Friday, December 12, 2008

Riot Info #3

Some more translation & hopefully (?), in the course of a day, a summary of events.

I know that I owe you a lot. You gave birth to me, you gave me water, you fed me, you brought me up. You even loved me. That's what you say at least. Because things are slightly different.

You got me here, in a world where you were forced to abandon me every day & run to jobs. You got me here & then started looking for a place to park me in. You kept taking me to school &, because this was not enough, you kept sending me to a bunch of private tutors & lessons, plus you planted in me stress about my precarious future. Since my future was supposed to be so precarious, since you even made this planet dangerous, why did you get me here? What's my life? For those two hours of TV & video games every day?

I want to see the world, to spread my wings & fly & see everything in a single moment. I want to get out, to meet those others, to play, to entertain myself, to feel joy & not to care about the fact that tomorrow I'll be going to school without having studied. I want to dream a world where people won't be looking for a place to park me, where they won't be always having work to do, where it won't be dangerous to meet other people, where future won't be scaring me, where there'll be no masters & no slaves.

I watch your misery but I'm not used to it & I don't want to get used to it either. I won't bow my head just because you did. I don't want to become anyone's slave or master, I want to be left alone.

Those uniformed hound dogs don't scare me, I'm not afraid of them. You see in them a certain order & security. I'm the one to be taken for a ride, because I see perfectly well that this order is hypocrisy, & as for security, it's themselves that form the gravest danger.

They're the symbols of authority. Yours, that of the teachers, of the politicians, of the grown-ups that live this way. You learned how to live like this, I haven't. If they want to mess with me, so much the worse for them. They're hopeless & let this be imprinted in their minds. I'm outraged & dangerous. & there are many of us, girls & boys, we're everywhere, even within the murderers' homes. They cannot hide from us, no matter where they stand. In one way or another, we'll remain standing, they won't.

Don't be mad at me, I'm doing what you taught me to do. You told me that revolt is chaos & destruction. Now that I'm revolting, you'll receive chaos & destruction.

I love you. In my own way, but I do.

But I have to make my own world so that I live my own free life, & to do this I have to take down your own world. This is what's most important to me. To phrase it in your own language: this is my job.

In the beginning, they thought I was taken for a ride: in the last few days, various journalistic I'm friends with started calling me up. They're asking about the course of events & the reasons behind the unrest. So far, so good, but the final question is always [of a] different [sort]: "do you estimate that we'll have similar events in france or portugal as well?"

I'm not the most appropriate person to answer [this question], but my colleagues started passing on to me various interesting facts. The french EFEE [National Student Union of Greece] ([which] is not a ghost like our own one is) expressed its "solidarity" to the greek youth & placed itself "against police repression."

In fact, Le Monde wrote that predisenf [Nicolas] Sarkozy keep "one eye on the unrest in greece... The head of state & the person in charge of the government are afraid - without confessing it in public - mimetic [reactions]." According to a parliament member of the leading party, in fact, which dined together N. Sarkozy recently, the frence president told him, referring to greece, "that caution is needed so that they don't reach france."

What's interesting is that the identification of the peril transgresses party boundaries. The socialist former prime minister Laurent Fabius stated in EUROPE1 radio: "With such a financial crisis going on, such a widespread popular despair, a spark is enough to bring everything down, especially when one has a government which does not exhibit [any] understanding of the youth." The title of the relevant article in the station's website is "The greek outrage starts taking over Europe."

The discussion reached Berlin, where the Professor of Social Pedagogy [Arbeitsbereich Sozialpädagogik] of the University of Berlin [Freie Universität Berlin] Richard Münchmeier said that there's indeed a spark which has been transmitted to the rest of Europe, nevertheless those demonstrating are not numerous at this moment. Mr. Münchmeier added that all youths in Europe today basically have the same problems, because the prospects for the young do not seem good.

At the other side of the Atlantic, a similar article appeared in the Wall Street Journal, with correspondent accounts from Athens, Paris, Berlin & Madrid. The conclusion is that the unrest which has shaken greece reflects the increasing discontent not only of the greek youth, but also of the youth of other european countries, regarding the antiquated educational systems, the unemployment, the impossibility of finding jobs with social security benefits &, in general, the pessimism for the future.

As if all this were not enough, on Wednesday evening solidarity actions to the greek youth took place in Madrid & Barcelona, which were accompanied by attacks to a police station & a bank.

Two things are underway. Either the greek anarchists of SYRIZA [Coalition of the Radical Left; in the wave of populism drowning greek politics for years on end, this particular party has been accused by certain political leaders of sheltering the "hooded ones"] have branched off to Spain. Or, something goes wrong with the social model that's being employed in Europe during the last years.

The 11 underage arrestees of Larisa, all of which are between 14 & 16 ears old & were arrested in the wake of the unrest in the city center of Larisa on Monday evening, will be tried according to the terrorism law.

The arrestees were temporarily released under [the usual] provisions [they're probably not allowed to leave the country & are obliged to report to some PD or other every once in a while the article doesn't mention the provisions though], following a confluence of opinion between the district attorney & the magistrate, while they will be tried by the Three-Member Misdemeanors Court of Athens for Underage Persons, at a time that will be set in the following days.

Each one of them faces charges for recurrent revolt, for removing &/or destroying documents &/or other objects entrusted to the greek state, damaging, arson, objurgations [against the police, apparently], criminal gang, larceny & violating the law concerning weapons.

A solidarity committee for the underage arrestees, which was put together yesterday because of this exact event, commented that "such charges have not even been put together for November 17 [the terror cell]."

This is the condition in which the youngster was taken to the magistrate. Claypot, claypot, we know!
The... robust proof used by a policeman, who arrested a youngster last Monday during unrest, were a "dark [motorbike] helmet" & a "jacket with a brown fur hood." The youngster's attorney denounces [such tactics] through [his statement] "using arrests of this sort, they are attempting to get even on the issue of the two special guards" - the youngster faces 3 crimes & 3 misdemeanors, while yesterday it was decided by the magistrate that he, together with another 4 arrestees, should be temporarily detained.

The policeman's affidavit speaks for itself - he mentions that, amidts "molotov bombs, stones, bottles, planks & various other objects being hurled," he managed to imprint that "in between those attacking were two persons, one of which was wearing a dark [motorbike] helmet & a jacket with a brown fur hood. The other one, short, dark skinned, had a goatee on the chin & was wearing a checkered light coat." In fact, as he stated, [&] two hours after the first visual contact, the platoon arrested at some other point "a group of about 30, among whom [were also] the two persons I described."

Yesterday, at any rate, the magistrate decided that all 5 arrestees be temporarily detained, whom have been charged for crimes relating to "explosion," "violation of the law concerning explosive devices" & "conscious attempt to inflict grievous bodily harm" & for the misdemeanors "disruption of public peace," "damaging foreign property" & "larceny."

One of the attoreys of the 6 youngsters, Fr. Ragousis, commented upon their detention: "We were hoping that Justice would not become the long-reaching claw of the forces of repression. There were police lineups without the procedural right." Similarly, the other attorney, G. Gountounas, reported that "Today, Justice essentially acted as a public relations officer of a government ready to collapse. The file put together includes no photographs, it's a void file, but still 20-year-old kids charged with protesting were detained. & this [happened], because it was [deemed] necessary to get even for the murderers."

4 more youngsters, arrested the day before yesterday close to the Polytechnic & charged with arson, were taken to the magistrate where they were given a deadline [to prepare their affidavits]. Among them, only one confessed that he was, indeed, hurling stones at the policemen, while the way that a youngster looked was indicative of the way in which arrestees are treated - the youngster appeared to had been beaten up mercilessly.

At any rate, the magistrates' offices were crowded yesterday, since - apart from those labeled as "rioters" & "hooded ones" - about 30 immigrants among those arrested during the unrest, most of them Iraqis, were in those offices for the crimes of "gang formation" & "larcenies."

Cops pigs murderers.

The heroic Riot Squad & OPKE [Groups of PRevention & Repression of Crimes] forces arrest & beat up 12- & 15-year-olds mercilessly during the attack they attempted in Korai street before the march had even started.

They attacked from all sides & arrested as many school students as they could plus anyone shouting "don't beat the kids up!"... 4 uniformed [pigs] captured a female school student, they put handcuffs on, & dragged her, kicked her, clubbed her, & hit her with their shields while tugging at her arms handcuffed behind her back.

They trambled another student underfoot. A Riot Squad [pig] was sitting on his back & a second one with his knee on his face... while a third one was sneaking punches in, as he was putting the handcuffs on.

They snatched a lady's daughter & were dragging her on the street, they were beating up anyone reacting, they attacked - as if plagued by rabies - journalists, photoreporters & cameramen, syndicalists of OLME [Greek Federation of State School Teachers of Secondary Education], university & school students but [also] mothers & fathers & other citizens that were wedging themselves in between the Riot Squad & the kids to protect the latter. They were threatening us that they'll kill us together with the 15-year-olds by shaping their hand as a handgun...

Photos & video from the brutality of the Riot Squad on the school students, from the ΕΚΑΜ [Special Repressive Antiterrorist Team] appearance in the Parliament, & from the clashes in the Law School of Athens follow [follow the link].

It goes on... day & night

A society in denial (personal rant)

To kick off with a necessary disclaimer, I haven't turned into a political analyst overnight. To the contrary, my knowledge of political theory is very limited & either too bookish or too cartoonish, plus I always seem to not comprehend &/or leave out some important details. If you choose to read what follows, then, do not take anything for granted - do your own research & form your own opinions, don't take it from me. (More importantly: instead of reading the entire ranting below, read the translations I point out in it, those articles are really insightful.)

Those in need of overviews & summary reports on what has been going down can find a couple here, here, here, & elsewhere (follow links around). Most of these are compiled by people not in greece at the moment, which means that they're not eyewitness accounts of events but rather compilations of such accounts, political analyses, & what have you. There are certain things that have become clear - & not to me only - in the last couple of days; in my view, they can be summarized along the lines of "a representative segment of the youth is revolting; the state & the mass media remain in denial."

For one thing, the state-sponsored myth that the unrest is due to the "usual familiar unknowns" & to the "special circumstances" prevailing in the Exarchia quarter has collapsed with a loud bang: K. Raptis did an outstanding job there, in an article penned in Sunday (!) already (seek a translation below; the original is here). (As an occasional reader of greek newspapers, I can certify that this level of clarity of thinking - & of honesty - is not a commonplace occurrence in greek journalistic circles.) The same is true of S. Kouloglou's analysis early Tuesday morning (seek a translation below; original here) - both correctly, I believe, identified this as the tip of an iceberg: concealed beneath the surface, real, very-very real anger was fueling the first reactions. Further, it was clear from the beginning that the revolt did not even only specifically concern anarchists or leftists or what you want to call them; this is another (also state- & mass media-sponsored) myth which simply holds no water. In fact, it did not even concern these groups to a larger extent than other groups of citizens, despite the sentimentally charged central place Exarchia assumed in the story: the police station attacks carried out exclusively by school students (particularly the Sunday attack in Thessaloniki), the 5,000 people demonstrating in Patra yesterday against the outrage of the local police working side by side with neonazis (neonazis! honestly, can you wrap your head around this?), the reports concerning elderly citizens hurling lemons at the Riot Squad or of an old man in crutches standing face to face with the Riot Squad or of somebody in suit-&-tie trying to reclaim a 15-year-old from the police force's grip, all these testify that the common people feel an ignominy at the way their own state treats them that has little to do with political affiliations (or the absence thereof). The fact that anarchists & leftists got involved into this may well be because these people understand solidarity (& often have a heart) as well as they understand police brutality & repression. Were even more members of PASOK (the center party in greece) not remorseless strategists or scared-shitless-middle-class-members (depending on their position in the party), they could have participated equally well in the demonstrations, as this murder affects them as much as anybody else.

The government, instead, has been trying - up to this very moment - to blame all of this on one or another conspiracy theory: from minister of the interior P. Pavlopoulos' statement "image is one thing & reality is another" (had he replaced 'reality' by 'content,' he could at least have applied for the Most Misguided Situationist Quotation Award) to K. Karamanlis' statements about (unnamed) political forces which stir up trouble (correct; such as his own party's murderers, members of the Kalampokas team - seek below for the background -, which were reportedly spotted in Patras back in action). & my personal favorite: P. Pavlopoulos claiming - on Monday evening! - that the government has made the city safe; a reporter asking, not bothering or not managing to hide the disdain in his voice, how is it possible that he claims such a thing at a moment when the President of the Republic has to spend the night in the presidential building because it's not safe for him to be transported back home; P. Pavlopoulos' answer: I claim that the city is safe because it is safe. This is not only about the obvious tautology; even his first sentence is flawed, as if the issue were the fucking government! The center is getting looted & this jerk can only think of his government! Bush Jr. got shit about the now infamous photo of him looking down on New Orleans from his jet plane in the wake of the Katrina disaster; can you imagine even him coming out & defending his government without a word about what that government has actually done or is going to do to relieve those affected?

What's basically so interesting about this whole situation, were you to sit back & think about it idly (& from a certain, comfortable in its shoes, middle-class perspective), is exactly the aforementioned ignominy: a 15-year-old gets shot, people take to the streets - immediate result: people get beaten up brutally. (Recall the SKAI radio correspondent who went berzerk on Sunday, as he watched multiple men of the Riot Squad beating up, instead of arresting, a 15-year-old in the center of Athens; recall his words: "They've learned nothing! Nothing!") People flood the streets again; not only do they get beaten up again, the police decides to collaborate with the shadow state (yes, the neonazis!) & the mass media decide to call the latter "infuriated citizens" - as if this were the '50s & the '60s all over! Additionally: cops take out their guns & point them at demonstrators, while yet other cops shoot in the air - one dead boy is clearly not enough (yes, they HAVE learned nothing!). The district attorney who, apparently, plans to absolve those responsible for the "claypot incident" (search for it below), suggests that the special guards be allowed to walk free. On Monday evening, the government sends a clear message to the looters that no crackdown is scheduled for before Tuesday noon - immediate result: that same evening, the city center is looted to an extent that makes people think of Los Angeles in '92. Also, there's a whole shitload of pictures out there of "hooded ones" embedded in the police force (yes, I do believe that these are the same hoods that smashed things up in the city center; do you have a better explanation? Does the police have a better explanation? If it is, what is it?) & still more mind-boggling stuff, such as: the minister of the interior is all smiles off camera (or at least when he thinks he's off camera). & even more: on the night of the murder, the minister of educational affairs S. Stylianidis (who, in my view, is perfectly unfit for any post related to educational affairs) enjoys an evening out (heavy duty, too: in a club with live music); the next day, he attends a football match.

& this still remains the tip of the iceberg. Recall that, in the last year & a half only, the people living in the country have gone through:

(a) forest fires, who left .... acres of charred forests & about 100 people dead;

(b) the revelation that minister of culture (ha!) G. Voulgarakis became a millionaire overnight (actually, in the last 4 years);

(c) the same minister's reply to a newscaster's question (loosely amounting to "granted that what you did was legal; was it also ethical?") that ethical is identical to legal; in a country where I don't recall any minister having even being charged by a court of law with corruption/profiteering, this amounts to ethical is identical to achievable: if you can pull it off, you're doing fine;

(d) an immense scandal involving officials (reportedly high in the hierarchy) handing over vast amounts of state property to the church (the same church that refuses to even sum up its possessions - much less reveal them - & is exempt from taxes, although the church functionaries are paid by the greek state);

(e) the Siemens scandal, where it was revealed that pretty much everybody with influence, in both ND & PASOK (the two major political parties in greece), was on the take; & as there's no free lunch, Siemens was getting a preferential treatment in state affairs - much like selling tax money short & pocketing the net amount.

Finally, as S. Kouloglou & K. Raptis among others pointed out (as even L. Fabius pointed out; see above), all of these affairs (which have monopolized the front pages for weeks on end & thus were highly visible) occurred in a country where people in their '20s are employed (if at all) at a starting salary of as low as 660 euro (Athens is far more expensive than Berlin, for example, & comparable to, maybe, Amsterdam - apart from housing at least). Without social benefits & maybe without vacation - certainly without prospects; often forced to meet their employer halfway & get part of his/her contributions for social security/retirement plan as cash instead. Immediate result? What else: people lodging with their parents until into their 30's; people scared shitless to graduate, as their prospects are nil; people who are dying to get into the civil servant sector, i.e., get on the government's tab (in a country where that particular sector is already overgrown); people who get on that sector as temporary employees & spend years (literally) waiting for their salaries.

How, then, could one be surprised that these people revolted? Every single response of the government to the events in the last few days has added insult to injury, much like the humiliation many greeks must feel reading their Sunday paper of choice or turning on their TV & reading/seeing the same people that condemn them to precarity amass immense fortunes by selling short the citizens they have been elected to represent. (I know that this is what made me add 'occasional' to my self-description 'reader of greek newspapers' - that feeling I get of some corrupt, remorseless, insatiable bastard pointing at me through the pages & laughing in my face every time I read about multimillion deals & compare it to emails I receive from friends living in greece.)

Meanwhile, leaders in the rest of Europe apparently turn their heads south to size up the situation. The prime minister K. Karamanlis, who's in Brussels today, has reportedly conferred with his equals regarding the possibility of the riots spreading to the rest of Europe. S. Kouloglou wrote, once again, an excellent article regarding this issue (seek a translation above). Those who gathered to protest in The Hague (&, as I learned yesterday, also in Paris & maybe even elsewhere) had time to observe the reaction of the mass media & decipher what they observed: at least one TV crew in The Hague, at least one interview with a journalist in Paris (regarding the fact that the ambassador did not even deign to meet with the protesters) - net result: zero television time in the first case (& only sporadic, dried-out mentions of the incident in the local newspapers attributing the march solely to greeks; we don't want to plant fancy ideas in the queen's subjects, do we?), no mention of the ambassador incident in the second one. Even worse, the dutch conservative newspaper NRC Handelsblad did publish some articles which were simply revolting - representative sample (last paragraph): " The hooligans [it's a time honored tradition of dutch newspapers to stripping everyone protesting of any ideology by calling them a hooligan] have caused, i the past few days, damages of approximately one billion euro. 3,000 people face losing their jobs, because the stores [where they work] must stop or move. Some fear losing a quarter of their turnover during this month of big celebrations. Meanwile, the same protesters scream about the economy shrinking." A very dutch logic, indeed: work, get paid, live happily, let those who know better take big decisions [the benelux governments bailed out Fortis recently, which cost 11 billion euro; hardly anybody bat an eye]. They left out the distressing fact that people in greece don't quite get paid enough to live happily - greece is not the netherlands: get a clue.

Thankfully, some foreign mass media start getting a clue. Previous attempts clearly didn't hit the spot: I'm still laughing with BBC's article; not that it's that bad, but did anyone really believe that the explanation "rebellion is deeply embedded in the Greek psyche" would settle the question once & for all? Sounds good, but fit for a novel, not for a political analysis. Others were performing even more sloppily, reproducing state propaganda (all dutch papers on Monday which made a mention to the riots, for example), focusing on the number of cops wounded (CNN), & of course absolutely everybody interprets absolutely everything in economical terms (this is the modern agenda, after all - economy provides the setting, period). Well, this latter tendency won't leave any reports any time soon, but at least journalists seem to be doing their homework a little bit better, focusing on what lies under the stone-hurling & the massive demos - even in NRC somebody got off their ass & decided to look into the G700 phenomenon (known to the rest of the world as precarity). At the same time, it could be that the mobilization assumes a more (?) strategically sound form, with an announcement from the Polytechnic putting forth political demands (seek a translation below) & TV & radio station occupations; it's hard to tell, & half of the the leftists seems to be rejoicing with the fact that the revolt has had no leaders, while the other half with the fact that a strategy develops (don't forget that the greek movement is rather fragmented).

That's it, let's get back to some translations...

P.S.: We've even reached the point where a picture such as this one, published in the NY Times, doesn't even raise an eyebrow - what's wrong with it? The cop holds his truncheon wrong side up, a fact that created a steer in the past (& is explicitly prohibited, of course, as the handle of the truncheon has absolutely no protective coating...)!

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