By Chris Haddix
The Crisis continues in Greece. How long has it been now? How long will things continue the way they are? The way things are: this is the Crisis. Crisis has become the constant companion of the Greek people. Crisis occupies the cities and corrupts the countryside. The generalized debt crisis that has settled across Europe is the consequence of an intentional process of financial extortion, but the Crisis cannot be reduced to balance sheets and bad math.
The Crisis is the crisis itself, along with the institutional and bureaucratic machinery designed to manage it. Antonio Negri calls it the Crisis-State: the form of sovereignty that rules through planned disorder and continuous suspension of normality. Crisis is when “justice no longer manages to judge, teaching no longer manages to teach, medicine can’t cure, the parliament can’t legislate, the police can’t get the law to be respected, and families can’t even raise their children.” The Crisis in Greece did not begin with the 2009 financial disclosures, which sparked the ongoing series of imposed Austerity measures. Nor did the crisis start with the December 2008 police murder of 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropolous, which resulted in rioting that spread to every major Greek city. The Crisis is possibility engaged in a struggle against the reductive logic of capitalism; as such it is most acute in those places where tradition holds strong, where the memory of another way of life persists. The Crisis isn't new in Greece. It is, has been, and will be as long as we can talk sensibly about a Greek way of life.
The European authorities in Germany and Brussels dismiss the remnants of this other way of life as a southern anachronism. But reducing resistance to the various austerity measures, ostensibly designed by the European authorities to impose fiscal discipline, to a defense of laziness, sensuality, corruption, and an aversion towards ‘paying one’s dues’ repeats the worldview, essentially racist, that considers Greece less a part of Europe than the frontier of the Orient. Undoubtedly, Athens, Thessoliniki, Patras, and smaller Greek cities are certain to remind the northern visitor more of Istanbul or the Levant than Frankfurt. The walls and streets of Athens are alive, and so they are dirty, chaotic, colorful. It is in those places that seem strangest to the visitor that a way of life adheres. Graffiti, then, is a tactic, a message from the 'lost generation' to the nameless and faceless technocrats at the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank, a clear reminder that they refuse to be whitewashed.
It is impossible for the Greeks to ignore the challenges facing the state. Nationwide unemployment has risen to 28%. Youth unemployment hovers around 60%. The highways and cities are littered with abandoned large-scale infrastructure improvement projects. Taxes have been raised, social programs cut, pensions eliminated; as a consequence, xenophobia and hunger have been normalized, and prostitution has become a growth industry. The Troika argues that for Greece to emerge from these dark days of economic deprivation and political extremism she must become more like her Northern neighbors. What ails Greece is nothing that can’t be cured with some hyper-consumerism, technological upgrades, and an anti-depressant. Skepticism towards this diagnosis is evident across the political spectrum: while the radical left strikes against the anti-democratic prophets of austerity, the neo-fascist Golden Dawn violently express their resistance to Northern liberal multiculturalism itself. The stabbing death in September of antifascist musician Pavlos Fyssas by a Golden Dawn member led swiftly to a crackdown on the party, and seemed to signal a rupture in the status quo. Suddenly, the system that had "entrenched racism and fascism as everday conditions" was working to dismantle the rogue party. Yet, unsurprisingly to anyone who has negotiated the Greek bureaucracy, the status quo was quickly restored: nothing much happened. Support has briefly plummeted, but the Golden Dawn offices remained open, and were open on November 1st, when two members were fatally shot outside an Athens location. The violence was foreboding. "Some are preparing to lead this country to civil war," said the leader of the right-wing Independent Greeks party, reacting to the killings. The Crisis continues apace.
Golden Dawn tags in the southern Peloponnese
anti-Golden Dawn graffiti in Patras
But there is resistance. Today, November 6th, as the Troika makes further demands, Greeks across the country are observing a General Strike to protest against further austerity measures. Battered after years of crisis upon Crisis, the tenuous grip the Greeks maintain on their way of life is threatened. But as long as the memory of this way of life remains, we can be sure the Greek partisans will write their slogans on the walls, leave their mark, their reminder to others that it can be another way. Against the bleak reductionism of finance capitalism and the racism and xenophobia of the Golden Dawn, young Greeks paint the streets.
Follow Chris on Twitter @EndoftheNight