Anti-austerity protesters shout slogans, during a student parade in Athens, October 28, 2011 / Getty Images
The Revolution of ‘No’
This has been the first national holiday in many years where I haven’t complained about the student parades all over Greece. My country swamped with what seems to be an ever increasing number of problems, it feel awkward to go against a tradition most Greeks support.
Today though, many parades on the occasion of Oxi (No) Day were marked by protests against politicians that in many instances disrupted the events. In Thessaloniki, the President of Greece, Karolos Papoulias had to leave the parade early after citizens shouted “Traitors!” at the official podium. In Athens, students parading in front of Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou were holding black ribbons while groups of protestors where shouting “Thieves” and “Traitors”. In many other parts of Greece politicians were “welcomed” with similar protests and hurled eggs.
Many progressive voices welcomed the protests hoping that this would be the beginning of the end for student parades, a militaristic tradition dating back to the years of dictatorship and surviving until today. Others, saw a turn of the public opinion towards the Left, with quiet, until recently, citizens now protesting and expressing their anger and disapproval towards austerity measures and the political system.
Personally, I believe that this interpretation is very wrong. It’s easy to see that the majority of Greeks have nothing against student parades occuring twice a year (March 25th, October 28th). Their anger, which is now greater than ever before, is exclusively aimed against politicians and the “system” they represent.
A protest banner on display today in Athens (see photo) reads: “Germany 1933: Work sets you free. Greece 2011: Is slavery setting you free?”, written in both German and Greek. The banner is ilustrated by the flag of Greece behind a swastika and the word OXI (No). A few meters away from that scene, something more scary was taking place: Members of a neo-nazi group were attacking immigrants selling Greek flags on Syntagma square.
I very much fear that what we are entering in, is a circle of anger and pessimism. Greeks have enough reasons to feel that way. People are laid off every day while new taxes and austerity measures are imposed. Together with unemployment, crime and poverty rates are rising as well.
The media are compounding the situation by having a negative influence on the public. According to George Tzogopoulos, a media expert:
one of the problems is that the Greek media portrays the crisis as the fault of foreigners intent on dominating the country. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is a favourite target. Conspiracy theories abound, explaining why Greece has been singled out for punishment. “If you look at the Greek media you would not think we were not responsible in any way for what happened,” he says. “It never portrays the crisis as an opportunity for Greece to change.”
October 28th, 1940 was the day when “Ohi” (no) was echoing in the streets of Greece, as a reply to Mussolini’s ultimatum that would allow Italy to occupy strategic locations of the country. Fast-forward to 71 years later, October 28th, 2011, the Greeks, more angry perhaps and certainly a lot more pessimistic are protesting against the “system” including the politicians they voted for and the European Union that just yesterday erased 50% of the Greek debt.
Saying ‘no’ is expected when your life is turned upside down and the only thing left is uncertainty. However, I’m afraid that the situation won’t get any better before people move on the next step, if not this, then what?