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The following is a suicide note written by a 77-year old retired pharmacist. He left this then went to stand beneath a tree in Syntagma Square, Athens and shot himself in the head with a gun.

Suicide note

It reads: “The collaborationist Tsolakoglou government has literally annihilated my ability to survive, which was dependent on a decent pension for which I alone (without aid from the state) have been paying, for 35 years.

Since I am at an age which does not allow me to resist forcefully (without, of course, ruling out the possibility that I might follow the first Greek who took up arms), I can find no solution other than a dignified end before I start looking in the trash for my food.

I believe that young people with no future will some day take up arms and will hang the traitors of the Nation upside down in Syntagma square, like the Italians did to Mussolini in 1945 (Piazzale Loreto in Milan).

A well-known Greek journalist commented in a tweet that journalists and citizens should calm down, since committing a suicide in Syntagma Square does not make it more tragic than others.

Agreed. It does, however, make it symbolic. And there is no one, I think, who can doubt the importance of symbolism in politics. Because there is no question that the suicide of the 77-year old pensioner was a political act.

Perhaps you may have forgotten or may be unaware of the fact that the “Arab Spring” events were triggered by the self-immolation of a protester in Tunisia. It is, however, certain that those who fear a similar uprising in Greece are well aware of this.

And that is the reason why a former Minister and a deputy Minister, both belonging to one of the ruling parties (PASOK), reacted in the only way they know how: by slandering their adversaries and shirking any shred of responsibility, no matter how indirect.

 Mr. Beglitis in an outrageously disrespectful comment, attempted to disassociate the suicide with the economic crisis, and implied that perhaps it was the pensioner himself who wasted all his money, or perhaps his children did!

The possibility that this man might have been unfortunate or that the pension he received (which has been severely cut back, like almost all other pensions in Greece) was simply not enough to support him any longer was never mentioned, not even for appearances’ sake. It is as if we suddenly live in another country, where we don’t hear about suicides on a daily basis.

But what can one expect from Greek politicians, particularly those of the two parties who have been trading power between them for the past three decades? In their minds the words “money” and “waste” are inextricably connected. Always “waste”, never “earn”, “struggle”, “strive” or “sacrifice”. Just “waste”. Which member of our Parliament has ever paid dues for 35 years in order to earn their pension?

Beglitis and his kind choose to ignore the fact that working people have paid for their pensions with THEIR OWN money. And our politicians cut those pensions back without even blinking. In effect they are guilty of mismanagement and theft. At the same time the wages and pensions of the members of Parliament are paid for with OUR money. And those have barely been reduced, still remaining amongst the highest in Europe.

But let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that those accusations were right and that this man indeed wasted all his money. Was he so obsessed with his posthumous fame, that he decided to take his own life in order to become a hero? Let us suppose that it was his children who wasted his money. How callous can one be to level such accusations against them even before their father’s corpse grows cold?

Even if they were right, the only thing that they achieved was to demonstrate the magnitude of their pettiness and obsession.  In order to serve their political agendas those politicians respected neither the deceased nor his family.

When someone reaches the point where they decide to take their own lives, either because of psychological problems or because of  strong feelings of guilt or despair, they usually do it alone, at home, at work or at a secluded spot. Away from loved ones or people that might stop them or pity them.

Suicide as a form of political protest is completely different. A protest takes place in public, in plain view, where no one can ignore you. You do it in front of everyone because you are not ashamed of your act, because your aim is to give it meaning, to shock people into realizing the truth.

To become a symbol for your cause, even after death.

It’s no wonder then, that people were moved. When someone commits suicide in the privacy of their home it is easier for us to pretend we didn’t hear or read about it, to bury it in the back yards of our minds, where we hide everything that saddens or troubles us. It is a clearly personal choice.

When one commits suicide in public, particularly in a square with political meaning, right across the Parliament, you cannot ignore it. You know that the act aimed to deliver a message. Besides, the note that the pensioner left behind him leaves no room for misunderstanding.

It is no wonder, then, that people left flowers, notes and candles at the tree. It is not because they cared less about the other 1700-3000 people who committed suicide because of the financial crisis. It is because they felt the need to do something, as human beings. A need which politicians are incapable of comprehending. It is because by paying homage to that pensioner they also paid homage to all the others, something that would be impossible to do otherwise.

Where would people leave flowers? At homes, offices or cliffs?

This suicide which Mr. Beglitis had the audacity to mention in the mechanical way which most politicians deliver their hollow speeches, without ever realizing the meaning of their words, is the ultimate form of protest. No one can lie in the face of death.

Mr. Beglitis said that he stands “respectfully” in view of this tragic event. He said that we have to “keep silent” in order to demonstrate our grief. He was neither respectful nor silent about it. Therefore, he has lost both our respect and our silence.

Intermission #9

April 5 marked the 18th anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s suicide. It seems fitting that I should dedicate “Heart Shaped Box” to the wonderful, warm-hearted people which govern us and “stand respectfully” over our corpses, just like a killer admiring his handiwork.

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