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Category Archives: Videogames

A recent comment made by a (real) friend in Facebook got me thinking. She said that this situation we’re living in reminded her of a well-crafted videogame. I partly agree with that. It so happens that videogames are my favourite means of escapism. However, in most of them, the hero acts, strives, fights for a cause. It might be something silly, but it’s still a cause and, in most cases, it’s a noble one such as saving the world.

It does not matter if the action is split in levels, as in more classic-style videogames or is spread out in a vast, realistic looking world, such as in more modern iterations. Enemies are obvious. Goals are clear. The hero is (usually) rewarded in the end. The player, if he is fast, skillful or has an analytic enough mind (depending on the game genre) will eventually triumph. Evil will be vanquished.

This well-crafted videogame in which we live is completely backward. Our worst enemies are the ones professing to represent law and order. Goals are everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Players are punished for being capable, honest and conscientious. Evil is triumphant.

This virtual reality, steadily forming around us day by day, is starting to resemble the dystopian scenarios of Orwell’s “1984” and Moore’s “V for Vendetta”.

The greatest paradox is that, while technology advances and the actual virtual “worlds” of the Internet and videogames are becoming increasingly familiar and realistic, at the same time the real world becomes increasingly false and irrational.

Experts are expressing their concerns every day regarding the terrible dangers hiding in virtual worlds, while the subtle erosion of everything that is real seems to escape everyone’s notice.

People always talk about the (very real) dangers lurking in Internet use and abuse, particularly for children. Yet, no one talks earnestly about how the moral values and ideals which we are supposed to be teaching to our children are systematically being destroyed.

Yesterday, riot police used tear gas against a gathering of pupils. Last Sunday they used all their tear gas reserves on the living history of Greece, as well as citizens of all ages who gathered for what was supposed to be a peaceful protest. No one addresses this violence, nor the psychological violence to which every one of us is submitted on a daily basis.

Our virtual reality does not acknowledge that what took place on February 12th in Athens might very well be the most massive protest of our generation. The only thing it registered is that a handful of agent provocateurs, mindless hooligans, opportunists or plain angry people torched several buildings in Athens.

In our virtual reality world, TV and the mainstream media bring to public attention only those stories which are convenient for media moguls and their current allies of necessity or opportunity. And this is called “news”.

Now, the riots are being used as an excuse to form legislation putting serious limitations to public protests. Legislation which is dangerously close to dictatorial.

Meanwhile the police, according to the dean of the Law School of Athens, ignored his reports of the occupation of the University’s grounds and the mass production of Molotov cocktails taking place there.

Those reports were submitted in writing from Thursday, February 9th, to Saturday, February 11th. There was absolutely no response.

In our virtual reality, the police do not protect citizens practicing their constitutional right of peaceful protest. They spray us with tear gas and let rioters burn the city unhindered. Thus they uphold neither the law, nor protect public order.

And all this happens just so our Parliament would vote a new batch of measures which will only serve to plunge our country deeper into recession, as set in a document which was so hastily drafted as to be full of mistakes and inaccuracies.

At the same time, one of the MPs of the formerly ruling PASOK party, who had voted on the first memorandum, presented documents proving that our economy currently boasts a primary surplus (if we stopped paying loan interests). That means, Greece could very well survive bankruptcy.

Of course, as is customary in the recent parliamentary history of Greece, the MPs of the ruling parties were ordered to vote “aye”. Those who declined were ousted from their parties. The irony is that in Greek, the Parliament is called “Vouli” which means literally “will, decision”. A member of Parliament is called “vouleftis” deriving from the ancient Greek verb “voulevo”, meaning “to think, to decide”.

In our virtual Democracy, our “vouleutes” do not think or decide for themselves, but it is acceptable for them to follow the party leader’s orders. In other words, they are followers.

The second party of the government coalition, according to the election polls, is now also the dominant party. Its leader, Antonis Samaras, has stated that they are not actually governing the country, but merely supporting the government in its task to approve the new memorandum.

A memorandum which up to a few weeks earlier had been denounced by him.

He also took in two acting ministers and former members of the third ruling party, an extreme right nationalist party called LAOS, one of whom had vehemently denied rumours of his defection to Samaras’ “New Democracy” just two years ago.

He reasoned then that if he left LAOS he would be bowing to the “immigrants and the Turks”. Apparently, he would wait two years to become a deputy minister and bow down to the IMF/ECB/EC troika instead.

This ridiculous mockery of a government has succeeded the government of PASOK, which won the elections by promising not to tax the middle to low incomes any further and to secure the money which the state needed to support itself without going to the IMF for help. By combating corruption and tax evasion, among other things.

A mere two months after the elections, our former Prime Minister, George Papandreou, secretly commenced negotiations with the IMF, a fact which Dominique Strauss-Kahn himself revealed much later during an interview.

The same government proceeded to do the exact opposite of everything it had promised in order to win the elections, with the culmination of signing the first memorandum agreement. An agreement which, as former Ministers and economists from the EU admitted, was both ineffectual and unfair.

Even so, none of the measures agreed upon were actually realized, putting Greece in the international spotlight as a lazy and corrupt country that does not honour its commitments. The only thing that Papandreou’s government did was enforce even more taxes and public sector wage reductions, without doing anything to reduce wasteful spending or to increase foreign investor interest in Greece.

When summarizing these “accomplishments”, a couple of weeks ago, George Papandreou stated that “mistakes were made, but much was achieved”. The current coalition government continued pretty much the same policy of inaction where crucial changes are concerned, and signing whatever outrageous measures the troika sees fit to demand.

None of these two governments were empowered by the Greek people to take such decisions on their behalf. Unless we have come to believe that Democracy in the 21st century means lying through your teeth about everything to the voters, getting elected and do exactly the opposite of what you promised.

Is this the only hope of Greece? Is this circus of clowns, spineless and corrupt to the very core really going to save the same country which they’ve been systematically dismantling for decades?

Is there anyone out there who still believes that this is a democratic country where the Constitution is nothing but an empty book?

Is there anyone who doubts that we are living in a virtual reality nightmare?

Intermission #4

Life is not a videogame, nor should it become one. However, there are surprising truths about life to be found in many of them. One of my favourite quotes from the unforgettable John Marston (Red Dead Redemption) is the following: “As long as there are guns and money, there will never be freedom”. I leave you with this sad and beautiful song by Lana del Ray. She is something of a mystery to me. While her looks are obviously made up and she appears overly stylized, her voice is unique and her songs have hidden layers. She could fool you into thinking that she’s a mass-market product (and maybe she is), yet there is something more than that. Just like a videogame.