It was during a visit to Athens, Greece, to see my mother, when I was caught in the riots, admittedly one of the worst of the last 5 years. I went down as an active participant, joining the friends that I knew are suffering badly, adding to their voices. This is the crux of all demonstrations, is it not? Let the people’s voices be heard. However that opportunity was shattered when a battalion of anarchists rained down on the march from all corners with Molotov cocktails in hand targeting the riot police nearby. In no time the peaceful protesters disbanded and what was left was a battlefield of hoods, tear gas and wounded shields.
There was very little I could do apart from hurriedly record what I could while trying to avoid being hit. Soon enough, the whirlwind of pain and desperation swallowed me up. I didn’t care about being hit. I got lost in the carnage. What hurt me was not just the faces of old pensioners or the tears of the proud Parliament guards, but the realisation that the nations’ spirit has been completely broken. That a whole new generation carries an unhealthy degree of fatalism; a fatalism caused by this national in–breeding political hatred that has reached unfathomable depths. Who fights whom exactly? An easy answer is to say the ‘System’ and revert to this sickening apathy of accepting the unacceptable. But it became increasingly apparent that there is a crowd that resorts to destruction as a release of an internal frustration and fury that mirrors the deafening silence of a government which refuses to think.
There are a lot of scenarios as to who hides behind that crowd or that wall, none of which makes complete sense.
That night I started penning down a play with the working title ‘Bed of Carnage’ because that was the image that surrounded me earlier that day. Not a spin off of Yasmina Reza’s amusing play ‘God of Carnage’, but a spontaneous brushstroke of a painting called Modern Athens.
Next day and without an ounce of sleep I went downtown to look at the damage. I saw a mourning site, awe and rage depicted in every movement and glance. Scattered glass, char-broiled cars, smashed monuments, debris and tears filling the shadow of the sacred rock of Acropolis.
I spoke with a few people, tried to understand. Different stories, different needs. A dominant fear based on the new austerity measures. Hunger. Emotional suffocation. But also a discomfort from a sudden fall from grace. A search for dignity. An urgency to sustain anything remotely familiar.
When you are faced with the stories I heard and the people I’ve met you can not step back and carry on. You need to immerse yourself in the “here and now” and do what you know you can do. The only thing you can do, which for me, is to write. Write in the hope it exorcises the pain. Write in case it produces something cathartic… just write, so one day I can understand my thinking process.
So I went back home, locked myself in my room and wrote. Wrote until the story and the angle started appearing in the horizon.
Well, when I say story I mean ‘reality of the scene’.
Few weeks later my mother called to inform me they cut off her 580 euro pension. They also added special house taxes of the region of 120 euro a month to be paid as a one–off. The lady that looks after my mother is a mother of four. Her husband is a retired grocer with a pension of 450 Euros per month. They cut their benefit and to top it all they demanded 200 Euros on special taxes, that will come through the electricity bill and have to be paid within 20 days or else they should start using candles. How can a family live like that?
Do the maths.
Talking about crushing the bone.