Monday, April 9, 2012

Passion Week

A bomb exploded this morning at a government office – at the Ministry of Administrative Reform – destroying the ground floor of the building as well as the cars parked out front. And so begins Holy Week 2012 in Greece.

We Greeks are a passionate people – everyone says this about us. If you see Greeks talking loudly, waving their arms, making strange gestures – no, we are not arguing, just having an animated, passionate conversation. If a Greek man shows interest in a woman, won’t leave her alone, insists on buying her a drink – no, this is not harassment; he’s just being a passionate Greek lover...

And so this being Holy Week, or “Passion Week” as it is called in Greece, I see passion everywhere. This year, everyone is feeling passionate about something.

The largest seaman’s union is passionately fighting for the revocation of the law incorporating their social insurance fund into the new national health plan. They will be passionately striking this week for two days – a move which will disrupt transportation not only for thousands of Greeks who plan on going back to their ancestral islands for the Easter holiday, but will also disrupt the transportation of goods from farmers and business-owners, causing them a significant financial loss.

A recent poll showed that 89.9% of Greeks believe that “immigrants are the cause of increased acts of violence and criminal activity” – when this same poll was taken in 2009, 74.5% of Greeks agreed with that statement. What has happened in three years, then? Are Greeks becoming more passionately opposed to immigrants?

And naturally, everyone is passionate about the recent public suicide; Dimitris Christoulas, a 77 year-old retired pharmacist, shot himself in the head in the middle of Syndagma Square last Wednesday.  His suicide note stated that he chose to end his life in a dignified manner, before he was forced to scrounge for food in the garbage… The day after the suicide, a peaceful rally in Syndagma Square turned violent and a photojournalist covering the event was seriously injured by riot police who passionately beat him repeatedly with batons.  Marios Lolos, the photojournalist, is still in the hospital, recovering from surgery and severe cranial injuries...

On Saturday afternoon, after the funeral of Dimitris Christoulas, mourners left the cemetery and took the metro to Syndagma Square, to visit the spot where Christoulas took his own life, which has become a make-shift shrine. A policeman and his colleague were on their way to work, when the mob spotted them at the Syndagma metro station. One policeman was passionately attacked by the mob of mourners and ended up in the hospital with serious head injuries. The mob also passionately robbed the policeman of his coat, bullet-proof vest and other parts of his uniform – all of which are now part of the make-shift shrine to the dead pensioner.

But perhaps the most passionate people in Greece right now are the politicians. With upcoming national elections, politicians are constantly on television – each group or party persistently bombarding us with their most passionate thoughts and opinions on “what must be done” to “save Greece” and to “save our neighborhoods” and to “save our families”…

This morning I went to my local bakery to grab something quick for breakfast. This being Holy Week, it is the most important “fasting week” of the Orthodox Lenten calendar. Meat and dairy products are strictly forbidden and the “serious fasters” even refrain from fish and olive oil.  The bakery was filled with signs saying “Lenten cookies” and “Lenten cakes” (made without eggs, butter, milk, etc)… I took my non-Lenten ham and cheese pie and went to the register to pay. Behind me stood an older, well-dressed woman. She pointed a bejeweled-ring wearing finger at me and passionately stated “this is the problem with young people today… tsk tsk.. not fasting during Holy Week!” gold bracelets passionately clanging to emphasize her disgust. I gave her a warm smile and passionately bit into my warm ham and cheese pie…

Perhaps we are all straying from the real meaning of ‘pascha’…. I believe all religions, cultures and traditions have their own ‘pascha’ – whether it’s called Easter, Passover, Nowruz  - every spring we all essentially celebrate the same thing: a triumph, a rebirth, a renewal, a reawakening… If this is the case, then why are certain questions stuck in my mind: This Easter in Greece, what triumph are we celebrating? What will renewal bring? What new realities will Greeks be reawakened to?  

1 comment:

Dropee Athina said...

What a totally horrible thing for people to attack Greek policemen and not get arrested. If this happened in the USA, the police would have sent the whole police force to detain, arrest, and prosecute these criminals. No one has the right to attack a policeman, well except in Greece and other 3rd world places I suppose.