Παρασκευή, 6 Απριλίου 2012

The insecure economic world is back with us again, half a century after we thought we had made its return impossible

Good Friday 2012: when the line is crossed

The insecure economic world is back with us again, half a century after we thought we had made its return impossible

The Guardian, Friday 6 April 2012
Article history

The Italian-American writer Pietro di Donato's short story Christ in Concrete first appeared in 1937, and was later expanded into a novel which became one of the most widely read books ever published in the United States. It is an only slightly fictionalised account of the life of his father, Geremio, a bricklayer who had died, trapped in setting concrete, in a construction accident in the 1920s. Like millions of other American workers in the interwar period, Geremio had no choice but to accept the daily risks of earning his living in an industry where safety regulations were either lacking or routinely violated, where wages could be and often were arbitrarily reduced, and where there was little or no security of employment.

Geremio rages against a world in which the forces which Di Donato calls "Job" and "Boss", allegories for a mindless capitalism which either cannot or will not count human costs on its balance sheet, seem to always prevail. "To rebel is to lose all of the very little," he reflects. "To be obedient is to choke. O dear Lord, guide my path." Geremio dies on a Good Friday, which for his son the writer cemented the idea that his father was in some sense following in the steps of Jesus. Although neither Jesus nor Geremio had willed his own death, Geremio had nevertheless risked his in a spirit of personal sacrifice that had as its ultimate model the Gospel story. Christ in Concrete shifted the American mood, and Geremio's death counts among those that have, to one extent or another, altered history.

"Jesus Christ" was reportedly the first thing John F Kennedy said when told of the fate of Thich Quang Duc, the monk who burned himself to death in June 1963 at a Saigon street corner to protest against the persecution of his fellow Buddhists by the Ngo Dinh Diem government. The monk's sacrifice, one American commented at the time, reduced not only his own body but also "the Diem experiment" to ashes. Five months later Diem's government fell and he himself was killed, in part because of a series of self-immolations that dramatised how completely he had lost the trust of the South Vietnamese people.

Such deaths are distinct from suicide attacks, in which one's life is given up as a means to the end of killing others. There is sacrifice in jihad, and indeed in warfare generally, but it is not in the same category as suicides such as those of Jan Palach in Czechoslovakia in 1969, of Mohamed Bouazizi in Tunisia in 2010, and perhaps of Tibetan monks in China today. These aim at changing minds, not at breaking other people's bodies. In them, sometimes the element of political protest is to the fore, sometimes personal desperation is more prominent. Either way, these extreme sacrifices should have served, but usually have not, as warnings to those in authority that they are in danger of crossing over a certain line, beyond which they will not even be able to secure acquiescence, let alone support.

"How do you expect me to make a living?" Bouazizi cried in front of the local governor's house. What was a question in Tunisia yesterday is a question across much of Europe today. The insecure economic world in which Geremio lived – and died – is back with us again, after a half century during which we thought we had made its return impossible. Our leaders, and those who influence them, are not malign. But they are inept, and they seem often to be uncaring.

Which brings us to Greece. Dimitris Christoulas took his own life because he could not bear the degradation which faced him personally, and, it may be inferred, because he also wanted to speak for the many other Greeks and many other Europeans suffering under a senseless austerity. The call for physical revenge in his suicide note is hardly Christ-like, yet on Good Friday it is the dimension of sacrifice that feels most relevant. He chose, in Geremio's words, "to lose all of the very little", in the hope of achieving something for others. We fail to heed him, and others like him, at our peril.


Athens 4/5/2012
The Union of Greek Photojournalists denounces the new brutal and unprovoked attack by the special police forces of MAT against colleagues who were covering yesterday’s rally in Syntagma square, as well as today’s demonstration. This time victim was the President of our Union, Marios Lolos, who is already hospitalized “for traumatic brain injury caused by strike with a police baton (skull fracture impressed) requiring surgical intervention”! We want to remind that this is not the first time that the President of EFE is becoming a target, moreover in the same way. In the 15th of December 2010 he was hit from behind on the head by a man of the MAT police forces, while doing his job, and the very next day our union in its announcement drew attention to the Ministers in charge “to follow through their responsibilities, because we are afraid that in the end we shall mourn victims”!
We emphasize the fact that for one more time information of the public becomes a target, despite assurances by the (former) Minister of Protection (?) of the Citizen to EFE’s representatives, in our meeting last July regarding similar incidents, that “the political and physical leadership of EL.AS. (Greek Police) is devoted to the protection of the democratic rights and treats the information vocation with the needed sensitivity and shall make every effort so that it can be exercised freely and unobstructed” (!!) nullifying these assurances.
The systematic and repeated attacks against the press workers, while on duty, that violate even fundamental human rights, can be considered far than random. Even in the most good faith, one could conclude that these attacks are consciously exercised by several circles in order to impose silencing of the free press with the also conscious attempt to terrorize the free press workers.
Moreover we see that there is no development in similar brutal attacks that took place previously, like the one against our colleague journalist Manolis Kypraiou, who suffered permanent disability and we also note that tens of named complaints from our colleagues and our Unions regarding the provocative and brutal behavior of the police forces remain unaddressed (like the one against our colleague Tatiana Bolari) following the usual procedure of archiving any sworn administrative inquiry.
After these incidents our Union will join the rest of the Unions and the Federations in our sector in Greece and abroad, in the effort to preserve the freedom of information and will stand in every way against actions that undermine the foundations of democracy and attempt to return us back into situations and regimes for which our people has heavily paid and will never be repeated in our country.