled at the grassroots, not just the top.

Beyond that, though, there needs to be a European reaction. The European Union was formed to bolster and spread democratic principles. Overall, it has done a remarkable job but in one of its member states, the project is unraveling. Democratic institutions are being undermined and society is being divided. The role of the economic crisis, continuing austerity policies and questionable decision-making process cannot be ignored. Recession, unemployment, disparaging comments and the sense of being dictated to are breeding social disharmony. In the relentless chase for fiscal targets, democratic goals are being forgotten. It must be the aim of those with democratic sensibilities within Greece and Europe to take swift action and to prove that charity beginning at home is a principle that was perverted in Syntagma on Wednesday.

By Nick Malkoutzis

12 responses to “Charity begins at home

  1. Great article. “…a direct challenge to the parties…” exactly my first thought.
    To all parties I may add not just the ex and current government ones. GD has been proven much more ‘innovative’ in their communication tactics. The rest of the parties seem to be in aphasia for that matter. If that continues, things will only get worse.

  2. Golden Dawn is beyond embarrassment.

    But both it and Syriza are basically Merkel’s creations. For it is the unintelligent policies of austerity which have promoted the extremes on both ends of the Greek political spectrum in abandoning the golden mean of the center.

    Therefore the issue has nothing to do with the EU. It has everything to do with the leader of a certain European country who by any measurement available to man is out of her depth in handling a crisis which started overseas (in American soil) but now has been amplified by a factor of 50 due to her incompetence, flawed policies and self-serving behavior.

    • disgruntledinvestor

      During the past 20 years (before, Merkel was in safe custody being a Soviet-influenced apparatshik), did anyone “in Europe” ban Greece from starting modern taxation and social security systems (not based on nepotism)?

      • Are you trying telling us that Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy are also victims of modern taxation and social security systems?

        What exactly is modern taxation? The type of taxation that ends up costing Germany nothing? or the type of taxation which equates with German unjust enrichment?

    • There you go again, singing the same old tune again: “Everything is Germany’s fault, the austerity, the debt, the bad economy, the useless elections, Golden Dawn, Syriza, yadda yadda yadda.” That’s pathological. Go see a specialist before the voices in your head lead you towards making a serious, irreparable mistake. Seriously.

      • Didn’t Varoufakis kick you out of his blog?

        Nowhere to go now? Or your 30-yr old gas analyst blogger of Greek Default Watch won’t have you either among his tremendous audience of 5 Germans who follow him like the plague?

        Do you German geezers travel in pairs of two or what? And you alternate too? So now Klaus is doing your job @ Varoufakis’ blog and your new post is to pollute this blog?

        Talking about pathology man! What is this obsession you have with Greece?

        How many times I have to tell you? Once we have some new orders for you to follow we will promptly inform your miserable headquarters.

      • Estevao Veiga

        Gray is right, it borders on the pathological the Dean paranoia with Germany.

      • We are so glad that the geezer contingency agrees on things. How refreshing.

      • Estevao Veiga

        Dear Gray,
        You were right again, he do hear voices, now he speak of himself in the plural…

  3. Golden Dawn expresses the most sickest aspect of Greek society today.
    I have been amazed with those fellow citizens, many of whom are not what you will call, on the low end of the economic or educational level, that do not see what GD it attempting to do. It is clear to me when talking to them that part of their issue is that they are in deep denial.

    Initially I believed, that the only way to combat this menace was bring them to the forefront of news/discussion/democratic ways. Although I still believe that should continue, I’m starting to aline with the mayor of Salonika that it’s time for the political actions of this organization/gang to be banned. Fully aware of the difficulty and repercussions of this act, but it must be done. The shortcomings of our political class and our society in general during the past, is not excuse for not acting at present.

    Oufff!!… I never in my life of 35+ years did I believe, I will be talking how to protect the society I grownup in from a fascist political party. I apologize for the direct translation but: what have my eyes to still see!

  4. Pingback: Mala leche - Quilombo

  5. When the moderates cannot solve everyday problems, people will turn to extremists. Has happened many times before and will happen many times again. So if you want to fight extremists, SOLVE the damn problems! If for example ‘moderate’ means giving a second furlough to convicted murderers serving life sentences who already escaped the first time he was granted a furlough(even worse than the Willie Horton Dukakis-Bush case), or if it means destroying a country by borrowing and throwing money down the drain for 35 years and then discovering that debt is a bad thing, or if it means doing nothing about the security of citizens, then someone will. And, mind you this is a healthy reaction by the society who has been ignored by the others for too many years and had they not expressed their outrage by voting , the ‘moderates’ would still continue business as usual. And I dislike Golden Dawn, but I want this to be an option, just like the Communist party to keep other parties from ignoring the people’s needs.

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