Death Came to Syntagma Square
On the 4th of April, a 77 year old pensioner named Dimitris Christoulas shot himself dead in Syntagma Square, in full sight of the Greek Parliament. These immediate details hold enough significance on their own to merit attention, but the details don’t on their own reveal the antagonists who set this tragedy in motion. Dimitris, like most Greeks, has been made subject to waves of austerity in the form of slashed pensions and higher taxes amid spiraling energy prices that combine to squeeze the average Greek from all directions, effectively hurling them into the abyss of poverty and indefinite precariousness. To quote Dimitris’s final words:
“I am of an age that does not allow me to forcefully react (without of course excluding that if some Greek took a Kalashnikov first, I would be the second) I see no other solution than a decent ending before I start looking in the garbage to feed myself. I believe that youth who have no future will one day take up arms and hang the national traitors upside-down in Syntagma square just as the Italians did in 1945 to Mussolini.”
The story of Dimitris Christoulas strikes at the highest form of neglect demonstrated by those governing Greece. These are rulers who’ve already disgraced themselves and their offices by decimating the Greek health system while leaving workers with a fraction of their previous meager wage, or worse, leaving them without a job. But for all these offenses done against Greeks, what did Dimitris or any other pensioner do to deserve the option of either death or picking through garbage until starvation? Would experts at the IMF and their goons in the Greek parliament have this man work himself to death at that age just to obtain “economic competitiveness”?
Dimitris was murdered and the bullet was loaded and fired long before he stepped foot in Syntagma Square on Wednesday, April 4th. The bullet was loaded and fired by politicians who had choices that Dimitris never had the chance to exercise. When confronted with this crisis, the politicians had the option of meeting their obligations to social services or meeting their obligations to international banks. They decided to save the banks and set in motion the demise of the Greek student, worker and pensioner. What Dimitris did was refuse to let them look away from their own crime scene.
But this choice of the Greek political class to initiate the destruction of their electorate to preserve the banks does not point to a unique cruelty among Greek lawmakers. Already in Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Italy politicians are readily making the same choice even while seeing the carnage the choice inflicts upon Greece. All the pretentious claims to democracy and pluralism, the regimes of the West in crisis are reduced to nothing more than sectarian institutions, preserving the class of capitalists and banks at the expense of everyone else.
For years Greeks have lived through a painful austerity induced recession while having no say in the policies that have been imposed upon them. When there are consequential decisions to be made, the political and economic elite are unwilling to permit the average Greek to alter policies to any degree. Dimitris didn’t commit suicide. He simply refused to die of hunger on some desolate Athens side street where he would least inconvenience members of parliament. On his last day, he was able to weigh in on how the country is governed, a simple civic act being constantly denied to Greeks.