Euro 2012 opened with a double whammy as Polish keeper Wojciech Szczesny stonewalled Greek captain Giorgos Karagounis just hours after Golden Dawn spokesperson Illas Kasidiaris assaulted two females on Greek television. Greece and Poland played to a 1-1 draw.
I watched the game from an addictive Greek restaurant on Mount Pleasant near Eglinton. The walls bear the charming Greek regalia likely to be found in a grandmother’s house in some Greek olive patch.
The nourishment before me was a few freshly emptied Mythos, a platter of Hummus, tzatziki, and taramosalata, Domathes, Spanakopita, and bracelet sized- portions of calamari. I saw both the rogish assault and the soul-crushing save as I hastily ate.
Kasidiaris, a former Army commando, stupidly claims to be the victim and argues using the oldest chestnut in the woman-beater’s catalogue: I was provoked; his worthless self-justifications are representative of Golden Dawn’s politics:assume the mantle of victim and then blame hapless bystanders, often resorting to violent tactics. Greeks, Golden Dawn tells us, are the economic victims of immigrants, which Golden Dawn refers to as ‘the stench’, and we must therefore heavily line Greece’s borders with land mines. Comparisons with Nazism are justified only because Golden Dawn brandishes a modified Nazi swastika as their party symbol.
In the video, Kasidiaris was making self-serving statements about his party wanting to tap into oil reserves off the coast of south Crete, and made the gloating remark that his party will bring wealth to Greece. Liana Kanelli, a member of the Greek Communist Party (KKE), said that Greek workers were the source of value for Greece and that constituents of Golden Dawn had supported the Hellenic Gendarmerie throughout its history, a violent force in Greek society that has done more to pillage the country and be a purveyor of wealth.
(Neni Panourgia’s Dangerous Citizens is a veritable compendium of the crimes of this gendarmerie against Greek workers that includes the abuse of labourers, support for the 4th of August Regime, an authoritarian system led by Ioannis Metaxas, a military leader with a style that Golden Dawn openly celebrates and emulates, and a history that bolstered the military dictatorship between 1967-1974 (see below for a timeline).
Kanelli was in essence insinuating the Golden Dawn has much to do with the current bankruptcy of the country than its deliverance and this inflamed Kasidiaris, who abruptly lost his composure and exposed his rat-face.
I might believe that the abuse of 58 year-old Kanelli occurred because her face was in the trajectory of an ill-timed Hitler salute administered by Kasidiaris, three appreciably forcible ones,. The water hurled at Rena Dourou, the representative of SYRIZA, the party most likely to win on June 17th, might also have occurred because the full glass was in the line of a Heil Fuhrer! thrown skyward by Kasidiaris. If you click on there names above, you can hear their statements about the attacks.
Their questions and concerns were perfectly legitimate conversation topics for the Golden Dawn spokesperson in an election with such high stakes, even if they were raking open sores for the party. (Kasidiaris was in court on Monday June 11 for the garish assault on a university professor, of which Kasidiaris allegedly was the getaway drive sparklingly characteristic of fascist-style thuggery in Europe’s history—this topic was what induced him to ‘haplessly’ throw water.) Kasidiaris is currently suing his victims for defamation—as if the slapping of women wasn’t self-discrediting enough.
Kasidiaris was able to flee the studio and remain at large while the 48 hr arrest-warrant issued by Greek prosecutors expired by the second. The intrigue of the story is found in the plain to life fact that 50% of the police are reported to support and vote for the Golden Dawn. The collusion is rank, especially since multiple reports confirm these hearty handshakes, including an internal police investigation.
Golden Dawn had a record 7% of the vote in the May election, but the parliamentary coalition fell through, and a snap election was declared for June 17th. This election will see SYRIZA, a coalition of left-leaning parties, look towards a clear victory, as the main parties since the restoration of democracy in 1973, New Democracy and the Socialist party (PASOK), wallow in voter disapproval.
The future of Greece is in the balance as the government is broke-literally and figuratively. Consider the Greek debt crisis in light of the past challenges to Greek democracy since independence:
1821-1829: Greek independence from the Ottoman Empire was asserted in 1821 and finally won in 1829 after a long, bitter war. The English bohemian poet Lord Byron was a principled ally of Greece and died fighting for Hellas’ independence. The lyrics he wrote for Greece are some of the finest written:
I dream’d that Greece might yet be free
For, standing on the Persians’ grave,
I could not deem myself a slave.
- Lord Byron, The Isles of Greece
1930: One only has to read the imperishable non-fiction Eleni by the hugely interesting figure of Nicolas Gage, a Greek-American investigative journalist, to get a sense of how being born in Northern Greece in this time might just have been the most unfortunate of circumstances one could possibly imagine. Hunger and pestilence was a fact of life here and was outdone in point of misery only by the perpetual invasion of depraved guerrilla forces (documented in Eleni), Italian garrisons, and Nazi domination. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin attempted to capture the fascist occupations, specifically the Massacre of the Acqui Division in the impossibly serene island-village of Cephalonia.
1940: The Greek Communist Party breaks the Hitler-Stalin Pact (dissents from Stalin’s collusion that is) and declared a war of liberation against the Nazi regime. My Grandfather fought across the border with the Yugoslav Partisans who expressed solidarity with the Greek People’s Liberation Army or ELAS. Greece was a chokepoint in the war much like Stalingrad and North Africa. Interestingly, many of the heroes of this time, like Greek Composer Mikis Theodorakis, who is perhaps best known for his musical scores, like the popular Greek ditty from Zorba the Greek, and Manolis Glezos, who famously climbed the Acropolis in May 1941 and tore down for good the appalling Nazi flag that had been flying for a month, are still presence in the Greek crisis today.
1946-1949: The Greek Communists had boxed in the Wehrmacht and beat it back only to find out that Joseph Stalin had traded Greece to Winston Churchill and Anthony Eden for a buffet of Eastern European states, including Hungary and Romania. This is known as the Percentages Plan. Greece was plunged into a decades long civil war, which pitted the popular communist government in the North against the US and British sponsored government, in possession of the National Army. This conflict would eventually spill over into neighbouring Macedonia, which ultimately brought half of my family to Hamilton—My grandfather still laments with tear-jerking sorrow about how he had to leave two barrels of his home-made whiskey at the Athenian port as he boarded a ship for Ontario, never to return to his hooch. I am still under orders by Dedo to go retrieve them if they yet stand.
21 April 1967 – 1974: Tanks roll into the central square in the middle of the night in Athens as a General’s coup d’etat is executed weeks before a democratic election. Mikis Theodorakis kept an illuminating journal of the ‘Regime of the Colonels’, Journals of Resistance, a heart-stopping day-by-day account of the suspension of the constitution, which ended in 1974. The deliverance of Greece came at the expense of the population of Cyprus. The military junta has sponsored a fascist coup on the island by Nicos Sampson and his goons, which lasted a pathetic 9 days. The resources thrown into the Cyprus takeover triggered the collapse of the military dictatorship in Greece, who were vastly unpopular among its Greek constituents. The downside however was that the appearance of Greek sponsored Fascism in Cyprus gave Turkey the pretext to invade and partition the island, a geographical bisection to has corroded Cypriot life since August 1974 and turned it into an apartheid state.
1974-2012: The restoration of Democracy in Greece led to a social democratic order where the government provided high-quality public services. The welfare state, alas, was a quid pro quo for the Greeks who tolerated unmitigated corruption on the part of the Greek political class, the Panhellenic Socialist Movement or PASOK, the dominant party of the democratic era. The recent arraignment of former Defense Minister Akis Tsochatzopolous, a founder of PASOK, is instructive here: the problem afflicting Greece is not greed on behalf of its people, its corruption by its elites. Tsochatzopolous took millions and millions of dollars from German military firms as a surety that Greece would by German weapons. His wife bought mansions with illegal money while Greeks were told to cut back on their pensions. And yet, of all the service cuts that Germany and France have implored the Greeks to endure, military spending has been suggestively off-limits. Is it because of hearty collusion between Greek and German intelligence and defense officials, like with the Siemens scandal during the Olympics? The demilitarisation of European society is the true deliverance for war-torn country whose biggest threats are internal, its the Greek military complex. The Greek armed forces are the wretched womb from which Ilias Kasidiaris, a former army commando, was hatched, and are the potential source for another military coup, if the Greeks resolve to abandon the EU on June 17th. Let’s hope they avoid this fate.