Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Greece: a reason for concern

Anne Applebaum, writing over on Slate, where Fr. James Martin, SJ also has a delightful article on St. Joseph, asks What's Going On in Greece?: Do riots in Athens portend demonstrations in Paris and Cincinnati?

The riots in Greece began in Athens on 6 December when a 15 year-old young man, Alexis Grigoropoulos, was shot and killed by police. Oddly enough, the situation in Greece came up at the beginning of our adult Sunday School class this past week. Rioting in modern Greece is nothing new, as Applebaum points out, but, she notes:

"even if Greece is unserious, even if anarchist subculture has uniquely deep roots in Athens, even if Greek corruption and youth unemployment are unusually high—it's a mistake to dismiss these riots as altogether peripheral. If nothing else, they show what can happen to a highly developed, post-ideological society where organized politics no longer interests large groups of people. One sympathizer says the rioters can be divided into three groups: communists, anarchists, and 'younger people who like to think that they are anarchists but … don't know what they stand for. They are the ones who have been looting … they feel the only way to make themselves heard is to do these things.'"
She is certainly correct to note that the thinking of rioters "isn't exactly sophisticated." She goes on to observe that this upheaval, "among other things", is "being conducted to the strains of Pink Floyd ('We don't need no education, we don't need no thought control')."

What is noteworthy about all this is the incredibly precarious situation in which more and more people are daily finding themselves in the U.S. All of this is exacerbated by the series of exit interviews being done by President Bush and Vice President Cheney, both of whom, with logic defying seriousness, are arguing that their eight years in power, six of which they had a majority in both houses of Congress, were a success across the board. Add to that the banking and financial industry bailout and the almost outright refusal of help to automobile companies and the recent attempts by the incoming to administration to downplay expectations, expressed well by Vice President-elect Biden about the "exceedingly high expectations" other countries have for the Obama presidency, and you have a great deal of lingering uncertainty and growing resentment.

Given all of this it is easy to share Applebaum's concern about those who are not sure why they no longer have a job and who do not "have the political vocabulary to explain what's wrong" and who doubt that they have leaders capable of fixing it, that for these folks "random violence" may come to be seen as "a plausible response." Let's hope that the answer to her second question is "No".

"This is the good news the prophets foretold: The Savior will be born of the Virgin Mary" (Antiphon for Mid-morning Prayer, 24 December).


  1. I thought it was an interesting article for the implications, which you brought out nicely. I'm also personally concerned because my daughter is going to Greece to study archeology in spring semester, though the problems weren't close to her school and the situation seems quieter. Besides, she goes to school in Watts at USC.

  2. I hope things calm down by the time she goes. Watts is good prep!

    I read Applebaum's article at work yesterday. Greece/Turkey/Cyprus is a part of the world I follow closely. I am a devoted reader of Anne's, who I first knew about by reading her book Gulag.

    Merry Christmas!

  3. Dcn Scott Dodge,

    You mention that you follow Cyprus closely. I lived ten months in Nicosia a few years back, and have an interest in watching things there as well. What's your interest in the place? Did you once live there yourself?

  4. I have spent a lot of time in southern Turkey and, while I love Turkey and the people, I don't have much sympathy for their invasion and claims.

  5. What took you to Turkey? I've never been to to Turkey myself (almost, but it hasn't yet worked out), but I've had the pleasure of visiting the Northern Cyprus a few times with all of their busts of Ataturk everywhere.

    I agree with you on their invasion claims, but no side in that conflict was very saintly.

  6. Work. I spent a lot of the early and mid 90s travelling there. It is remarkable, but a bit sad, especially for Christians. I've been to Antioch, travlled through the whole region of Cappadocia, been to the ancient city Edessa, known now as Sani Urfa, visited Tarsus, which is probably the nicest city I've seen in the country. I've been to villages that were vacated in the Greek/Turkish population exchange that happened in the 1920s, where the churches are chained up and left largely undisturbed.

    I have flown over Cyprus a number of times, but never set foot there.


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