It was only a mat­ter of time

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY STAVROS LYGEROS

On Tues­day, Mano­lis Kan­taris, 44, was fa­tally stabbed while pre­par­ing to take his preg­nant wife to the hos­pi­tal. The next day, Ioan­nis Kafkas, 31, was hos­pi­tal­ized in crit­i­cal con­di­tion af­ter suf­fer­ing se­ri­ous in­juries dur­ing an anti-aus­ter­ity rally in Athens. The slay­ing of Kan­taris, al­legedly car­ried out by three il­le­gal im­mi­grants, and then the beat­ing by mem­bers of the MAT riot squad were not ran­dom in­ci­dents. They were prod­ucts of their spe­cific cir­cum­stances, thus more like ac­ci­dents wait­ing to hap­pen. Daily acts of theft, rob­beries, in­juries and rapes are not al­ways re­ported on tele­vi­sion news bul­letins, but they are still real and have for quite some time been pre­sag­ing this week’s se­ri­ous in­ci­dents. Sim­i­larly, it was only a mat­ter of time be­fore MAT of­fi­cers’ vi­o­lent habits re­sulted in tragedy. Sadly, while the state has failed to pro­tect the pub­lic’s safety in the cen­ter of Athens, it did not hes­i­tate to em­ploy ex­cess force to dis­perse a rather peace­ful rally. In fact, the state has suf­fered a dou­ble blow. Of course so­ci­ety did not ex­pe­ri­ence it in this way. In a clear sign that peo­ple’s demo­cratic loy­al­ties are in de­cline, groups from both the far left and the far right read­ily pro­vided ide­o­log­i­cal in­ter­pre­ta­tions of these two tragic events. Kan­taris’s killing is a blow to the po­lit­i­cally cor­rect ide­o­logues who refuse to see the dra­matic con­se­quences of mass im­mi­gra­tion, par­tic­u­larly on the mid­dle class. Kan­taris’s death does not fit into their pre­or­dained ide­o­log­i­cal scheme. Be­cause it can’t turn a blind eye to the killing, the left has taken the death out of con­text, treat­ing it as an iso­lated in­ci­dent which could have hap­pened any­where at any­time. In con­trast, mem­bers of the ex­treme right have ex­ploited the anger prompted by the killing to ad­vance their own racist agenda. They ran af­ter and beat any im­mi­grant they met in their path. If there is ev­i­dence that they are re­spon­si­ble for the death yes­ter­day of a Bangladeshi man, then we can talk about a new phase of blind race-mo­ti­vated con­flict – gen­erat- ed by the ab­sence of any of­fi­cial mi­gra­tion pol­icy. The Kafkas beat­ing, mean­while, has in­fu­ri­ated the left. This group sees his case as vin­di­ca­tion of their re­peated al­le­ga­tions of state vi­o­lence. For peo­ple on the far right of the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum, the po­lice beat­ing was just col­lat­eral dam­age. Sure, they feel sorry about the in­ci­dent, but that’s about it. Dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives that stem from dif­fer­ent ide­olo­gies are in­evitable in a demo­cratic so­ci­ety. But there are lim­its. And these have been vi­o­lated. The fact is that the two dra­matic events have in­spired two ri­val protest ral­lies and conflicts, as if the Kan­taris killing was jux­ta­posed against the Kafkas beat­ing.

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