Karamanlis the Uniter
Hundreds of people are staging fresh protest rallies in Athens, after days of rioting sparked by the killing of a teenager by police in Greece.
They gathered near the capital’s police headquarters and the main court, where some of the protesters arrested last week were to appear before magistrates.
The policeman accused of shooting Alexandros Grigoropoulos, aged 15, has been charged with murder.
The shooting has also generated widespread anti-government sentiment,
Sixty per cent of those questioned by Greece’s Kathimerini newspaper rejected the assertion that the disturbances have been merely a series of co-ordinated attacks by a small hard core of anarchists.
Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis has accomplished a feat rare for a Greek poliitican: he has united all segments of Greek society, in this case against him.
I continue to find it remarkable how little attention this has received in the American press and in the blogosphere. The circumstances are quite similar to those that surrounded the rioting in France a couple of years ago: a kid is killed by the police, people riot and set fire to things. That was a cause célÃ¨bre in the blogosphere; this is getting almost no interest.
If the Greeks are rioting now, what will happen as economic conditions there decline as they almost certainly will? There’s
an economic downturn that has had a brutal impact on the shipping industry, the mainstay of the Greek economy. Unemployment has soared to 21% among 20-to 30-year-olds.
A fifth of the Greek population is living below the poverty line, which has been measured at â‚¬486 (£437) a month. The protests also highlighted the emergence of a so-called “â‚¬700 generation” made up of young graduates who complain of not being able to find jobs paying little more than £600 a month.
As oldsters frequently do, some are blaming a corrupt and shiftless youth.
Stratis Stratigis, former chairman of the Athens Olympics organising committee, suggested he might have an answer. “Our democracy is destroying itself because it misrepresented the right to liberty and equality,” says an e-mail circulating his friends. “It taught the citizens to regard disrespect as a right, lawlessness as liberty, impertinence as equality and anarchy as enjoyment.”
That’s a quote from Socrates, some 2,500 years ago.
Greece is not alone. Many of the countries of Eastern and Southern Europe are beginning to suffer and their governments will need to be more adroit than Mr. Karmanlis’s has been to survive.