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).