Democracy in public squares
Spontaneity is one of those things many people like to praise and embrace, but not necessarily when it no longer concerns words, but acquires a real, political dimension that involves the masses. Rhetoric regarding people acting spontaneously, taking matters into their own hands, and getting themselves grouped and organized always sounds great when the action is not there, or when it belongs to the past. The student uprising at the Athens Polytechnic in 1973, for example, gained a lot more fans once it became legend than it did when it was a mere chapter in history. While it was going on, many of those who praise it today lambasted the movement as being little more than provocation. The spontaneous protest gatherings in Greece’s public squares that we have seen over the past few days can be defined as being somewhat lacking in cohesion as even the most popular slogans shouted are not to the liking of everyone and not everyone is happy to make rude gestures at Parliament in an effort to let off some steam. The fact, however, is that it could be no other way given that people reach a state of indignation through the same route (that is the one-way street of the EU-IMF memorandum), but they don’t all see the same exit, if they see one at all. In any case, at these rallies we see a large part of society come together, most of whom will say that they don’t see any of our politicians as being fit to govern in opinion polls and who will opt to abstain from general elections. Their physical presence, even if it is without a statement, is authentically political. Of equal interest to the actual gatherings is the sense of discomfort they have inspired in Greece’s politicians, who fear that they may not be able to take the heat, especially when it is also coming from their usual allies in the media. They can’t really condemn the protests since they have no overt political agenda, are not violent and do not have a negative effect on business in the city center or really on traffic. Of course those political parties and media pundits who believe that theirs is the only truth were quick to condemn the slogans at the gatherings as shallow, in an effort to hog all the indignation for themselves. Then there are those who like to assign the gatherings with content, their own kind, through deeply condescending statements. Where this mass indignation will lead is still open. But the fact that something remains open when everything else looks so dismally shut and decided is a reason to rejoice, as is the peaceful nature of these rallies and the fact the indignant are sticking it out.