Greece ─ Remember, Remember the 6th of December!

It’s easy to forget. We open our memory’s garbage bin and in we throw all our bad experiences and sad memories. When it comes to personal affairs, this practice is acceptable. But when it involves bits and pieces of a nation’s collective memory, it can cost us our wellbeing and social solidarity.

Amongst we Greeks, there is a common belief regarding time; for some events, which have to do with our country’s history of politics, economy and society, we retain the memory capacity of goldfish. Something new takes place, we’ll process it for five seconds and then ignore it. This attitude comes from our growing political apathy and social unawareness, which are the results of fatigue after the mounting political scandals and financial hardships most of us encounter daily. Apart from acknowledging our ancestors’ achievements when we celebrate our two national holidays, Greek Independence Day on the 25 of March, and “Oxi Day” on the 28 of October, we tend to forget about other similarly critical events that have forged our present and have potentially set the stage for our future. But these are not the times to close our eyes to current national and global affairs.

On the night of December 6, 2008, the outcome of a clash between the Greek youth, (or “Anarchists”, depending on from whom you are hearing the reports) and the police at the Exarcheia district of Athens ignited the most violent civil unrest in the country since the restoration of democracy back in 1974. Occurrences of police abuse have always been the plat du jour of the major Greek News Media. Unreasonable arrests, corruption, ineptitude regarding the protection of citizens, and a sporadically supremacist attitude towards immigrants, have nourished a culture of deep distrust and cynicism towards law enforcement in the majority of the Greek population.

The shooting murder of the 15 year-old Alexander Grigoropoulos by a police officer resulted in major demonstrations in many Greek cities, and to fierce riots all throughout the capital. For days, one could taste and smell the thick scent of revolution, a mixture of burning cars and buildings, tear-gas bombs, and the boiling blood of the uprising youth. The events received major coverage by world news agencies, and a large number of citizen journalists kept the planet updated 24/7 by using their blogs and Twitter accounts. We even earned our own wiki on the events!

From a sociological perspective, these riots signaled the invigoration of civil participation. A significant number of anthropologists have begun to address the formation of a new social movement populated by individuals from a variety of backgrounds and from many angles of the political spectrum. This is a first for Greek society, because demonstrations have almost always been organized by left wing groups. But now, with the unfolding global financial crisis, the increasing unemployment rate, and the exposure of rampant pilfering by politicians from all parties, which have all been lambasting citizens of Greece in the recent months, it is the majority of people, not just those of one specific ideology, who are feeling deep dissatisfaction with government.

Since deprivation is usually the first step in the shaping of a social movement, it shouldn’t surprise any of us that so many diverse groups of people took part in these demonstrations and riots where youth held the leading role. The generation whose dreams are now tabula rasa unleashed its accumulated rage against a society created by prior generations, a society which has seemingly erased any possibility of a future for its young people.

Many hailed the youths’ protests, even though they came with grave cost for local businesses, because it is inherent in our Hellenic background to believe that the defiance and revolt of the youth is a sign of a healthy society. We all recognize the need for a change and a new status quo. The present political and social policies have failed, and the youth have a desire to alter the current order. They are our only hope for prosperity and peace, with the historical chance to create a new social environment that will secure their sustainability in the course of time.

But the freedom to do things ‘their way’ is theirs to explore with one prerequisite: to not become like their parents by forgetting the day the Greek society woke up from its ‘beauty sleep’; to honor the tragic death of Grigoropoulos, to renew their promise of change to their society brought by the overthrow of the junta in 1974, and to remember the 6th of December. Remember when. Remember who. Remember why.

Last 5 posts by Ilias Kountoupis

Last 5 posts by Ilias Kountoupis