It should come as no surprise that as our country is buffeted by the waves of the international financial crisis, our “political and news media elite” (an oxymoron if ever there was one) is consumed with passionate intensity over an effort to clamp down on the use of hoods by violent demonstrators. We have grown accustomed to internecine strife over irrelevant matters whenever there is a far more serious danger to deal with. Citizens have just been hit with a one-off tax and public sector wage freeze that is expected to net close to 500 million euros, global conditions are expected to slash tourism revenues by between 10 and 30 percent (which means a loss of 1.3-3.9 billion euros), the country will need to borrow close to 50 billion euros this year (at a cost about 3 percent higher than more creditworthy countries, meaning more billions down the drain), and the image that Greece projects to the world is that of anarchists rampaging through the streets and Culture Ministry employees blocking access to the Acropolis and other sites and museums.
If the anarchists and strikers cause a further drop in tourism and an increase in the cost of our borrowing, this will mean even more billions of euros lost. One would reasonably expect the country’s political and economic representatives to be poring over plans to increase productivity and competitiveness, with a special emphasis on attracting tourists through superior services (seeing as we can’t compete with cheaper countries outside the eurozone). Before we even begin to think about the structural reforms that no government has dared to implement, we might think it logical to prevent any further damage to our economy and to our country’s international image. Instead, the government’s belated effort to impose law and order has been overshadowed by a furious discussion over its decision to make the wearing of a hood an aggravating circumstance when this takes place in conjunction with the commission of a violent crime.
The debate reveals the superficiality of the government’s thinking, because it pits the authorities against a symbol of disaffected youth (whether violent or shy), and, like the war against long hair, bell bottoms or rock n’ roll, it is bound to fail. Nothing can conquer teenagers’ fashionable fetishes. The roots of crime are elsewhere, not in the criminals’ dress. And the opposition parties, for their part, seize on a secondary issue – that of the hood – so as not to be forced to take a stand against the rising tide of criminality – and the widespread tolerance of this – that is destroying the very foundations of our society. So who is wearing the hood?
Milestones&Footnotes in AthensPlus, 20 March, 2009