Discordia, by Laurie Penny and Molly Crabapple, Vintage 2012.
With Greece collapsing in agonisingly slow motion over the past few years, it was inevitable that a slew of books would come along to chronicle the demise of the birthplace of democracy. Discordia, a collaboration between the English journalist Laurie Penny and the American illustrator Molly Crabapple, manages to avoid the usual journalistic cliches of Greek tragedy and Trojan horses, bringing us right into contemporary Athens with a lavishly illustrated gonzo snapshot of the crisis on the ground.
A worrying rise of the far right is occurring across Europe, and not for the many reasons people want to claim it is; while some argue it’s the result of economic disparity and financial distress, this is an issue that runs far deeper than that, as researcher Matthew Goodwin identifies. All nations have the potential to experience a sudden increase in far-right politics if a political party is savvy enough to play on themes of national identity, anti-immigrant sentiments, and ‘traditional values.’ Economic woes simply become a convenient vehicle for exploitation, rather than the cause of extremism.
The biggest story to come out of this month’s Greek elections has been the 21 seats won by the neonazi party Golden Dawn (Chrysi Avgi.) Golden Dawn secured seven percent of the vote, with 750,000 Greeks casting ballots for the party, which promises to rid Greece of “the stench of foreigners,” to line the Turkish border with land mines, and to impose a strict litmus test for citizenship that prizes birthright over time spent in the country. Elias Panagiotaros spoke to Vice last year, explaining the party’s organizing principles:
“Funny, I thought that all this would happen in the middle of the night and it would be done by masked Israeli soldiers,”tweeted Joseph Dana, The Nation Magazine’s correspondent aboard the US Boat to Gaza.
Little could anyone predict that it would actually be the Greek Coast Guard that stopped the boat and demand its return to Piraeus Port in Athens.
Flotilla 2.0, as it is beginning to be called across the Internet, finally left Greece this afternoon after a tumultuous week of delayed departure due to multiple investigations for suspected chemical weapons, a (semi-successful) mechanical sabotage performed by deep sea divers, and the violent riots against austerity measures that erupted throughout the streets of Athens.
Thirty minutes after its long-awaited departure, the boat was stopped by the Greek Coast Guard. Not the Israeli Coast Guard. The Greeks. Commandos pointed weapons at the passengers. Greek commandos, not Israeli commandos. The Greek government then announced that all ships were officially banned from sailing to Gaza.
The last few years have been a tumultuous time in Greek politics, especially after the debt “crisis” of 2010 and the subsequent EU/IMF bailout. Protests and riots on the streets of Athens have been a common sight on the news.
In the midst of this, some surprising folk heroes have emerged – Kanellos and Loukanikos, two stray dogs with a habit of fighting on the side of protesters. Kanellos (Greek for “cinnamon”) is the original riot dog, famed for accompanying protesters at protests. After a dozen years of living with students at the Polytechneio, the National Technical University of Athens and the site of the 1973 student uprising–sadly, Kanellos died in 2008. But another stray dog Loukanikos soon appeared on the streets of Athens (mistakenly identified by The Guardian as Kanellos). Loukanikos has his own dedicated online following, with a twitter and tumblr documenting his every move. Amazingly, he appears unfazed by even the most violent of protests, even in the midst of thrown rocks, water canons, and tear gas. Loukanikos shows solidarity, just as Kanellos did.
And there has been much need of it lately. Since the imposition of the IMF measures last year, there have been 11 general strikes in Greece, regional strikes and other protests. On May 25th, the aganaktismenoi (outraged) protesters took Syntagma square opposite parliament, holding it ever since with crowds at times of up to one hundred thousand people. These people protest the changes proposed by Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, a 38 billion dollar austerity program required under Greece’s ($145 billion) bail-out package from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.