Greece: A long history of identity crisis


Avgoustinos Dimitriou describes how he was handcuffed and subsequently beaten by the Greek police on the 17th of November 2006, the anniversary of Polytechnio, the students’ uprising against the Greek military junta of 1967-74. At the time he was studying in the University of Thessaloniki, having left his hometown, Pafos in Cyprus. Six years later, six out of the eight sick and deranged policemen were found innocent, while the other two are going to prison for 2,5 years. Hurray for justice! Meanwhile Avgoustinos has suffered trauma, never finished his studies and is afraid to leave his parents’ house.

In fact he was only lucky to have been videotaped by random passers-by, as most of these stories never even gain any publicity, not to mention justice. Stories about the police, the covered-up crimes and the degree of corruption have been circulating for years, well I guess since the 60s. However, it used to be pretty uncommon for tourists suffering the same fate as protesters and indigenous passers-by. Tourists from New Zealand, the US, the UK, India, South Korea and… god I can’t keep up, have also been beaten up by the police, detained in police stations and hospitalised with serious injuries… and the reason was… errr well nothing really, just raging mood swings by policemen belonging to a mental institution.

Europe is turning a blind eye, patiently waiting for the fruit of corruption and disintergration to ripen (I guess Europe has it’s own problems and this is after all international politics and not kindergarten), while internally the identity crisis continues and no one is too sure what to make of this madness. However, there is one person who stands out and is at the moment in the spotlight of art and culture in Greece, it’s Paola Revenioti, an artist, an activist on sex issues, a transexual and a prostitute.

I met her at the opening of the first exhibition, dedicated to her photography, in Breeder gallery, one of the best galleries in Athens. She was wearing a wooly jumper, her blond hair was plainly falling down to her shoulders and her voice was warm and androgynous. Her attitude was so casual and her manners so warm and human that it would have been difficult for someone to guess that all those cool people were there mainly to worship her.

I hassled her rudely, introducing myself and congratulating her and although she explained that she was a bit overwhelmed with the size of the crowd that had gathered, she started giving me and a small group of gigling girls wonderful advice and insights on life and the way it has changed in Greece from the age of innocence and exploration to the inhuman Greece of today. Her references may have primarily been her sexual encounters, but the depth and insight of translating this knowledge into a political and sociological commentary left us speechless, as there was too much compacted truth and too little bullshit to allow us to come with a counter-comment.

Meeting Paola was just further proof for me that the biggest problem that has developed in Greece is neo-conservatism-imposed sexism (which from a Freudian point of view is pure self-destruction) and an education system of torture, developed by middle-aged religious spinsters, completely oblivious of the term ‘problem-solving’ and ‘child’ for that matter. I guess this is a time when people like Paola are most needed, as they remind us that repressed minds are sick minds, while free minds always shine above.

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