In watching Greece the country where we got the word we use to describe our political make up, democracy. I've seen an alarming rise of the Golden Dawn movement there. As austerity has choked the average Greek into outrage there are social elements that are taking advantage of the unrest in order to create their vision of a perfect Greece. This vision is not pretty unless you fit into their narrow view of human.
Operation Zeus in August last year marked the start of an ugly reminder of a European past that we thought we had long buried. Nearly 60 years after the end of the Second European War, migrants were round up from the streets of Greece and shoved unceremoniously into internment camps. In May, women working in the sex industry were pulled from the streets, forcibly tested for HIV, publically humilitated and imprisoned. In March, they rounded up drug users from the streets of Athens and put them too into camps. Last month in Thessaloniki they came for transgendered people.
On the 30th of May, the Greek authorities stepped up their cleansing of the streets of the undesirables. The daily checks of papers, papers, papers whenever someone non-white encounters a police officer sees numerous migrants hauled to police stations, and many imprisoned in one of the hellholes that pass for the detention camps of Greece. In April alone 10, 000 people were stopped in these checks, and there are currently 5, 000 languishing in the official camps with an unknown number in temporary facilities such as police cells and shipping containers. Last month Dendias announced a doubling of the capacity of these camps, although with no commitment to closing the alternative facilities.
Greek citizens, drugs users, homeless people and women working in the sex industry, have also been targeted under these sweeps where they are hauled to police stations, forcibly tested for HIV and in some cases imprisoned among with the migrants in the internment camps. As the graffiti is cleaned off the shop facades in anticipation of the summer tourist influx, the streets are being cleansed of undesirables.
There has been minimal effort to slow down the growth of this political party that seems solely based on hate. But the certain magic mix that makes xenophobia and brutal attacks the norm, widespread poverty and an indifferent government, are in abundance in Greece. As well as elsewhere.
Amid a dramatic surge in attacks on immigrants blamed on the neo-Nazis, the debt-stricken country's ruling alliance has come under unprecedented pressure to crack down on racially motivated crimes. Legislation calling for a ban on parties perceived to incite such violence was proposed by prime minister Samaras's two junior leftist partners last month. Claiming that it would "victimise" Golden Dawn, which has 18 of the 300 MPs in parliament, the conservative groups last week rejected the bill as counterproductive. On Friday they put forward their own, less punitive law.The Vatican has declared austerity to be a social ill basically. And they should know they were lucky last time such groups were prominent in Europe, the Catholic Church was able to survive relatively unscathed. They may not this time.
As parliament prepares to debate how best to apply legislation that will curb the party, – measures that have unexpectedly electrified the political scene – the far right is flourishing in the knowledge that, in a country reeling from the twin ills of austerity and despair, it is they who are in the ascendant. Since elections last year, Golden Dawn's appeal has almost doubled, with successive polls showing support of between 11% and 12% for the neo-fascists. Privately pollsters acknowledge that, as Greece's third-strongest and fastest-growing political force, the group could garner as much as 15% of support in local elections next year.
"It is wrong to believe that they are an ephemeral phenomenon," said Professor Dimitris Kerides, who teaches political science at Athens' Panteion University. "They are not only a product of this country's economic crisis. There is something sick in Greek society that Golden Dawn expresses," he added, referring to the rise in "Greek-only" blood banks and food rallies organised by the extremists. "They are here to stay. And as of 2014 they are going to be everywhere, with access to state resources because, for sure, they will win seats in municipal elections and, in some towns, place mayors."
We need to start looking at what is really important socially. Or do you like the idea of people that think it alright to attack someone for being different having a voice in our democracy?