Monday, 5 January 2009

‘Believe me when I say to you, I hope the Russians love their children too’

Not a word you associate with Athens. But things are changing.
On Christmas eve, members of an organisation called ‘Revolutionary Struggle’ fired kalashnikovs onto a police vehicle. Last night, allegedly the same weapons were used against a policeman guarding the Ministry of Culture. The man, on routine guard duty in central Athens, was shot 20 times and is now in a critical condition.

The wave of violence that followed the unforgivable murder of 15-year old Alexandros Grigoropoulos by a police officer is taking a more sinister turn.
The hate-chants, the stones and home-made Molotov cocktails thrown against police in the heat of passion, in the midst of riots, during confrontations that were, in theory at least, about something other than the clash itself have now ceded their place to cold-blood drive-by shoot-outs.
This did not even make front page news.
But police officer Diamantis Matzounis’ condition is critical and he may not make it. Is his life cheaper because he was wearing a uniform? Because he is someone else’s child?
He is only 21.

Alexandros was cruelly murdered.
People mourned him in their thousands. Hundreds sought to avenge his death.
But if this 21-year old boy dies, Alexandros’ murder is no less horrible, no less unfair, no less futile and brutal. And one more family is steeped in mourning.

Everyone is someone’s child and two wrongs don’t make a right.
The mathematics of violence make no sense.
And there is no hope for any of us unless ‘the Russians love their children too’ as the song goes. But nobody seems to be loving anybody’s children in Athens right now.
Not the police. Not the members of ‘Revolutionary Struggle’ and their supporters. Not the government, that are yet to do anything more than issue statements about the resilience of democracy. Not the citizens who shake their heads, bemoan the chaotic conditions they live in and change the channel.
Because Alexandros and Diamantis are someone else’s children.
As if we are not all someone’s children.

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