Monday, December 21, 2015
In the "Prophecy" (Προφτητικόν) section of his famous poem of fall and renewal, the Dodecalogue of the Gypsy, (Ο Δωδεκάλογος του Γύφτου), Kostis Palamas, prophesied that the renaissance of the Greek nation would only take place "when there will be no more steps to fall further down the stairs of evil," (και μην έχοντας πιο κάτου άλλο σκαλί/ να κατρακυλήσεις πιο βαθιά/ στου Κακού τη σκάλα,/ για τ' ανέβασμα ξανά που σε καλεί).
Of late it appears that the downward rungs of Palamas' ladder of decline are endless and that just when one believes that the Greek state is scraping the absolute bottom of the barrel, all it is doing is discovering an abysmal chasm of decay in which to fall further.
Indicative of this downward plummet, both in confidence and competency is the member of the ruling party of Greece, SYRIZA's central committee and general secretary for Administrative Reform, Dimitris Tsoukalas' recent callous and bizarre statements on the death of an illegal immigrant on the Greco-FYROMIAN border.
A hapless 22 year old Moroccan youth (he remains unnamed in the news reports, possibly indicative of the way much of the Greek mainstream media has begun, for many reasons, to dehumanize the hordes of refugees and illegal immigrants that have overwhelmed Greece of late), met a tragic death by electrocution, while attempting to cross an electrified border fence. As is common knowledge, refugees and illegal immigrants often face life-threatening obstacles in their quest to reach the country of their choice and the terrible demise of this young man could have been the starting point of a discussion with regard to the broader ramifications both of global and European policy on the conflicts that have caused this massive movement of peoples and its management.
Instead, the Greek people are subjected to Dimitris Tsoukalas. As general secretary for Administrative Reform, one would have thought that he would have been able, at least to provide a semblance of being able to intelligently discuss reform proposals that could streamline processing of refugees, provide them with humanitarian assistance, or even identify them adequately, this last element being important, given that Greece's inability to properly assess just who is passing through its borders almost saw it ejected from the Schengen zone.
Tsoukalas discussed none of these important matters. Instead, when veteran journalist Popi Tsapanidou asked him what exactly had happened, he responded flippantly: «είχαμε ψητό Μαροκινό,» ie "we had a Moroccan Roast."
In any decent western country, the public utterance of such disgusting remarks which appear to display firstly, an inherent racism, in that the reprehensible Tsoukalas feels free to emphasise the ethnicity of the deceased, in order to denigrate him, dehumanize him and parody his death, and secondly an astounding sense of impropriety given that it appears almost inconceivable that a public servant in his right mind would publicly find humour in the heinous death by electrocution of an innocent human being, would have resulted in an immediate request for said public servant's resignation. Tsoukalas however has not been disciplined by his party. Instead of apologizing or withdrawing his hurtful remarks, he has gone on the offensive, making the ridiculous claim that his interview with Tsapanidou was montaged and "taken out of context."
When senior public officials and key members of the ruling party make a jest not only of people's ethnicity but also of the manner in which they lose their life and are permitted to do so with impunity, this sends as number of deeply disquieting Kafkaesque messages. Firstly, to the people of Morocco and indeed to the entire Arab world (a world with which Greece has, cultivated close relations for years) that the supposedly left-wing, progressive, internationalist SYRIZA led government is composed of racists, who view the Arab peoples as lesser beings and thus prime candidates for denigration. Secondly, to the global community, that the government is comprised of heartless, alexithymic, inept hacks with the emotional intelligence of a sociopathic teenager, who cannot even govern their own emotions, let alone the country itself. Lastly, to the people of Greece, (if they have the capacity to perceive it, given that for many, their critical faculties have been eroded by the rhetoric and empty promises made by successive political parties for the past thirty years, to the extent where they have difficulty in distinguishing myth from reality), that the members of the government they have elected do not sympathise with those who suffer and instead pour scorn upon their plight, even at the most extreme moments, affording them not even dignity in death.
One would have thought that at this divisive time, when the veil of that which masqueraded as social cohesion has been torn to shreds and civil trust is at an all-time low in Geece, that governmental expressions of sympathy, solidarity and determination are sorely needed. If Greece is going to rebuild itself, its civic society needs to coalesce around key events that could provide a sense of unity. The death of the Moroccan youth could have been one of those events, in permitting Greek citizens just for a brief moment to focus on their innate humanity and all the commonalities that flow from that. In emphasizing these elements, the necessary relationships of cooperation can begin to be re-forged, that are necessary if Greece is according to Palamas, regain the "great and bright wings" of her past.
Tsoukalas and his party have provided no such leadership. Instead, they have contributed further to the fragmentation of what little sense of unity and trust the Greek people have for their society. Inept and amateurish posturings, such as Greek Education Minister Filis' denial of the Pontian Genocide, again without impunity, and this regardless of the fact that denial of the Pontian Genocide by a public figure is a criminal offence, show that the current government, (which has also taken no effective steps to curb or address the violence and damage to public and private property that recently was visited upon Athens on the anniversary of the death of Alexandros Grigoropoulos - a death that took place seven years ago and is still used as an excuse for a descent into anarchy by certain sections of the political spectrum) is not running the country, or even superintending the chaos that it is contributing to. If we did not know better, we would be forgiven for thinking that the SYRIZA government does not exist, but rather, are lords of misrule, appointed to preside over a bizarre Hellenic Saturnalia.
When Tsoukalas, who as a financial services union representative sported, expensive blazers, Italian jeans, and designer cowboy makes a parody of the death of a nameless Moroccan who happened to trespass upon Greek borders in order to seek a better life elsewhere, he makes a parody of the Greek people and the last vestiges of faith they have in their country. Sadly, his parody assumes more the form of a sick joke played upon the hopes and aspirations of all of those who desperately seek a way out of the current malaise but instead are subjected to political apparatchiks and hacks who thrive upon their unaccountability in the face of an anarchic political and social discourse. This makes the smugness of his inhumanity ever the more hurtful.
The most patriotic act that the current "government "could perform for the Greek people is to resign for it has become brutally clear that it exists only for the sake of itself. Its own Prime Minister until recently did not know that the islands of Lesvos and Mytilene are one and the same. Prior to its resignation, the "government" must fire Tsoukalas for his contemptibly racist actions and then compel him to face the poor Moroccan man's family, in order to get them to appreciate, the cleverness of his joke.
First published in NKEE on Saturday 19 December 2015