Sunday, September 2, 2012

Perhaps it is time to have a "Golden Dusk"...?

For the past 4-5 years, since the crisis in Greece has intensified and gripped the nation, one of the phenomena and social changes that we have witnessed is the rise of the far right. The Golden Dawn "political" party has won 7% of the seats in the Greek Parliament in the last elections and now is being seen as one of Greece's new rising political powers.

Though it is very interesting to see the Greeks moving away from the two traditional established political parties that ruled Greece since the '70s, I as a young Greek am embarrassed that a far right party represents 7% of the Greek population in our parliament. The truth is that Greece and in fact the whole of Europe and the "West" is rife with political, economic and social corruption and decline. The fact that the far right is rising all over Europe is only confirming this. 

The Golden Dawn party existed in Greece for at least a decade or more, before the last elections. But before the crisis it was something laughable and it never made its presence felt in anyway in the Greek everyday public life. So what gave it so much support from the Greek public that it was propelled into the parliament? For years Greece had serious "problems" with illegal immigration and immigration in general. Yet our government did nothing to tackle this issue and set up a clear and comprehensive immigration policy, like many other countries in Europe.

Hundreds of  thousands of illegal immigrants are crossing the Greek borders with Turkey every year, with the hope of a new life in Europe. Their main destination is not always Greece, but the rich northern industrialized European states. Yet because of weak or non existent Greek policies on immigration and lack of solidarity or support from Greece's European partners those immigrants are trapped in the country and they become an inconvenient "nuisance." Instead of dealing with it, the Greek political elite chose to ignore it and use it as a scapegoat for many problems that the Greek society was and is dealing with.

On regular basis the Greek media were bombarding the Greek public with news of the criminality coming from immigrant gangs roaming Athens. That is of course partly true, as many of the illegal immigrants were forced into a life in crime, or simply found a gateway to Greece because it was so easy to commit crime. Most of Greece's immigrants are forced to work in the country's black market, selling illegal CDs, hand bags, belts, DVDs, and other hand crafted goods. Few that can speak Greek could find a decent job, mainly people from neighboring countries like Albania and Bulgaria. The rest were forced in jobs like house cleaning, au pairs and as seasonal workers in Greece's agriculture industry. 

 The Greek laws made it very hard for any immigrant to become a Greek citizen, unless he or she could prove a Greek paternal or maternal ancestry. Yet because of corruption of the Greek authorities, many immigrants paid to become Greek citizens; they simply bought their right to stay in the country like many others around the world. But without factories, industries or a functioning economy that actually produced something plus the very discriminating policies of Greece, the integration even of those immigrants that acquired the Greek citizenship was very hard to achieve. Not that the Greek authorities bothered with that.

As long as the economy was doing ok, nobody complained. But as soon as the crisis started to "bite," the Golden Dawn party rose into the country's political life and promised for a "solution." For years criminality was rising in Athens and the state did nothing about it. People, both Greeks and immigrants were not able to walk safe in the city center during the night. Soon ghettos were established and Athenians started feeling threatened. Still the Greek political elite did nothing and the Greek media were pouring more oil to the fire by keep underlining the actions of foreign gangs as the real problem for the criminality surge.

In the past few years Athens looked to be increasingly lawless, with crimes taking place on a daily basis. Recently there was a case of a young student shooting dead an Albanian robber that tried to rob his house twice while threatening his mother with a knife. The residents showed their support for him and branded him a hero. And that is no wonder. Many regions  of the Greek capital were experiencing a surge in break ins and armed robberies that eventually the locals had to arm themselves to defend their property.

Not that all criminals were foreigners or that all victims were Greek. But the newspapers loved to blame everything on immigrants mainly of Albanian origin. While Athens was being transformed into a crime capital, the only ones who seemed to be doing something about it were the members of the Golden Dawn party. They escorted the elderly safely to go and collect their pensions and do their weekly shopping. They even offered to do different jobs for them. That is one of the reasons that they got into the parliament.

But they did not stop there. Now that the crisis is tearing the country apart, they are the only party that are out on the streets helping people, providing them with food and setting up super markets for "real Greeks only!" The angry Greeks, fed up with the "progressive" policies of their past governments and other European governments, have voted for this party. A reaction to what they are going through. Many voted for them to just "beat up a few MPs in case they vote for ridiculous laws ever again" as some people I spoke to said. Others because they were the only party which did not waste public money to print leaflets for their electoral campaign, while the Greek pupils did not have books to go to school. 

With all those populist actions and policies, is there any wonder how this party entered the Greek parliament? But now that they are in, they do not stop just in "helping" the Greeks. Regularly they patrol Athens and the party's members beat immigrants, wearing black t-shirts and waving flags with their emblem. Allegedly in some cases even knifing some of them. They openly attack not just immigrants, but members of the gay community too. Their representatives often stated that after the immigrants, it is the turn of the gay community to be a target of their kind of "solution." 

Now I am a very tolerant person and I believe that anyone should be able to express their political views, even people from the far right or far left. But this is getting out of control. This is not democracy anymore. When a few thugs take the law into their own hands and believe that they can correct the dreadful mistakes that our past governments committed by beating up people and killing them, what comes next? 

It started the same way in Germany in 1933. We are repeating the same mistakes in Europe. The Greek government is using the immigration problem as a decoy to cover their dreadful mistakes in the country's economy and they once again try to focus the public's attention in the killings, robberies, and other crimes that the immigrants commit. But in that way they are making another terrible mistake. The Greek public opinion is turning increasingly hostile to all immigrants, legal or illegal. Racism and hate crimes are on the rise. Immigrants are afraid to walk out their homes on their own, especially when the beatings now even happen on a broad day light. This situation will only solidify the Golden Dawn's prominence in Greek politics and the public's support. How are we going get rid of their presence? 

The Greek and European elites right now are only focusing on how to keep the Greeks under control and make them pay for the debts that themselves have created. They are only interested in finding a solution to the economic crisis but they remain very calm, perhaps with some plan in mind, to the rising threat of the far right. It is not just Greece. In France, Holland, Belgium, Austria, Finland, Hungary and even Britain ultra-nationalist parties are on the rise. But as long as the Greek people continue to pay off the debts of the European elites, they are happy to do nothing and just watch passively. This is scandalous! 

Meanwhile both the Greek people and the immigrants are suffering from the crisis, the austerity plus the violence and the hostility that is brewing. What are we waiting for? Greece and Europe need urgently a common comprehensive and functioning immigration policy and better border security with the contribution and participation of all EU states. We need a debate on what kind of society we need to have and how can we bring all the communities together. We need solutions in how can we integrate our immigrant populations throughout Europe and correct the damages done by the crisis and the influence of parties like the Golden Dawn.

Some claim that the best solution would be the banning of parties like this. In Germany parties like these are banned, a remnant of WW2 and their Nazi experience. I personally support the idea that any political movement should be able to be represent its supporters and they should be able to vote for it in national elections; even the far right ones. But it comes to a point that parties like the Golden Dawn have lost their right to represent anyone. Not through so much violence, not with beatings and (allegedly) killings in the name of a "pure" Greek ethnic society. The 7 % of the Greek population that voted for them did not necessarily supported that. They were just desperate to see some solutions, they were fed up with the lies that the established political parties were feeding them for the past decades. And now they are so numb out of fear for their future that they do not protest anymore to what is happening in their country.

A fear that is enforced to them by constant threats of new austerity measures and different scenarios about a potential disastrous future if they don't do as they are told. And of course a rising sense of insecurity due the absolute lawlessness that grips Greece. I personally do not recognize my country anymore. The rise of Golden Dawn and Syriza in the Greek politics is only an act of desperation, a cry for help of the Greek people. But they do not realize that parties like the Golden Dawn have nothing to offer them than poison their souls with hate and infect our society with segregation and discrimination. 

It is up to our governing elites, both the Greek and the European to take action and ease the austerity measures, invest in growth and give back the Greeks their dignity as a nation. Then deal with the immigration problem and many other economic, social, cultural and financial problems that Greece and Europe in general are facing. Because that is the only real solution to the "Golden Dawn" problem. If people have security, jobs, prosperity, education, opportunities for growth and live in a fair society, there is no way they will vote for far right or far left radical parties. Even if we allow these parties to exist just like in Greece decades ago, they will only represent a significant minority and never come to power ever again. 

This is the only way to reverse the "dawning" of parties like these throughout Europe and drive them back to where they belong: permanent dusk and decline! But will our rulings elites do something about it and soon?

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