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Anti-politics - an inheritance of the 20th century

Politics has come into disrepute for many reasons, but being 'political' is still possible. It is more a negative frame which makes it nearly impossible to discuss political content. A certain pattern called 'anti politics' has emerged since 1989. Heinrich Böll predicted it will be the only school of thought left after anti Communism was evoked during the Cold War. It has become a powerful ingredient in both East and West. The outcome thereof can be clearly seen in Hungary, but not only. It explains also the many single issue movements. They assume politics can be reduced to something everyone is against since an easy way to gain energy.

In Greece, 'anti-politics' is directed fore mostly against the state although under severe pressure to find solutions due to the huge state deficit. None of the new parties try to understood really the depth and extend of the problem. Rather they resort to certain slogans, in order to blame others for the financial problems. It is an attempt at a clever cover up of own responsibilities. Here then arises the interesting question what about collective responsibility in Germany after 1945? Greeks seem not understand why the post war generations feel responsible for what their parents did or allowed to be done by not resisting abuse of power by Hitler. Abuse of power is the case when unchallenged in time, because then things get out of control. The same with corruption, but when everyone does it, why not oneself? One would be stupid to pay taxes or not to bribe officials to get building permissions. Apparently all what matters is to attain things by using connections. Basically it amounts to a collective acquiesce to a negative power. It explains the parading of false pride as if a clever way of doing things. And if administrators give no longer true accounts and public truth not articulated due to a lack of public space, dependence from party connections furthers only political lies. Not surprisingly the blame-game has continued after the revelations of the state budget in 2009; if not PASOK and Nea Democratia as the established parties in power over decades of family dynasties are the guilty ones, then the European Union or even more directly Merkel in Germany and her economic policy.

Once the crisis broken into the open, two different tendencies set in. On the one hand, politicians had to scramble for public support. While faced by a new set of challenges, they tried to negotiate to continue negotiation and thereby delay finding a solution, and if then not one which would hurt own clients. On the other hand, they had to deal with 'rage'. The latter erupted once all realized only now that a lot money had disappeared to leave behind big holes in the state budget. No wonder. Even the official statistical reports were not true accounts. As if no one had seen it coming, now many pretended the problem does not exist. Still, some tried to come to terms but failed to establish some public truth. Only after negotiations with the Troika ended in signing the 'Memorandum of Understanding', some recognition to the severity of the crisis was given. Still then, Samaras showed great reluctance to sign the Memorandum of Understanding.

At first an undirected anger was vented. It meant not only politicians, but generally tax evaders and those presumed to have mishandled EU funds. Then all kinds of disgusts were expressed in various forms at Syntagmas Square. On the upper level, along Amalias and directly, slogans like 'hang the politicians' were shouted while laser beams circled constantled windows of the Parliament. On its heels, there followed a surge in extreme Nationalism. Another form was tried out down below on Syntagma Square. The assemblies convened every evening. They followed the example of Tahrir Square in Egypt. Many people experienced for the first time real public forums. Everyone had the Right to speak but for a limited time (2 or 3 minutes). A democratic process unfolded by which people wanted to inform themselves what to do. However, they did not find in time a real political form. By July 2011, under the pretext of demonstrations turning ugly and violent, the tent village was cleared and the assemblies ceased. As if political parties did not want people to attain an independent voice, and thereby have a direct say in the decision making process. It was a huge set-back for 'publicness' in Greece.

One reason for the failure, aside from deliberate repression, might be that the maturation process was too limited in scope when it came to set a political agenda. Instead many political expressions ended up being just a strange mixture of radical denouncements of the entire system. In reality, that is 'anti politics' par excellence.

'Anti politics' erupts out of frustration and anger over so much corruption. At the same time, no one seems to know how to overcome the system, while deep down the protesters have to acknowledge grudgingly that the problem of the debt has to be resolved somehow. Only they do not want to suffer the consequences of others who have squandered the money. That refusal became a directed question at those who refused to take their share of responsibility. For instance, Karamalis, prime minister from 2004 to 2009, never uttered a word about the extent of debt which had been accumulated while he was in office. Following the Irish example when hit first by the crisis would also have been better, insofar as putting all problems on the table wuold allow everyone to see how much money each institution like a hospital would obtain and how it was spend. Participation in working out a common solution would guarantee a much greater social justice than what politicians agreed with the Troika as being the measures to take to fix the state deficit.

What impedes discussions and does not allow for an open i.e. transpartent working out of solutions, is that there exists no real sense for politics and for how an economy can be made to work. Pseudo knowledge makes it all the harder to find the appropriate form of self governance which would allow for a peaceful transition of power. The lack of an alternative posed itself a dilemma expressed in the form of a pseudo alternative: to leave the Euro or to stay in the European Union? Everyone knew what was only possible, namely to stay inside Europe. But in effect the break-up of the assemblies meant again the political parties had seized control.

To be against the 'Memorandum of Understanding' became the rallying point for Syriza, the main opposition in parliament. In the meantime, the Troika continued to pressure Greece to maintain a stable government and insisted on the implementation of the austerity measures. Surprisingly so, the government held out despite all the protests or a new government could be formed after two elections. It was managed by becoming more technocratic and by playing on the fear, if no bailout funds could be secured, then everything would spin out of control. Literally, chaos was painted against the wall. Some sought to give an answer by painting new graffiti on the walls.

Since the EU insisted on Greece to be responsible for the 'sovereign' i.e. national debt, while having to accept conditions of the Troika if bailout funds were to be released, the government had to keep face and cover up loss of real governance. Ceremonies allow a masquerade of still retaining sovereignty as a nation, best done by parading the own military forces on independence day and by claiming successes where not true social solutions but literally economic take overs take place e.g. COSCO acquiring the container port in Piraeus. The proof of success is linked directly to being able to attract inward investments.

Along those lines political tactics played a role. One main line can be made out. Austerity measures were imposed despite being against the very own people; at the same time, major pillars of economic power were catered to or left untouched. Samaras had already declared in 2010, that he would rely on ship owners and the church. While siding with these powers due to their influence upon Greek society, he started to play out the extreme Right against the 'Left'.

All this shows to where 'anti politics' leads to. Most disturbing is the outright flagrant abuse of human rights, may that be tortures going on in Guantanamo Bay or how migrants are being treated in detention centres. This illegal use of violence is both hidden and obvious but never really challenged. There is no moral outcry by the general public even though in Greece many have made similar experiences as migrants. Instead acquiescence to a managerial approach to govern seeps out the strength of any convincing political alternative. Instead it reinforces a general paradigm to protest against everything, but to give in quietly in reality. This line is replicated especially amongst a youth becoming 'radical' while not realizing how apolitical they are becoming. With time simple protest cannot be sustained while in the absence of a human understanding of conflicts, an aggressive atmosphere will prevail. It leads to a loss in 'social literacy' and a lack of political awareness as to what is needed for governance with wisdom. At school and elsewhere socialization can be overturned, and instead the weakest are bullied and the ones who study and could set other standards in learning are shamed, side-lined or mocked at. The aim is to prevent following that model. Group norms are established according to widely held social prejudices. They are acted out by use of the new media. It includes spreading false rumours to ruin the reputation of a person. Such 'invisible violence' can continue until the victim sees no other way out and commits suicide.

As for other connections often very difficult to prove but existing is the kind of revenge taken by two men who killed the soldier Lee Rigby outside military barracks in the Woolwich neighbourhood of London on May 22, 2013. News agencies called it an apparent Islamic terrorist attack. What shocked everyone was that it took place during day time, in an open street, outside the barracks. Moreover the two men did not run away. Instead they showed into running cameras their bloody hands. Their justification was they did it because of what was happening in Afghanistan i.e. killing of Muslims there, and therefore the suggestion of revenge as motive. Even if of the symbolic kind, such a radical turn to violence out of thirst for revenge can stem from religious fervour. It seems capable of transforming devout followers into fanatic believers that such an act of violence is the only right thing to do. But very often the same happens in the West e.g. a brother avenging the death of his sister. The wish to get back and take revenge, that is after all the supreme law of any war.

Hatto Fischer

Athens 6.7.2013

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