I was in the heart of the catastrophe

Mrs. S.: The retired mother of a longtime anarchist, who typically votes for the conservative party

Submitted by Uncreative on December 18, 2010

Are you sure you want to interview me? I think you'll get burned! I’m one of the people who believes in peaceful ways of doing things. It won’t be helpful for this book you’re writing. When I was young I was with the Socialists. We started the very first student movement back in the middle of the ’60s, before the dictatorship. We were jumping on our desks in the classrooms, in the high schools, shouting for freedom and social justice. But when the Socialists came into power it was very disappointing. After the dictatorship people were in the universities, still on their desks, shouting for social justice and equality. And when we won in 1981, we were betrayed. The new government stole the money and nothing changed. We are the betrayed generation. We took the government, but nothing happened. We won, only to lose. I don’t agree with this way of protesting, destroying all the shops. But I’m a child of the '60s. We did it peacefully

But wasn't there a lot of rioting and struggle in the ’60s too?

Okay, there was, there were very big riots. The construction workers would come and gather barrels of stones to throw at the police. But the target was the police and the government, not private shops. I don’t agree with damaging private property.

If we're going to protest like this, let’s just start at home, open our own doors and let them do it here, smash it up and take our things. They just attack the shops because they’re more vulnerable, more accessible, easier to attack, so that’s why they pay the price. If people agree with this destruction, they should take the next step and open their own houses to be destroyed.

I even prefer the silent protests to these destructive ones. If you want to destroy the market, then don't buy things, don’t consume. If you want to do something about the prices or the killing of the animals, don’t eat meat. Try to build a majority and bring all the people into the streets. If everyone came into the streets and stayed for three days, with everyone participating, even if they didn’t do anything the impact would be very strong. They announce days in which no one should buy anything, as a protest, but still people go shopping these days. So the right mentality isn’t there yet.

When the banks got smashed... Ha ha, well, in a way all of us said that it was good what happened to them. They deserved it. But the problem is that this flood of destruction also claimed many small shops, many people’s cars. In the moment of rioting it’s difficult to discriminate. Together with the dry ones, you also burned the fresh ones. That’s a Greek phrase.

As for the asylum in the universities, I don’t think they should get rid of it, but I believe it has to be an asylum for the ideas - for the assemblies and public events for all different ideas, but I don’t believe that if someone kills somebody outside the university they should be able to take refuge in the university to escape and not go to trial. It can’t be an asylum for criminal actions. In ’73, when the students took refuge in the university while they were struggling against the government, they didn’t damage the universities. But now okay in December they didn’t damage the university buildings but in many other cases recently that’s happened, that the university buildings have been damaged by the people taking refuge there.

Of course I think the episode in December was a healthy reaction. I could never say it was wrong for the people to rise up after the police killed Alexis. It was not only healthy it was the obligation of the people to revolt. But I disagree with how they did it. I can’t stand the violence and the destruction. The cause is right. The way they do it, I don't know if it’s right or not. Also I cannot agree if you revolt when one boy like Alexis is killed, but you never revolt when a policeman dies. Me, I cannot discriminate between human beings. A policeman is a worker, he’s not responsible for his actions. People much higher than him are responsible for his actions. In all the different jobs, there are people who are more evil, or aggressive, or arrogant. It’s not only policemen.

I was in Ermou, the street with all the luxury shops near Parliament, early on Sunday morning, just after Alexis was killed. The whole street was still on fire. I couldn't go to Syntagma because everything was closed. The police were saying, "Where are you going, lady?" They wouldn’t let me pass, but I wanted to go to church with my six-year-old granddaughter. There were some major chain stores that were burned in Monastiraki, and the big banks. I wasn’t scared, because most of the fires had almost burned out. Two months later I passed again and I told my granddaughter, "You see, they fixed the bank, its open again." I asked my granddaughter if she remembered and she said, "Yes, it was all burned."

When the police told me I couldn’t pass on this side, they sent me a block down, and I went there and it was full of junkies and illegal immigrants! It was packed! I had to go through this street with my little grandchild to get to the church. It was strange. And I asked the people "What happened, is it okay?" And they told me, "Everything is fine, mother, pass through," and opened the way for me and let me pass. I didn’t know that the riots had started, or what had happened, but I got to church in the end. I was in the heart of the catastrophe, It was very surprising, to see all those luxury stores destroyed that morning.

The first day I saw it with my own eyes, but after that most of what I learned came through the newspapers and the television. Mostly the television tries to produce fear. Through the TV the events become exaggerated. They blow it up like a balloon, and show again and again the same images, and use the same words, and this repetition causes panic. If you don’t have a critical mind it’s easy to get trapped in these feelings and freak out. I personally never allow myself to feel these things. I always understand that the TV exaggerates the situation and blows it out of proportion.

But yes, there were small shops destroyed, it’s not only the TV saying this. On Ermou in addition to all the burned banks and chain stores I also saw one or two shops that were not big shops, they were not chains. One clothing shop that was smashed open and looted. Next time I pass there I’ll go to that shop and find out who it belongs to. And in Syntagma there was an old building that was burned out completely I don’t know what that building was. I want to go tomorrow and find out. I'm curious as to why they burned that one down. It’s normal that they burn the banks and the big stores if they want to hit capitalism, this you can understand. But you can’t understand why they would burn the small shops, and when you see a building that was burned out completely you can’t understand why they chose this target. I guess I can understand the riots and the burnings because it’s part of their fight against capitalism, but when you also have destruction of the universities and small shops and other targets, it’s not clear to the people why it happened.

Do you think it will happen again, or that there will be a revolution?

The death of Alexis was only the spark. The real cause is that the whole society is bubbling. This was just the match in the dynamite store. The episode was caused by the economic and social problems that have been here for years. But if we have to speak about revolution, we speak about a general revolution, one that includes all aspects of life. But for me this is difficult to imagine because the people are alienated, they’re rotten. Because of this, the people who really want a revolution are always a minority. So a general revolution that will include everybody, it can’t happen. I believe that in general the people have found their places, they are volemenos - not comfortable but resigned, subdued, complacent. They are not satisfied, they don’t agree with what is happening, but they have the minimum. And they’ll stay like that instead of risking themselves or getting themselves into trouble. In the past people were more courageous, and when there were popular revolutions people were more heroic and they faced bigger problems, like starvation, or the complete denial of their human rights. So it was easier for them to revolt.