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Tag Archives: New Democracy

Ahmet Merabet Words cannot adequately express how shocked and sad I was when I read the news about the murderous attack on Charlie Hebdo. I still can’t believe that Wolinski, whose irreverent strips graced the pages of the favourite comic magazines of my student years, lies dead together with 11 other people. Simply because he unwittingly became a sacrificed pawn in a dirty geopolitical game.

Make no mistake. Apart from the human tragedy caused by the senseless loss of life and talent, this attack is every bit as ripe for political exploitation as the attacks of 9/11 and the Boston marathon were. This time, however, the attack took place outside the US, thus presenting a golden opportunity or the US government to bring the stray sheep among its European allies back into the fold. With the spreading threat of Muslim terror strikes, it is easy to forget that the NSA spied on the leadership of the “trusted” US allies (and probably still does so).

Let us focus on the event of the attack for now. The show of support, both in France and abroad, was heartwarming, even if some were not entirely honest when expressing it. For example, the Greek Prime Minister, Antonis Samaras and his extreme right wing sidekick, Adonis Georgiadis during recent speeches mentioned the need to enforce our borders with walls in order to stop Syrian refugees (and any illegal immigrants) from entering the country. They went so far as to tie the attack with the illegal immigrant issue in Greece, claiming that their political opponents, SYRIZA, want to open the borders to potential terrorists.

Never mind that the terrorist suspects were French citizens. Never mind that, if Charlie Hebdo had a Greek edition, Mr. Samaras, who claims to have an open line with God (and His support, no less) would be amongst the first to ban the sacrilegious magazine. In 21st century Greece, the owner of a Facebook page mocking an Orthodox monk (now a saint) and his alleged prophecies was recently sentenced to 10 months in prison for blasphemy. But otherwise we’re all Charlie Hebdo here, thank you.

The Prime Minister is trying to woo the voters of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party to gain a few precious percent points in view of the upcoming elections and he is playing the immigrant issue card by fanning the fear of Islam, since the majority of illegal immigrants in Greece come from Pakistan, Syria and other Muslim countries. To these people, all Muslims are filthy barbarians.

Let us talk, then, about another one of these filthy barbarians: his name was Ahmed Merabet. Ahmed was a police officer, amongst the first who responded to the call following the attack on Charlie Hebdo. That morning he had the misfortune to be patrolling the area together with a female colleague. Apparently, he somehow kept resisting the urge to force her to wear a burka and take the gun away from her. Shortly after arriving at the scene, he was shot to death by another filthy Muslim barbarian.

Somehow, the terrorist did not recognize the characteristic stench, which all Muslim barbarians share. Even the brown skin did not deter him. He just casually shot the already wounded Ahmed in the head.

Ahmed died defending one of the most fundamental (and challenging) democratic principles: “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” It is the famous quote that Voltaire, also a resident of Paris, actually never said.

Life has an uncanny way to tear down the ideological sand castles, which we build so meticulously in our own minds. It casually blows away the lines, which we consider to be carved in stone. The arbitrary borders between what is “acceptable” and what is not. That separate “right” from “wrong”. The “good” Christian from the “evil” Muslim. Even the “progressive” atheist from the “obscurantist” advocate of religion.

The rhetoric of terror is already gaining momentum. The media are all hopping on the train, which is quickly running over any discordant voice. Who cares if Islamic religious organizations are condemning the attack? We all know that Islam calls on its faithful to butcher all infidels in the name of the Prophet, right? Their place in heaven is guaranteed if they sacrifice their lives fighting for Allah.

One has to wonder, then, why the 1.5 billion Muslims living on this planet have not yet taken up arms against us infidels, starting World War III in the process.

On the other hand, if Christians had taken the’ teachings of “love one another” and “if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also” to heart, then the world would be very different right now. On the contrary, once Christianity became the dominant religion in Europe, it carved a long and deep path of brutality in the name of the God of love and forgiveness, putting any Muslim Jihad to shame: Crusades, genocides, systematic enslavement of entire “pagan” populations, mass purging of “heretics” and witch hunts conducted by the Holy Inquisition, and more. All in the name of Jesus Christ.

These things belong in our dark past, you might say. And yet, it was a few years ago when Sarah Palin, once nominated for Vice President of the United States, claimed that the war on Iraq was “God’s will”. And this is not just about the US throwing its weight around. Even the Greek Prime Minister seems all too willing to do the “Christian” thing and close our borders to war refugees from Syria, going as far as to deny them medical care.

Mahatma Gandi once said “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” But this goes even beyond the tenets of our religion. Denying medical care to anyone in need goes against the very idea of humanity and breaks conventions, which apply even in time of war.

Need I remind anyone that the Islamist rebels fighting against Assad’s totalitarian regime were funded and armed by western governments? Or that ISIL is a terrible monstrosity created by decades of destabilization in the Middle East courtesy of Western powers (and the USSR, back in the day)? The sole purpose behind all this has always been geopolitical interests and nothing more.

Or perhaps it’s just that these people are just filthy Muslim barbarians. Like Ahmed. Or Lassana Bathily who selflessly hid a dozen people in the basement fridge of the kosher shop, where the terrorists held hostages, and escaped in order to notify the police.

Perhaps it is not just Islam, but religions in general. Perhaps if we were to do away with them, everything would be right about the world. I am sorry to disappoint you, my dear atheist and agnostic friends, but this is not the case. Because people kill for money, power, religion, skin colour, ideologies, a flag, even a sports team scarf. While doing away with money would solve a great many problems in the world, we cannot ban everything. We certainly can’t simply ban religion. We need to change our perception of things instead. Theists and atheists alike.

If the progressive atheist thinkers of the world claim that everyone who believes in their “imaginary friend” is a potential terrorist, they are simply attacking people for their beliefs. Just like terrorists, but without the guns.

Actions count. Words count too, to a much lesser degree, and beliefs to a bare minimum. What must we do, really, to apply greater force than fanatic terrorists? How can we do it without becoming a source of terror ourselves? We might all claim to be Charlie, but what does that mean, in the end?

We need to ask these questions seriously and answer them, to ourselves. In the meantime, I’d rather state my support towards a man who lost his life while doing his duty, protecting people with whom he would most likely disagree. A man whose death was marginalized, because it is hard to accept that a Muslim police officer can protect Democracy, against his supposed beliefs and the attributes which we assign him.

I am Ahmed.

 

Intermission #21

Sadly, it seems that Greece is making front page news again for the wrong reasons. This time it was about the spokesman of the extreme right-wing party of “Chryssi Avgi”, Ilias Kassidiaris, who  threw a glass of water at a left-wing party representative and physically assaulted another during a live TV talkshow.

I’m sorry to say that this is not much of a surprise. That is who the members of “Chryssi Avgi” are, even if a large part of their 400.000 voters had not realized this until now. And that is because they received minimal TV coverage before the last elections of May 6th. The error of that exclusion is now plain for all to see.

“Chryssi Avgi” is, in essence, a paramilitary, neo-Nazi group posing as a political party. A small army of thugs and common criminals who have hidden their swastikas in their closets, but are clear about their views on white male superiority.

According to them, the role of a woman is to “produce” children for the benefit of the nation, not argue with men. So, Mrs. Liana Kanelli, a veteran journalist who is possibly the most widely respected member of Parliament of the Greek Communist Party (KKE) and is also known to express her informed views strongly, often to the point of rudeness, was too much for Mr. Kassidiaris to stomach.

So was Mrs. Dourou, representative of the now prominent left-wing party of SYRIZA, who was openly sarcastic and contemptuous before the chauvinist Kassidiaris. In the end, Mr. Kassidiaris emptied a glass of water towards Mrs. Dourou and when Mrs. Kanelli stood up in outrage and swatted Kassidiaris with a newspaper, he proceeded to strike her repeatedly on the face.

I might sound “old-fashioned” to some, but in my mind it is unacceptable for any real man to strike a woman. Violence in general is a sign of weakness, even more so when it is applied against someone who is clearly weaker, such as a child, an elderly person or a woman.

Even more so in the case of a 60-year old woman. There were some who claimed that Kassidiaris was provoked. No matter what either of the two women said to him, his actions were simply unacceptable. Mrs. Dourou’s loud comment that “Chryssi Avgi will take Greece 500 years back in the past”, which caused the attack,  was soundly confirmed by the reaction of their spokesperson.

If he was “verbally assaulted” as others argued then he should have countered in the same manner. Unfortunately, verbal communication is clearly not the strong suit of Mr. Kassidiaris or of almost everyone belonging to his party.

For anyone not familiar with TV debates in Greece, the volume of the confrontation might seem extreme. In truth, along with the boom of Greek commercial television at the end of the 1980s came a new culture of televised debates between politicians, which most of the time erupts into loud, heated arguments. But until now, violent outbursts were almost unheard of.

Even worse than the incident itself, there were many who think that Kassidiaris’ reaction was not only justified, but that Mrs. Kanelli actually deserved this attack. How can such a thing be justified within a democracy is simply beyond me. This man is not an “outraged citizen” as some said, but a former and future member of Parliament and his role is not to physically attack his peers, but to represent his voters. With words, actions falling within the boundary of the law, and dignity.

But even if he was indeed an outraged citizen, even if we think that violence will solve our problems, how can the primary target of the patriotic, anti-memorandum Mr. Kassidiaris be two representatives of anti-memorandum parties? How come he did not argue or attack Mr. Pavlopoulos belonging to the “traitorous”, according to the leader of Chryssi Avgi, New Democracy party?

Strange, isn’t it?

But I will admit for the sake of argument that Mr. Kassidiaris made a mistake, that his patriotic fervor got the best of him and his alpha male sensitivies were insulted. However, his subsequent escape, after the crew of the TV studio tried to contain him in a room, in order to avoid arrest proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that he is a coward who shirks responsibilty for his actions. Just like the rotten politicians which he claims that he aims to replace.

All this from the man who said that journalists must learn discipline and politicians must obey the law.

However, despite all these disappointing events and statements there is a genuinely farsical side to this:

– Kassidiaris pleaded self defense (via a statement to the radio). The poster-boy of Chryssi Avgi who prominently poses with bad-ass attitude before Nazi paraphernalia, and in demonstrations of martial arts techniques claimed self defense because he was struck by a 60 year-old woman. With a newspaper.

– The leader of the extreme right, Christian Orthodox LA.O.S. party, Giorgos Katatzaferis, boldy stated “Fascism has no place in Greece”. Perhaps his party’s most prominent member is a former mentor of the leader of Chryssi Avgi.

– Mr. Datseris, a representative of PASOK also blamed this incident on SYRIZA, claiming that they have cultivated this culture of violence. Funny that when 90-year old Manolis Glezos, WW2 Resistance hero and member of SYRIZA was gassed by riot police there was not a shred of a statement of condemnation from the ruling coalition.

– But the statement that really topped them all was the one by Mr. Prokopis Pavlopoulos, who was present during the incident but never even moved. “I did not rise from my chair when Kassidiaris punched Liana Kanelli, because I can’t control my strength and I was afraid that if I rose I would kill him”. This seriously made my day. An otherwise disappointing day.

Intermission #13

We’re sick and tired of your ism and skism game
Die and go to heaven in Jesus’ name, Lord
We know when we understand
Almighty God is a living man
You can fool some people sometimes
But you can’t fool all the people all the time
So now we see the light
We gonna stand up for our right

As you may already know, May 6th was an election day in both Greece and France. In France it was a second round victory for François Hollande, while in Greece it was a first round defeat of the formerly bipolar, now bipartisan political system.

While May 7th left Greece without a government, something which has happened only once in the past 38 years, two things became abundantly clear:

Firstly, changing the entire political establishment which has ruled Greece for nearly four decades is not something than can be accomplished in a month’s time. Unless, of course, this is achieved through violent means, something which any reasonable person would consider only as an absolute last resort.

Secondly, when a society comes under such tremendous stress, especially one as complacent as the Greek society of the past generation, then inevitably it will turn to political extremes. And by that, I do not mean the parliamentary Left or the traditional Christian/nationalist LAOS party, but the neo-nazis.

The two major parties in Greece, PASOK and Nea Dimokratia (New Democracy) had been accustomed to pass the government between them for 40 years, without fail. Now, they realise that this is no longer going to be their private two player game, with lesser parties standing as spectators by the sidelines. They are going to the bench, and they will do everything in their power to prevent that. This resistance, predictably so, is causing political instability and uncertainty.

Democracy, however, will not stand for lifelong “protectors” or foreign overlords. Those who blackmail the people of Greece (or any other people for that matter) into voting anything should be automatically considered enemies of Democracy and be treated as such: with contempt in the interior and with a firm diplomatic stance abroad.

The two formerly major parties have suffered their first ever serious shock. It is now up to the Greek voters to deliver the “coup de grâce”. Not because we desire chaos and a lack of government, but because in all their history these two parties were acting arbitrarily, serving their own petty interests, armed with the certainty that they would rule again in the next term or the one after that.

No one can expect these two parties to save Greece. They are so deeply entangled with the outdated, dysfunctional and corrupt state system that they would be unable to implement any effective reforms, even if they wanted to.

As for the rise of the extreme right neo-nazi party called “Chryssi Avgi” (Golden Dawn), it was a predictable consequence of the rampant crisis. The pre-election “campaign” of the group included civilian patrols of poor districts with illegal immigrant and criminal activity problems. But that would never be enough to catapult an obscure party from 0.2% to 7%.

“Chryssi Avgi” was voted in every corner of Greece by more than 400.000 people, including the villages of Kalavryta and Distomo, where the occupying Nazi army commited unspeakable attrocities during World War II.  My initial reaction to that paradox, as a typical, sentimental Greek, was horror and disgust. But in the end the exact location matters little.

Do the residents of Distomo have a greater obligation to honour our history and our dead than other Greeks? Hundreds of thousands died from starvation in Athens alone. My grandfather fought against the fascists in the mountains of Albania and my mother was losing her nails as a child due to malnutrition.

Most of us have heard tales about the war and the Nazi occupation and have seen the scars they left behind. World War II did not take place in another reality, nor 500 years ago. How ironic then, that while we are accusing the German government of attempting to enforce a financial 4th Reich in Europe, we are witnessing in Greece the rise of an actual neo-Nazi party.

Despite their efforts to hide the swastikas and their clearly fascist ideals as documented in their official publications of the past, even their current “sanitized” views, including the role of women as breeding machines for the nation, the perceived superiority of the white male and the open admiration of their leader for Adolf Hitler as a “remarkable personality” is enough to make any sane person cringe.

Their inability to grasp the meaning of democracy became apparent when they demanded that  journalists should stand as a token of “respect” when their leader entered the room to deliver his post election speech. The Greek journalists refused and were consequently asked to leave.

Which they did, much to their credit. However, during the pre-election period most of them never devoted a single line or television minute to the presentation of this party and its views. One of those who did write about them was faced with thinly veiled threats and even advised by the police to stop writing about the neo-Nazis. Is that what we should do? Remain silent before the rise of racist, neo-Nazi terror?

I don’t think so.

If the demise of the Weimar Republic has taught the world anything it’s that silence never stops evil.

“Chryssi Avgi” plays the role of  the bogeyman perfectly, since the Left, even the die-hard Communist Party (KKE), is beginning to seem ever more appealing to the Greek voters, who are living in constant fear of losing their jobs, their homes and their dignity, and joining the swelling ranks of the newly poor.

Some might balk at the ideas of the Communist Party as backward and even dangerous, but at least their vision does not include obscene theories about white male supremacy and immigrant pogroms.

This new pre-election period will be dominated by the attempts of the faltering establishment and their controlled media to spread the fear of the exit from the Eurozone and the rise of the neo-Nazis, to stress the image of the “irresponsible” Left, to sow doubt using the eventuality of another fruitless election and play the role of the “repentant criminal”. They have already promised that, following the mandate of the people, they will attempt to ease the terms of the memorandums.

Something that two months ago was completely out of the question. The game is already on at full force. A few days ago, a statement of a member of the left-wing SYRIZA party, concerning the need for “tight public regulation” of Greek banks so that deposits are used to fund the economy and not just increase the share value of the banks was “translated” by the media as an intent to appropriate bank deposits. This has very nearly caused a bank run in the past few days and has demonstrated clearly who the truly irresponsible parties are.

The promises for renegotiation of the memorandum from those parties are null and void, as were all of their promises of the past four decades. The troika has made their intent to demand additional austerity measures abundantly clear, while there is still absolutely nothing on the table pointing towards restructuring the Greek economy apart from widespread cuts which will stall growth indefinitely.

The coming elections have to send a clear message to the corrupt political establishment, and our European partners who are all too keen to support banks and financial institutions at our expense: you cannot liquidate an entire country for the benefit of multinational companies and banks. It is a risk we have to take for Greece and for all the citizens of Europe.

Intermission #11

Greeks, like a surreal housewife with a moustache, woke up one day and decided to demand a divorce from the past. Our abusive husband will say anything to bring us back, but we know that those promises are empty. Should we go back, the old habits will return, worse than ever. We have to break free.