I wanted to write something light. Something that would get my mind off my race to finish the new Andreas Kaldis novel by the end of August, and forget that for the first time in a decade I won’t be on Mykonos in September and October. But I’ve delayed my US book tour for Target: Tinos long enough.
I shall miss those months in Greece, they are the best of times. But perhaps this fall the next six words of A Tale of Two Cities will prove more appropriate. I hope not.
On that note, let’s take a test. What was the first thing that came to mind when you saw the photograph at the top of today’s blog? The Greek Meander or the Nazi Swastika?
How about both—A Greek Nazi Symbol?
It is the symbol of Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn), a far right party that until this year was a fringe group dismissed by all. It now has eighteen members in the Greek Parliament (of 300) representing 7% of the popular vote.
|Chrysi Avgi Magazine cover boy, Rudolph Hess|
Although the party officially disclaims any intended resemblance to the Nazi symbol and colors, its leaders have used the Nazi salute, expressed public admiration for Adolph Hitler and others leaders of The Third Reich, shown undisguised, unvarnished hatred of immigrants (along with others who don’t fit their image of pure Greek), and demonstrated an uncanny ability for manipulating public opinion that would make Joseph Goebbels, proud—Adolph Hitler’s Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda.
I greatly admire the Greek journalists condemning the dark side of civilization represented by Golden Dawn, but I’m appalled by how many of prominence and authority in and out of Greece are still quick to dismiss them as nuts. They should know better.
They are not nuts or crazies. They are, as their Leader declared after being elected to Parliament in the first of two Parliamentary elections in 2012, something else: Golden Dawn is a movement of which to “Be afraid.”
|Chrysi Avgi leader, Nikolaos Michaloliakos|
It took three parliamentary elections in Germany in 1932 before Hitler became Chancellor in 1933. Greece has five months to go in 2012 and Golden Dawn is relentlessly pressing its agenda in brilliant exploitation of the anger and frustration of a populace suffering through its equivalent of The Great Depression. So successful is Golden Dawn in their public relations efforts, that the three parties comprising Greece’s governing coalition are rocked back on their respective heels trying to show that they, too, can be “tough on immigrants.”
The problem is that governments forced to deal with serious problems on a macro level can never effectively compete in a show of “toughness” where all its competitor need do is “small” things that appeal to the bile of so many, especially when it’s known there is nothing to fear from a government utterly afraid to hold them accountable.
|Free Food in exchange for IDs in Athens' Constitution Square|
How can an organized government compete against this sort of public relations driven shows of “toughness”: Packs of men beating individuals of color nearly to death…threatening non-Greek shop owners to leave a community “or else”... using Athens’ parliament square in open (and unpunished) defiance of the Mayor’s order denying them the right to do so for their purpose of passing out free food only to Greeks prepared to demonstrate the purity of their ethnicity by submitting identity cards and blood types to Golden Dawn’s representatives for recording and use in who knows what fuhrer purposes (no typo)…forming a lynch mob to storm a police van transporting a 19 year-old Pakistani man accursed of a horrific crime against a 15 year-old Greek girl as part of their show of how they would protect Greek women against the immigrant hordes (forgetting for the moment that their party’s spokesman (and former special forces soldier) had recently repeatedly punched a female opposition party member in the face during a nationally televised election debate).
Those “little” media driven demonstrations of vigilante toughness will always be more appealing to the masses than the true private toughness required to address the root problems of illegal immigration ignored for so long by so many past governments for any number of politically expedient reasons.
The homogeneous Greek society of a few decades ago is no longer. At least ten percent of its population is now immigrants. Accept it. There is no going back. And trying to mimic the methods of Golden Dawn with “programs” of immigrant round-ups and deportations that are universally condemned by groups such as Amnesty International only lends credence to the vigilantes and their own Final Solution for the immigrant problem.
What confronts Greece is not new to Greece or indeed the rest of the world. What is needed though, is new: fearless thinking.
And if none is forthcoming, permit me to be so presumptuous as to present a warning right out of the pages of TARGET: TINOS. It is a segment that served as the frame of reference for all that followed (and for which Marilyn Stasio of The New York Times made Target: Tinos one of her picks of the summer, he said in BSP):
“There are serious people in the E.U. looking for any justification for ending financial aid to Greece. So far the arguments against us are purely financial. That we don’t work hard enough, we’re corrupt, we don’t want to pay taxes. You know the routine…
We don’t want to do anything that might give our enemies different ammunition.”
“What sort of ammunition?”…
“[O]ur adversaries would love to switch the focus of the debate from our country’s financial problems to our national character. Paint us as indifferent to the plight of non-Greeks, an intolerant place where only Greeks are treated as deserving of protection, and all others be damned. It’s a volatile, irrational, and emotional argument but one that could turn world opinion against us if it found traction in the press. And then it would no longer be just a question of denying us further bailout funds, but whether or not to drum us out of the E.U.”…
And the longer this case remains open the greater the chance of some foreign reporter seeing glory in a story that shocks the world into action against us by linking Greece to words like ‘intolerance’ and ‘genocide.’ We cannot allow that to happen.”
|I'm likely to see more of this after today.|
I’ve blogged about this before (I Will Not Be Silent) and no doubt will again for one simple reason: Greece cannot allow that to happen!