Friday, 12 August 2011

The identity factor behind a riot (Θέμα ταυτότητας)

Riots: we're used to them in Greece. They usually occur in one specific place, they affect only the immediate area, and people work their way around them. The only time they spread to other urban areas around the country (ie they weren't centralised in Athens) was when Alexis Grigoropoulos, the 15-year-old boy who was somewhere he probably shouldn't have been, was killed by a police officer on December 6, 2008. The scenario sounds similar to what happened in the United Kingdom recently. But it's not similar at all. Here's why:

UK: Skirmishes between citizens and the police usually involve black people - the problem starts off as a racial incident.
GR: Skirmishes between citizens and the police usually involve Greek people - the problem starts off as an anti-social incident.

254677_10150332519665067_139760680066_9922016_5647267_nUK: Damage mainly occurred on private property. Shops selling consumer goods in all price ranges were targeted: eg clothes, cellphones, chocolates, beer, etc. This shows how consumer-minded people have become in such countries. (On the one hand, I feel sorry for them because the consumeristic world they are forced to live in is trashy; on the other, it looks like something is missing from their life - they have no true concept of natural, unadulterated, pure, real, genuine.)
GR: Damage occurs on public (ie state) property, including banks (symbols of financial power) and multi-national companies (eg the iconic McDonalds on Syntagma Square was razed to the ground).

UK: People were quick to label the rioting looters as 'scum', before they call them 'disenfranchised youth'.
GR: People are quick to lay the blame on the government. It's rare for rioters (rather than looters) to be blamed for their actions. No one denounces the vandals' actions, laying all the fault and responsibility on the government instead.

UK: People are proud of their homes and their property - and their area, shown by the promptness of the clean-up measures instigated by citizens themselves, as well as the vigilante sessions they organised (more evidence of their highly consumeristic society - they're protecting their "things").
GR: People are proud of their homes and their property - but not their area. No citizen has ever started a clean-up operation; everything is left to the state (which explains why things are slow to happen, and why it costs so much of tax-payers' money). There is no community spirit to summon pride in the area.

UK: The rioters found an excuse to make their main purpose looting.
GR: The rioters found an excuse to destroy those they felt responsible for the misery cast on society as a whole.

262930_10150332013575067_139760680066_9916553_1220041_nTo sum up: "Your identity is defined by what you are seen to be consuming" (claim by a French reporter speaking about the UK riots - thanks to a reader). "In the context of looting, it's about taking what you can. As well as mobile phones and clothes, there were plenty stealing petty things like sweets and cans of beer."

In other words, "You are what you eat".

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