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Happy New Year

Athens University LibraryHappy New Year Everyone. Yes it has been awhile since I have written anything but a couple weeks ago I came back to North Carolina to see my Mom and brothers and sisters for the holidays and besides answering a few e-mails and checking the online Kathimerini for the news I have not thought much about Greece and am feeling a little detached from it. That should change in a week when I will be back on a plane to Athens.

For those who were worried about their holidays because of the unrest in Athens, things died down a couple days before Christmas and stayed quiet. The Greek press reported that the 'anarchists' who had occupied the University campuses were packing up their bags and heading home to their parents for a nice Christmas meal and some presents, maybe a gas mask from Thea Eleni, a little hammer from Papoo for breaking marble steps into stone sized chunks for throwing at the police. A new pair of gloves from mama to replace the old ones which had become singed from throwing leaky molotov cocktails and of course a pullover hat and scarf knitted by yaya with a special fliter for tear gas. Its a touching picture of the family gathered around the tree, fighting the impulse to torch it.

They left behind graffiti filled walls, piles of garbage, remains of junk food, ransacked offices and filing cabinets, broken furniture and what little honor that existed of the Greek education system. Imagine having a  guest that used your house as a base so they could burn your friend's businesses, fight with the police, overturn and burn cars and throw garbage around your neighborhood, and then returns to your house and pisses on your floor and uses your furniture as firewood. A normal person would ask him to leave and if he refused ask the police to come and remove him. But in Greece where all they care about is what other people might think, they sit back and watch as a minority of selfish thugs ruin the lives of everyone and even scorn, abuse and destroy the institution that gave them safety. And they call it revolution. Yeah right. A real revolutionary realizes that he has comrades who may not look or behave as he does, but for the revolution to be successful he will need their help so it is best not to alienate him. The 'anarchists' have taken a student movement that had a hope of pressuring the Greek government to make changes or resign and turned it into a parody of the 1968 Paris revolution, with its symbol of a burning Christmas tree, as if the most important thing they had to say is that there is no Santa Claus.

So the government allowed a handful of troublemakers to ruin everyone's Christmas, as well as the economy. The leftist politicians, who seek power, threw their own form of gasoline on the fires hoping the chaos would lead to the government's collapse. All they had to do was ask the kids, many who believe in them, to keep it peaceful, and insist on it. There is no reason to destroy the livelihood of their fellow Athenians who may be as opposed to the government as they are. But there will always be people who live to burn and loot, and there will always be those whose purposes are served by allowing them to do so. In Greece anyway.

Maybe this is all behind us. Its a new year and these are troubling times and people are going to have to work together to get us all out of this mess, whether you are in Athens, Thessaloniki, Paris or anytown, USA. Yes we live in an age of corruption and white collar crime that makes the burning of a few banks and the looting of a few shops seem like a drop of water to the ocean. But you don't fight crime with crime. You fight it by exposing criminals and bringing them to justice. You fight crime by supporting people who enforce and obey the laws, not use them to enrich themselves. You change a society not by destroying it, but by finding the areas where there is hope and starting from there to make things better. The death of Alexis Grigoropoulis, had it been followed by only peaceful marches and candlelit vigils, would have been an inspiration to the world. Instead we showed the world that we are no better or maybe even worse than the cops. That's why when they hung the banner from the Acropolis, urging the youth of the world to rise up and join their revolution, people barely paused from their Christmas shopping.

Anyway for those who cancelled their trips to Greece for fear of the 'riots', you missed an uneventful but enjoyable holiday season, once they got the new Christmas tree up and Athens settled into its normal routine. I guess 2009 will bring us more demonstrations as people voice their complaints about the economy, education, scandals and all those things Athenians have to deal with. That's a part of being an Athenian where demonstrations and political graffiti are as old as democracy. Let's hope the demonstrations are peaceful and that December of 2008 was just some kind of insane catharsis and not a taste of the future for Athens and the world.

Anyway if your world seems like it is on the brink of collapse a couple weeks on a Greek island will do you some good.

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