Posts Tagged 'voxversendaal'

Victimhood culture spawns Greek anti-Semitism, study finds

berlin

By Harry van Versendaal

A large number of Greeks have limited awareness of the Holocaust or even hold anti-Semitic views, according to a new survey which traces the roots of attitudes to a strong sense of victimization among the public.

The same study found that prejudice or hatred against the Jews cuts across the country’s left-right political spectrum, which is similarly attributed to the fact that victimhood, the idea that Greeks have suffered without full responsibility for their misfortune, is a universal trait of the country’s political culture.

The survey, which was presented Thursday at the British Ambassador’s Residence in Athens under the title “Perceptions about the Holocaust and Anti-Semitism in Greece,” was carried out by researchers at the University of Macedonia, Oxford University and the International Hellenic University with the support of the embassies of the United Kingdom, Canada and Romania.

Asked what the word “Holocaust” brought to mind and presented with a choice of Auschwitz, Distomo, Zalongo/Arkadi and “None of the above,” less than half of respondents opted for Auschwitz. An almost equal percentage chose either the 1944 Nazi massacre at Distomo or the mass suicide of Souli women at Zalongo in 1803 and the 1866 Ottoman raid at Arkadi. All alternatives to Auschwitz are related to Greek history. Almost 15 percent of respondents found no association between the Holocaust and any of the available options.

Less than 33 percent of respondents selected the correct answer when asked about the number of Jews estimated to have perished during World War II – 6 million. The Greeks ranked lower than their European peers, with the exception of Germany. Almost 50 percent of French and 55 percent of Swiss came up with the correct answer in similar surveys.

“Interestingly, underestimations are a lot more frequent than overestimations among those who pick an incorrect figure,” the study said.

Whereas more than 90 percent of respondents said that subjects such as the 1922 Asia Minor disaster, the 1946-49 Greek Civil War, and the Pontic genocide should be taught at school, less than 60 percent said that Holocaust teaching should be included in the curriculum.

“The Holocaust… is perceived as something that does not belong to Greek history and thus its teaching becomes less pivotal in public education,” experts said.

The research was carried out between January 10 and 14, when 1,043 Greek adults were surveyed on their perceptions of the Holocaust. Its publication comes on the back of an earlier report conducted by the same team of researchers last summer that indicated high levels of anti-Semitism among the Greek public.

Competitive victimhood

Experts sought to play down partisan and ideological affiliations as a significant factor in influencing attitudes and perceptions about the Holocaust.

“Ideology is not a safe guide to explain the phenomenon,” Elias Dinas, a political expert at Oxford, which contributed to the survey, told a press conference, singling out supporters of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party and the nationalist, populist Independent Greeks, now junior coalition partners.

Findings instead indicated competitive victimhood as a catalyst in fueling anti-Semitic attitudes.

“Victimization engenders an ethnocentric view of global history, thus generating biased perceptions about the magnitude of suffering incurred by other groups,” the report said, suggesting that Greeks felt less willing to acknowledge themselves as victim to other communities.

It mentioned that high levels of victimization tend to generate indirect competition with established ethnolinguistic or religious groups that have been widely recognized as victims.

“It is outrageous. It shows a lack of moderation. It’s like saying, ‘I can’t be part of another person’s drama, because I have my own drama,’” Dinas said.

Asked how it was possible that Greeks were in a position to see themselves as a unique community and, at the same time, victims of outside interference, Dinas said that national self-understanding is not necessarily a rational one.

“‘We are unique,’ the argument goes, ‘and this is why we are in everyone’s cross hairs,’” he said.

More than 60,000 Greek Jews died in Nazi death camps or were killed during the Nazi occupation of Greece. The Jewish community in Greece currently numbers about 5,500 people.

In comments made to the newspaper, Giorgos Antoniou, a historian at the International Hellenic University, said that misguided perceptions about the Holocaust were not just a result of poor schooling in Greece.

“What really concerns us is the fact that whereas education is used for the socialization of other painful chapters of Greek history, the Holocaust is not really treated as an issue of national concern,” he said.

_________________________

“Perception of the Holocaust and of Anti-Semitism in Greece.” Research conducted by Nikos Marantzidis (University of Macedonia), Elias Dinas (Oxford University), Spyros Kosmidis (Oxford University), Leon Saltiel (University of Macedonia), and Giorgos Antoniou (International Hellenic University), with the support of the embassies of the United Kingdom, Canada and Romania.

The archaeology of the present

By Harry van Versendaal

When digging up the past, you may unearth some ugly truths about the present.

Georgia Karamitrou-Mendesidi, the central character in Kimon Tsakiris’s latest gem “The Archaeologist,” which comes out in theaters on March 19, is doomed to learn this the hard way, as her efforts to rescue ancient artifacts before they end up at the bottom of an artificial lake in Greece’s northwestern Macedonia region get caught up in an uncomfortably familiar web of dysfunction, corruption and red tape.

“I did not want to make your standard archaeological documentary. Here is an individual, a strong character, who has set out a goal, and she tries to achieve this goal as several parallel stories unfold,” Tsakiris said during an interview with Kathimerini English Edition ahead of the film’s debut at the ongoing Thessaloniki Documentary Festival.

Sporting an Indiana Jones hat and white fingerless gloves Karamitrou carries no whip but is single-minded in her devotion to the riverside excavations of ancient Aiani. She confronts local villagers, meets with politicians and spends hours on the phone and at the 110-acre dig near the hamlet of Elati to salvage and record what she can before the waters rise and cover the ancient stones for good.

Legally, construction of any kind takes a backseat when archaeological finds are involved. But the Public Power Corporation’s massive hydroelectric dam construction, powered by political and bureaucratic obstacles, relentlessly chugs on as Karamitrou and her team are given a mere two months before the area is irreversibly flooded.

A Greek microcosm

Coming nearly a decade after the 40-year-old filmmaker’s darkly humorous “Sugartown: The Bridegrooms,” the documentary contains the subtle irony, careful dissection, and cathartic moments that have become a trademark of Tsakiris’s work. “The Archaeologist” inevitably ends up serving as a metaphor for contemporary Greece.

“You see how the institutions and our society works. From the small favor you’ll ask of your mayor all the way to the top of the pyramid, cronyism cuts across all levels. With a character that struggles to function in all of this while trying to make a difference, this is how her clash with reality manifests itself. It’s like a Greek microcosm,” said Tsakiris, who worked on the film for two years until wrapping up shooting in January 2014.

The anti-hero of “The Archaeologist” is Greece itself: a bankrupt country where structure and institutions have mostly broken down, and individuals often have to take things into their own hands to make things work.

Karamitrou, who has been digging in Aiani since the early 1980s and was instrumental in the building of the local museum, has given up a life in academia with her husband and kids to stay in the area and fight for what she believes in.

“When you hear this talk about collective responsibility, it means no one is responsible,” the archaeologist says in her steady voice behind the wheel of her blue Toyota, echoing a familiar mantra in Tsakiris’s work.

“Karamitrou, from her position, decided to take the responsibility. Imagine if we all did that, each from their own position. This is what counts,” the director said.

Change

But as admiring as Tsakiris may be of Karamitrou’s drive and commitment, he is not idealistic about it.

“Sure, the whole lone cowboy thing is important because often pioneers with a vision have showed the way and then others followed. But I don’t think this is the solution. The point is not to have 100, 150 or 500 individuals who go and put themselves out on a limb and either achieve something small or fail to do so. This is only a paradigm, I hope, until new institutions come into place and things work better, and things are not so quixotic anymore,” Tsakiris said.

“There is no reason why things should be that hard. Why should it be so hard to simply do your job? Karamitrou is an example of what anyone trying to achieve a goal will encounter in this country. It could be a nurse or a journalist trying to do a job and who is hampered by the ill mentality of society,” he said.

As a filmmaker working in Greece, Tsakiris knows one or two things about the obstacles that aspiring professionals face.

After public Greek broadcaster ERT was abruptly shut down by the previous conservative-led administration in the summer of 2013, he was among the many local directors who saw European funding for their productions go up in smoke. His previous film, “Mitsigan – Hardships and Beauties,” the profile of a quirky vegetable farmer in the Peloponnese, was eventually completed after he was able to find alternative sources of funding. “The Archaeologist” was produced by Faliro House.

There is no last-minute rescue for the excavations at Aiani. As the river’s banks crumble, swallowing up both trees and neolithic stones in beautiful underwater cinematography accompanied by Thanasis Papakonstantinou’s baritone lament, the feeling is one of utter desolation.

In a final insult, our lone cowgirl becomes one of the thousands of Greek civil servants to get pushed into early retirement or a labor reserve scheme on heavily docked wages, in line with foreign creditors’ demands.

New dividing line appears in the heart of Athens

By Harry van Versendaal

“The only good thing about graffiti is that it pisses off the liberals. Which is good enough, I suppose.”

Of the dozens of comments on social media about the controversial graffiti that appeared last week on the walls of the historical Athens campus of the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA), better known here as the Polytechnic, this one appeared the most sincere. Put in other words, the enigmatic mural is not necessarily appreciated because it is beautiful. It is appreciated because it provokes. The argument may sound politically adolescent, but it is at least sincere.

Because it’s hard to see how the artistic intervention on Stournari Street can possibly remind somebody of Picasso’s “Guernica,” or a painting by Jackson Pollock, as some on social media have suggested. Similarly, it’s hard to see how one can feel repressed by bourgeois order and cleanliness, as it were, when they live in the otherwise fine neighborhood of Exarchia, where there is not a clean wall to be seen.

Nor is it possible to interpret the work as a Foucauldian “heterotopia,” that is, as an unconventional space that exists in opposition to the dominant mode of social ordering. The truth is, a clean and tidy public building in the heart of Athens would make a more fitting heterotopia.

Polarization simplifies classification. Anyone annoyed by the scrawls on the marble of an – already neglected – historic monument such as the Polytechnic so often get labeled, in the best case as a prig or at worst as a misanthropic champion of (neo)liberalism. Expressing one’s concern or indignation about what happens to the city’s walls is interpreted as a dividing line between humanitarians and the rest.

Who are the rest? “Those who complain about the graffiti on the Polytechnic are the epitome of Greek fascism.” The same people who see fascism everywhere perceive the black-and-white mural on Stournari Street as freedom of expression.

Too bad for the tasteful among the ideologues who feel obliged to declare their appreciation for the work.

Greek selections at the 17th Thessaloniki doc fest

By Harry van Versendaal

Fifteen years since his landmark film “Agelastos Petra” (The Mourning Rock), an emotional 10-year exploration of the impact of industrial activity on the people, environment and antiquities in the working-class coastal town of Elefsina, west of Athens, Greek auteur Filippos Koutsaftis returns with another lyrical film, this time turning his lens on the the myth-filled, bucolic province of Arcadia.

“Hail Arcadia” will be screened at the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival (TDF) as part of the Greek program, which this year features 63 feature and short films. Seventeen of these productions have been included in the different sections of the International Program while 46 are part of the Greek Panorama.

Other movies by Greek directors include “Escape from Amorgos” by festival regular – and now SYRIZA MEP – Stelios Kouloglou, which tells the story of a plot to rescue left-wing politician Giorgos Mylonas from his political exile on the Aegean island of Amorgos at the time of Greece’s military dictatorship in the late 1960s. The documentary is based on Elias Kulukundis’s book “The Amorgos conspiracy.”

Kimon Tsakiris, whose darkly humorous “Sugartown” was a smash hit in 2006, arrives in Thessaloniki this year with “The Archaeologist,” telling the story of a determined female scientist who tries to salvage as much as possible from an archaeological dig that is destined to go under the water due to the construction of a new dam project by the Public Power Corporation (PPC) in western Macedonia.

Not all the Greek-produced films take place within the country’s borders. “The New Plastic Road,” by director Angelos Tsaousis and photographer Myrto Papadopoulos, documents physical and social transformation in a remote area in Tajikistan brought about by the construction of a new road connecting this poorest republic of the former Soviet Union with China.

Outside of the films in competition, TDF organizers have so far announced a tribute to Austrian filmmaker Hubert Sauper and Romanian director Alexandru Solomon, as well as a special section on contemporary German productions. A press conference will be held on Tuesday.

Info: tdf.filmfestival.gr

Cynical SYRIZA puts its soul on the line

By Harry van Versendaal

If there’s one thing core SYRIZA voters were not prepared for before the January 25 ballot, it is the degree of cynicism that has come from the direction of the newly-installed administration.

Hours after winning a snap election that it triggered itself, the left-wing anti-bailout party of Alexis Tsipras went on to announce it would form a government with the populist right-wing party Independent Greeks (ANEL). The news broke so fast, mere hours after the conservative New Democracy party had conceded defeat, few out there had any doubts the deal had actually been sealed long beforehand.

Despite immense differences in overall ideology, the two parties have been united for nearly three years in their opposition to the country’s bailout agreements and the brutal austerity policies that came with them. Panos Kammenos, the ANEL chief who left New Democracy over the bailout program in 2012, stands for everything that makes a good old SYRIZA voter shudder: he is a nationalist, anti-immigrant, homophobic and devoutly Orthodox Christian. He was given the Defense Ministry portfolio, a dream job for the outspoken and short-tempered politician, while his appointment suited the leftist party, often accused of being soft on security and foreign policy. In one of his first acts in office, Kammenos caused Turkey to scramble fighter jets by flying in a helicopter over the uninhabited islet of Imia in the eastern Aegean over which Greece and Turkey came to the brink of war in 1996.

The alliance with ANEL left a bitter taste in the mouths of grassroots voters who have stuck up for SYRIZA from the time when it was still a miniscule political force (founded in 2004 as an umbrella party for several leftist groups, the Coalition of the Radical Left, SYRIZA’s full name, won just 241,539 votes, or 3.3 percent, in its first election later that year, just entering parliament). Many would have preferred to see an alliance with To Potami (The River) which ended up fourth in January’s election. Notwithstanding its fuzzy rhetoric and uncertain direction, the centrist newcomer sits closer to SYRIZA’s liberal, progressive values.

It did not take long before To Potami criticized SYRIZA’s hardline approach to debt negotiations that have now sparked warnings of a euro exit. Its reaction added voice to the more pragmatic folk within SYRIZA who had ruled out a collaboration with the party of Stavros Theodorakis on the grounds that bargaining for a better deal should be SYRIZA’s top priority and that an ambivalent, half-hearted To Potami would have no qualms about throwing SYRIZA under the bus. Once it has clinched a better deal, the argument goes, an empowered SYRIZA can win an absolute majority after calling a snap election.

The irony is that few SYRIZA voters really expected that the party would make true on its campaign pledge to clash with the nation’s foreign creditors. More, rather, had taken for granted that Tsipras would perform a “kolotoumba” (somersault, or about-face) the instant he took office. But they did not mind, as long as the despised New Democracy was swept from office.

Realpolitik was again at full play during this week’s presidential election – the political process that triggered Greece’s premature election in the first place. Once again, the party let down those who expected a leftist president – among them WWII resistance hero and SYRIZA MEP Manolis Glezos – to succeed Karolos Papoulias, a former PASOK minister. Despite rife speculation that he would nominate Dimitris Avramopoulos, a former conservative minister currently appointed at the European Commission, Tsipras picked Prokopis Pavlopoulos, a former interior minister and parliamentary spokesman for New Democracy.

Pavlopoulos, who was comfortably elected president earlier this week, has been accused of filling thousands of state sector jobs with conservative party cronies and acolytes during his stint as interior minister between 2004- 2009. He is as much a supporter of the bailout agreements voted in Parliament, as a symbol of the causes that forced Greece to sign them in the first place. He also was in charge during the massive riots that broke out in Athens following the police shooting of teenager Alexandros Grigoropoulos in December 2008.

During a speech to the party’s parliamentary group, Tsipras defended the decision to nominate Pavlopoulos saying it was aimed at forging “unity and consensus” in society at a difficult period. A better explanation might be that the nomination enabled SYRIZA to forge a split inside the traumatized New Democracy of ex-premier Antonis Samaras. At the same time, Tsipras made an overture (not the first one) to the conservative faction controlled by former Premier Costas Karamanlis, a moderate who won two consecutive elections in the 00’s by swaying Greece’s so-called middle ground.

All that could be forgiven (though hardly forgotten) if SYRIZA manages to come back with a meaningful result from tense negotiations in Brussels. If it clinches a deal, the party will gradually have to deliver on issues like police reform, immigration, justice and labor rights to reassure leftist voters. If it loses the bailout fight, the party may prove unable to win back its soul.

A phone that’s not satisfied just with being smart

By Harry van Versendaal

“Every so often you come across some article on Africa’s ‘blood minerals’ or the suicides at Foxconn,” says Nassos Katsamanis in reference to the Taiwanese contract manufacturer whose 1.2 million employees in China assemble consumer products for electronics giants such as Apple, Sony and Nokia.

From his verdant balcony in the central Athens neighborhood of Mets you can see apartment buildings crawling up the slopes of Mount Hymettus. Scattered on the living room floor are his son’s wooden toys. Little Andreas has still not turned 2, but he can already tell rubbish from recycling.

“It’s important to know that what you consume – the way you live your life at the end of the day – is not a burden on another man or the environment,” says the 34-year-old who works as a researcher on voice recognition technologies at the National Technical University of Athens. In his palm, he holds a Fairphone, the world’s first so-called “ethical” mobile device which was recently shipped to him from the Netherlands.

Fairphone came about in response to growing criticism over the fact that mainstream electronics products, including those sleek cell phones, are produced using minerals which are mined in conflict-riven areas in Central Africa. When buying one of these products, consumers also help finance mass killings and rapes in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Meanwhile, these gadgets are assembled in factories with despicable working conditions and environmental standards.

Fairphone, on the other hand, ensures consumers that the tin and tantalum used in its device are conflict-free.

“As soon as I read about the project, I identified with it to some extent,” says Katsamanis, admitting that the effort is still in the early stages. Fairphone, which started out in 2010 as a public awareness campaign concerning conflict minerals in consumer electronics organized by three Dutch NGOs, evolved into a social enterprise three years later.

Fairphone, which like most mainstream companies also manufactures its phone in China, has created a worker-controlled fund which aims at improving employees’ labor conditions and wage levels. For every device produced at the site, the company and the factory each invest 2.50 euros in the fund. Meanwhile, the company tries to be as transparent as possible by releasing a cost breakdown report of where every euro is spent and by regularly publishing social assessment reports on its factory.

The Android-powered device has a micro-USB port (a charger is not provided with the phone; the idea is that there is at least one sitting in one of your drawers at home), dual SIM slots and a removable battery. The phone can be upgraded, repaired (heads-up: if you can’t fix it yourself, you will need to post it to the company’s service department in Holland), and, when the time comes, recycled by Fairphone after it has been shipped to the company free of charge. Everything has been designed with an eye on increasing the handset’s life cycle and reducing waste. It is estimated that about 140 million cell phones end up in rubbish dumps every year in the US alone.

“I like the philosophy behind it. It’s like the old desktop computers which you could open up to switch the motherboard or add some extra memory,” Katsamanis says.

Storytelling device

From the company’s headquarters in Amsterdam, public engagement officer Daria Koreniushkina can’t hide her enthusiasm about the project. Following a successful crowdfunding campaign, the company has sold more than 55,000 handsets in a year and a half. However, “the phone is not the goal itself,” says the Russian, one of Fairphone’s 31 staff from 14 countries.

“It’s more a storytelling device. It talks about the bigger picture, what goes inside the phone and the complicated production processes and the problems related to it.

“Our goal is to create a fairer economy and our example to actually inspire the whole industry to change things and make interventions in the supply chain.”

Legislation signed by the Obama administration in 2010 compels US companies to identify the sources of minerals in their components, while a traceability scheme has been introduced by the United Nations. Firms such as Apple and Samsung have taken some steps in a more sustainable direction, however they claim that certification of origin is not always feasible due to the large number of intermediaries in the production process.

“We realize that we are very tiny at the moment and that alone we cannot bring about change. We would like other brands to join our mission and then we would have fulfilled our mission,” says Koreniushkina.

Would that not make Fairphone, well, redundant?

“We would like it if other companies started to produce their own ‘fair’ phone and then compete with them in terms of fairness rather than market share,” Koreniushkina says, adding that the production of a 100 percent fair phone is practically impossible because there are thousands of standards that could be improved.

“Another issue is, what do you consider fair?” she says.

The company fends off criticism that the Fairphone is a luxury choice aimed exclusive at well-off Western consumers.

“One of the things we would like to prove is that ethical production is not necessarily more expensive. Our phone is not priced as a luxury product,” Koreniushkina says. At 325 euros, the Fairphone is no more expensive than other midrange smartphones.

“Our target group is basically everyone, because nowadays almost everyone has a mobile phone,” she says, although the company stops short of prompting people to get rid of their working phones.

“We always encourage people to keep their phone because we think that the phone you already own, if working, is the most sustainable one. We don’t want to create more waste.”

Back in Athens, Katsamanis says that the stubborn economic crisis is not an obstacle to the success of the Fairphone.

“I do not think things would be any different if people were better off. In fact the crisis could provoke people into thinking that the real cost is not the price of the phone. The point is to think in terms of cause and effect, in a broader context,” he says.

If figures are any guide, few people think that way. Just 21 orders have been placed from Greece to date.

http://www.fairphone.com
#WeAreFairphone

Far right tests Europe’s democracies

By Harry van Versendaal

Four-and-a-half years since the onset of a brutal economic crisis that radically changed Greece’s political landscape, most experts agree that the financial meltdown does not tell the whole story of Golden Dawn’s meteoric rise, but few would deny it was a catalyst.

“The problem [of far-right extremism] in Greece was intensified by economic and social conditions. People think they can improve their condition by turning to extremist parties,” said Ralf Melzer from the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES) in Berlin during a discussion at Impact Hub Athens on Monday.

“At times when people face existential threats, statistics indicate an increase in racially motivated attacks,” said Melzer during the FES-organized event marking the launch of the Greek translation (Polis publishers) of “Right-Wing Extremism in Europe,” a collection of essays on the topic edited by Melzer and Sebastian Serafin. He admitted that there is no absolute connection between social environment and political choice.

Vassiliki Georgiadou, a political scientist at Panteion University who wrote the volume’s chapter on far-right extremism in Greece, said that fast-paced developments triggered by the EU/IMF bailout agreements Athens signed in 2010 were fodder for Golden Dawn, which in the span of three years went from a fringe party, polling at just 0.3 percent, to electing 18 MPs.

“When things change at a very rapid pace, some people simply cannot catch up. They are scared. This situation created a window of political opportunity for Golden Dawn,” said Georgiadou, who has carried out extensive academic research into the party.

Greece’s recent history suggests that financial hardship is not a prerequisite for political extremism. In the 1990s, when Greece’s economy was in much better shape, it was the EU-inspired reformist mantra of the Simitis administrations that appeared to spawn the birth of LAOS, an ultranationalist, anti-globalization party with a strong emphasis on communitarian values and a Christian Orthodox identity.

Particularly in Golden Dawn’s case, Georgiadou said, several of the factors that caused its power to grow existed before the turning point in 2010. Waning trust in institutions, as recorded in a number of surveys in previous decades, the quality of the country’s political system, and deep polarization all benefited the rise of smaller, and sometimes extremist, parties.

“Intensifying political competition between smaller parties that were born out of the breakdown of Greece’s mainstream parties and ensuing polarization played into the hands of the far-right narrative of ‘the big, corrupt parties that only look after their own interests,’” she said.

The resurgence of far-right extremism is not unique to Greece, of course. Twenty-five years after the Berlin Wall crumbled into souvenirs, the political narrative in the “European Home” has not been one of unity. The turnaround was made brutally evident during European Union Parliament elections in May that were marked by stunning victories for Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigration, anti-euro Front National and Nigel Farage’s UK Independence Party, which advocates Britain’s immediate withdrawal from the EU. Far-right parties across the continent more than doubled their representation. Undaunted by the prosecution against its leader and most senior members, Golden Dawn went on to win 9.4 percent of the vote and emerge as Greece’s third-biggest party.

To ban or not to ban?

Experts at the FES debate inevitably set to work on the question of whether apparently anti-democratic parties should be tolerated within Europe’s liberal democracies. Haunted by its Nazi past, Germany has laws banning Holocaust denial and the public display of Nazi insignia. The country has encouraged European governments to introduce similar legislation.

Last year saw a renewed bid to outlaw the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) after Germany’s 16 regional governments filed a motion with the Federal Constitutional Court arguing that the NPD espouses Nazi values and wants to overthrow the democratic order through violence. A previous bid in 2003 failed after top judges ruled that the government’s case rested on testimonies by NPD officials who were found to be agents of the German intelligence service. Support for NPD went up after the botched bid.

“Sometimes a ban is necessary, but you also need to make a serious effort to deal with the problem on a social level,” said Melzer, who also referred to contacts between NPD and GD officials.

Studies by German experts quoted in the publication show that about 30 percent of people who support far-right parties and organizations abandon these groups when authorities investigate them in connection with a possible ban on their operations.

“Prohibitions are not a panacea,” Georgiadou said, warning that rather than curb the power of an ultranationalist party, a ban can actually result in the party gaining popularity. The victimization factor seems to have played a role during the early stages of the judicial clampdown on Golden Dawn, which failed to diminish its popularity.

“It was a mistake to believe that the launch of the judicial investigation into Golden Dawn would automatically drain support for the party. Big shocks take time to register with voters,” Georgiadou said, adding that more recent surveys, particularly following a barrage of investigative reporting into GD’s criminal activity and Nazi affiliations, have documented a slow albeit steady decline in support for the party, which is now polling around 6 percent.

Golden Dawn did not face an NPD-style ban threat. Its members were instead prosecuted for alleged violations of the country’s criminal code. Last month, the prosecutor handling the investigation into GD proposed that all the party’s 16 MPs, as well as two deputies who have quit and dozens more GD members stand trial on a string of charges ranging from running a criminal organization to murder and weapons offenses. In a 700-page report, the prosecutor said that none of GD’s MPs can claim convincingly that they were unaware of the criminal acts that were consistently carried out over a long period of time in the name of the party.

Georgiadou said that although a great effort was being made to tackle GD on a judicial level, very little was being done on a political level. “What have our education ministers been up to all this time?” she said.

Prompted by a wave of xenophobic attacks, the Greek Parliament in September passed a bill toughening anti-racism laws and criminalizing Holocaust denial. The new laws will not apply to GD members during their upcoming trial.

Your relationship is being diverted

babycakes

Του Χάρη φαν Φέρσεντααλ

Η γνώριμη εικόνα μιας σύγχρονης συμμετρίας: ανθρώπινα κεφάλια στην ίδια παρέα, σκυμμένα πάνω από τη φωτεινή οθόνη ενός «έξυπνου» κινητού. Λίγα αντικείμενα ενσωματώνουν καλύτερα την αμφισημία της τεχνολογικής προόδου. Απεριόριστες δυνατότητες διασύνδεσης, ενημέρωσης και εξυπηρέτησης μέσα στην παλάμη του χεριού, επισκιάζονται από τον κίνδυνο μιας εκτροχιασμένης σχέσης αφέντη-υπηρέτη: αγένεια, αντικοινωνικότητα, ψυχαναγκασμός, απομόνωση.

Ηταν η σκοτεινή πλευρά που ενέπνευσε το πρόσφατο πρότζεκτ του φωτογράφου δρόμου που ακούει στο καλλιτεχνικό ψευδώνυμο Babycakes Romero. Η σειρά των ασπρόμαυρων εικόνων τιτλοφορείται «Ο θάνατος της συζήτησης» (The death of conversation) και είναι σχεδόν όλες καρπός των καθημερινών του περιπλανήσεων στο Λονδίνο, την πόλη όπου γεννήθηκε, μεγάλωσε και ζει.

«Ηταν κάτι που παρατηρούσα ξανά και ξανά και, ενίοτε, βίωνα από πρώτο χέρι. Οπτικά, μου τράβηξε την προσοχή η συμμετρία αυτών των ανθρώπων, κλειδωμένοι καθώς ήταν ταυτόχρονα, αλλά και καθένας ξεχωριστά, στην ίδια πράξη», λέει σε συνέντευξη που παραχώρησε στην «Καθημερινή».

«Στην αρχή νόμιζα πως ο κόσμος χρησιμοποιούσε τα smartphones ως βοήθημα για να κρύψει την αμηχανία του, για να γεμίσει τις σιωπές. Αλλά καθώς συνέχισα να παρατηρώ και να καταγράφω το φαινόμενο, διαπίστωσα πως την αμηχανία και τη σιωπή τις προκαλούσαν στην πραγματικότητα οι ίδιες οι συσκευές. Βασικά κάνουν τους ανθρώπους να αποσύρονται αντί να αλληλοεπιδρούν».

Παραπονιέται πως οι καλοί τρόποι συμπεριφοράς όσον αφορά τη χρήση του τηλεφώνου μέσα στον κοινωνικό περίγυρο τείνουν προς εξαφάνιση. «Η συσκευή προηγείται του ατόμου που είναι παρόν και αυτό μου φαίνεται λάθος. Είναι ένα είδος απόρριψης, είναι μειωτικό».

Οι ειδικοί προειδοποιούν πως οι κακοί τρόποι δεν είναι καν το μεγαλύτερο πρόβλημα. Το email και τα μηνύματα, αλλά και εφαρμογές όπως το Facebook, το Twitter ή το Pinterest, διεκδικούν αδιάκοπα τον χρόνο και την προσοχή μας. Ερευνες έχουν δείξει πως κάθε φωτεινή ένδειξη για «νέο μήνυμα» προκαλεί «έκρηξη» ντοπαμίνης, της ίδιας νευροχημικής ουσίας που απελευθερώνεται στον εγκέφαλο με την κατανάλωση αλκοόλ ή ναρκωτικών. Σύμφωνα με πρόσφατη αμερικανική μελέτη, έξι στους δέκα νέους ασχολούνται κατά μέσο όρο ένα οκτάωρο την ημέρα με τα κινητά τους τηλέφωνα. Παράλληλα, ένας στους τρεις Αμερικανούς θεωρεί πως είναι εθισμένος στο «έξυπνό» του τηλέφωνο.

«Καθώς παρατηρούσα και φωτογράφιζα αυτούς τους ανθρώπους, μου έδιναν την εντύπωση πως δεν ήταν παρόντες στον πραγματικό κόσμο. Ηταν συνδεδεμένοι με έναν εικονικό κόσμο που ήταν δικό τους δημιούργημα», λέει ο φωτογράφος.

«Είναι τρελό, αλλά ο κόσμος επιλέγει την ψηφιακή επικοινωνία ενώ είναι με παρέα. Προτιμάει να συνδεθεί με κάποιον που είναι αλλού, παρά με κάποιον που βρίσκεται στον ίδιο χώρο».

Ολες οι φωτογραφίες του πρότζεκτ τραβήχτηκαν τον περασμένο χρόνο. O Babycakes Romero δεν βγήκε στον δρόμο αναζητώντας κάποια εικόνα, απλά τις συνάντησε μπροστά του: στην καφετέρια, στο εστιατόριο, στη στάση, στο λεωφορείο, στο πάρκο. Σημειώνει πως καμία δεν είναι σκηνοθετημένη. «Δεν στήνω φωτογραφίες, ποτέ. Δεν με ενδιαφέρει. Θέλω να παρουσιάζω τον κόσμο όπως τον βλέπω, όχι όπως θα ήθελα να είναι», λέει, αν και παραδέχεται πως η απορρόφηση των ανθρώπων έκανε τη δουλειά του κάπως πιο εύκολη.

Γιατί όμως ο κόσμος προτιμάει την online από την offline επικοινωνία; «Οταν προστατεύεσαι πίσω από μια οθόνη και είσαι οπλισμένος με ένα πληκτρολόγιο, δεν υποφέρεις από τις αγωνίες ή την αμηχανία που θα είχες πρόσωπο με πρόσωπο».

Είναι και η άνοδος του ναρκισσισμού. Οι περισσότεροι πλέον καταφεύγουν στον διαδικτυακό κόσμο για μια συναισθηματική ένεση, για μια δόση ανακούφισης ή επιβεβαίωσης, για κάτι που θα ταΐσει το «εγώ» τους. «Γνωρίζουν πως κάθε μήνυμα που φτάνει στη συσκευή τους κάπως τους αφορά, ενώ σε μια κανονική συζήτηση δεν θα είσαι πάντα το επίκεντρο. Είναι σαν να μην μπορούμε πια να επεξεργαστούμε τη ζωή κάποιου άλλου επειδή είμαστε υπερβολικά απασχολημένοι με τη δική μας».

Αν και δεν είναι κατά της τεχνολογίας, όπως λέει, ανησυχεί πως έχει αρχίσει να επηρεάζει την κοινωνική συνοχή. «Πρέπει να ξέρουμε πότε να κατεβάσουμε τον διακόπτη, διαφορετικά θα καταλήξουμε μόνιμα αποκλεισμένοι από τους άλλους».

Και σε περίπτωση που αναρωτιέται κανείς, όχι, δεν έχει smartphone. «Βλέπω πόσο απαιτητικό είναι και ξέρω πως μάλλον δεν θα τα κατάφερνα καλύτερα στο να περιορίζω τη χρήση του. Μου αρέσει να παρατηρώ τον κόσμο γύρω μου και φοβάμαι πως θα έχανα υπερβολικά πολλά αν όλη την ώρα έστρεφα το βλέμμα μου προς μια οθόνη».

​​Περισσότερες πληροφορίες στο babycakesromero.com

Modernist giant wakes up from deep slumber

By Harry van Versendaal & Elis Kiss

Like a decadent, ailing giant that failed to awe, the Doxiadis Office Building for years sat neglected on the foot of Lycabettus Hill, discreetly overlooking the capital’s upmarket, albeit idiosyncratic, Kolonaki neighborhood.

Originally erected between 1958 and 1972 by pioneer architect and town-planner Constantinos A. Doxiadis to house the headquarters of his consulting engineers’ firm and namesake school, the building fell into neglect and disuse after Doxiadis’s death in 1975.

Now, after several setbacks and delays, the emblematic, postwar, modernist structure seems to have finally acquired a new skin without losing too much of its soul. Along the way it also picked up a new name and is now known as One Athens.

Acquired by Cyclamino SA, a partnership between entrepreneurs Christos Joannou and Miltos Kambourides, in 2007, the 12,500 square meter property has been reincarnated into a sleek, cement-and-glass residential complex that is currently re-defining the capital’s niche market for ultra-luxurious real estate in the city center. The redesign of the open-plan workspaces into 26 residences was masterminded by award-winning Athens and London-based Divercity architects, while construction work was undertaken by Greek builder J&P-Avax.

The transformation was not without obstacles. In 2010, renovation work was interrupted after protests by urban activist group Monumenta, which claimed that architects had tampered with Doxiadis’s trademark design. Opposition was soon joined by the Architecture School of the National Technical University of Athens, the Greek Architects’ Association (SADAS) and the Technical Chamber of Greece (TEE).

In a compromise decision, the Culture Ministry’s Central Council of Modern Monuments only granted listed status to certain elements of the building: the load-bearing structure, the facade along Stratiotikou Syndesmou Street, the spiral staircases and the central atrium – a low-energy, bioclimatic concept designed to provide ventilation and natural light at a time when building design in Athens almost exclusively catered to maximizing use of available space. Keeping with the Doxiadis legacy are the cellular concrete ceilings and the herringbone timber flooring.

Additions by the Divercity team are not out of proportion or character. The original modular grid has been transformed into a matrix made up of crystal, Aliveri marble, and translucent concrete panels – a functional, as well as playful, building material that allows light to penetrate its dense surface.

Living space at One Athens ranges from a 77 sq. m. studio to a 721 sq. m. penthouse and considerable choice in between. This includes four townhouses (ranging from 245 to 517 sq.m.), all enjoying direct access onto the Lycabettus Hill ring road as well as Stratiotikou Syndesmou Street. The building’s five penthouses (ranging from 260 sq.m. to 721 sq.m.) boast rooftop terraces, swimming pools or spas and views over the Acropolis and the Lycabettus Hill. Out of the 26 flats, so far seven have been picked up by a savvy, globe-trotting Greek clientele.

The building’s new residents, who are expected to start moving in early next year, will benefit from security and porter services as well as full concierge services for their entertainment and travel. The new neighbors will also be able to meet on the shared rooftop terrace (with views over the Acropolis and the Lycabettus), the ground floor’s indoor swimming pool as well as the adjacent jacuzzi, steam bath and sauna facilities. Also available for residents is a playroom and a conference area – close to the room that once hosted Greece’s first mainframe computer, a Univac 1107, acquired by Doxiadis Associates in 1969.

All residences are equipped with a state-of-the-art smart home management system through a wall-mounded iPad control center. Flats also feature natural gas heating, a fully equipped kitchen and designer fixtures for bathrooms.

By all means an exclusive project, One Athens survived the country’s financial meltdown and the paralysis of the local real estate sector. Price tags at the former Doxiadis headquarters currently reflect the project’s 70-million-euro private investment.

In a city that has often been disrespectful to its architectural legacy, One Athens introduces a new urban vernacular.

Study finds Greeks with soft spot for conspiracy theories are more likely to hold anti-Semitic views

By Harry van Versendaal

Anti-Semitism in Greece is more common among people who are susceptible to the lure of conspiracy theories, a new survey has shown.

The study, which was carried out by a group of Greek experts from local as well as international institutions and unveiled during a recent seminar in Berlin, was conducted before Israel’s latest Gaza offensive.

“The more a person feels weak and victimized, the more they participate in the political culture of the underdog, the more they are to believe in conspiracy theories and hold anti-Semitic views,” Giorgos Antoniou, a professor of European history at the International Hellenic University (IHU) in Thessaloniki, told Kathimerini English Edition.

“The less adequately equipped someone is to live in today’s quite complex and globalized world, the more likely they are to look elsewhere for interpretations of the world they live in,” Antoniou said. “This may even be within the sphere of racism, conspiracy or anti-Semitism specifically,” he said.

The research team, which also included Spyros Kosmidis and Elias Dinas from the University of Oxford and Leon Saltiel from the University of Macedonia, examined the correlation between people’s leaning toward some of the most popular conspiracy theories – such as the moon landing hoax, the 9/11 truth movement, and the hidden cancer cure theory – and their degree of prejudice, hatred or discrimination against Jews. At the same time, the experts also looked at a wide range of factors such as age, education, ideological and political alignment, trust in other people or groups of people, and trust in institutions.

The survey found that almost half (47.3 percent) of those who tend not to believe in conspiracy theories also disagreed with the assertion that Jews exploit the Holocaust to gain influence. Specifically, 34 percent of them strongly disagreed with this statement.

In contrast, 76.3 percent of those with a strong belief in conspiracy theories agreed that Jews exploit the Holocaust to gain influence. Of that group, 51 percent strongly agreed with the claim.

Meanwhile, nearly 65 percent of survey respondents said they strongly agree or agree with the statement that Jews treat Palestinians the exact same way as Germans treated them during the Second World War. A similar percentage said they strongly agree or agree with the claim that Jews have exploited the Holocaust. Also 70 percent said they strongly agree or agree with the statement that Greeks have suffered worse genocides than the Jews.

Black mark

Following its own recent study, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) defined 69 percent of Greeks as anti-Semitic, on a par with Saudi Arabia and more so than Iran.

According to the Greek study, anti-Semitic views are more intense among supporters of the neofascist Golden Dawn and right-wing populist Independent Greeks parties.

“Quite surprisingly however we found hardly any discrepancy between all other parties, measuring almost equal levels of anti-Semitism among supporters of conservative New Democracy, leftist SYRIZA and the Greek Communist Party (KKE),” said Dinas, a political scientist at Oxford University. Levels of anti-Semitism were found to be slightly lower among voters of socialist coalition partner PASOK and centrist newcomer To Potami (The River).

The researchers said they have not at this stage tried to interpret the causes of anti-Semitism in Greece, but merely to gauge sentiment.

However, Antoniou said, early data suggest that people with a higher level of education were less likely to hold anti-Semitic views.

“The lower one’s level of education, the earlier they have left school, the more likely they are to believe in conspiracy and anti-Semitic theories,” Antoniou said. “Meanwhile, the quality of education here leaves a lot to be desired,” he said.

Despite the fact that anti-Semitic views are held by a large percentage of the population, Antoniou said, “instances of anti-Semitism have been rather isolated or minor.”

Game changer

The study, published under the title “Exploring Anti-Semitic Attitudes among the Greek Public: Evidence from a Representative Survey,” was carried out between June 23 and 27 on a random sample of 1,045 people.

About half of the telephone interviews were conducted shortly after Greece’s FIFA World Cup last-gasp win over Ivory Coast on June 24 in Brazil, a result which put the country’s national team through to the knockout stage of the tournament. Interestingly, researchers noted that respondents’ ethnocentric and nationalist sentiments were on average higher after the match, while indications of anti-Semitism had declined.

“It seems likely that this occurred because people’s sense of victimhood also decreased after the game. Typical ‘underdog’ feelings declined while Greeks’ self-confidence as a nation increased,” Dinas said.

“As a result, they felt less inclined to either endorse conspiratorial theories or consider the Greeks as having suffered more than the Jews,” he said.

Blurred lines

The survey was carried out before Israel launched its offensive on July 8 to stop Hamas rocket fire out of Gaza. More than 750 Palestinians, most of them civilians, and 32 Israelis, 29 of them soldiers, have died so far in the conflict.

Experts said that the longstanding unpopularity of Israeli policies in Greece has forged an unexpected consensus across the political spectrum.

“It often becomes hard to maintain sensitivity on the Palestinian issue without at the same time taking on the world’s entire Jewish population,” Antoniou said.

“In this environment, it is difficult to distinguish between legitimate political opposition to Israeli actions and anti-Semitism,” he said.


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