The Greek MYPLACE team at Panteion University Of Social And Political Sciences on the recent symbolic suicide in Athens.
For more information on the MYPLACE project, visit the project’s website: HERE
On Wednesday morning 4th of April, a few minutes before nine o’ clock, a 77 year old pharmacist pensioner took the subway from his home in Ampelokipi, got off at Syntagma station, the largest square of Athens, and committed suicide under a tree using a gun in front of the shocked pedestrians, due to the economic crisis. According to his neighbors he was a peaceful man, very worried about the future and he was attending almost every demonstration and every assembly of the last summer’s indignant movement in Athens, in Syntagma Square. That is why his suicide could be characterized as a symbolic one. Contrary to the first comments regarding his financial situation it seems that he had no debts and not only that, but he also paid the rent earlier than he usually did. So, now everybody talks about a political suicide, the reason of which is definitely the current economic, social and political crisis Greek society faces, even though some politicians of the two major political parties tried to dissociate his suicide from the economic crisis implying that maybe there are other causes, e.g. personal problems, psychological issues, etc. The connection to the contemporary crisis is evident from the note the police found in his pocket in which among other things he characterized the current government as an occupation force and he added:
“Because of my age I do not have the ability to a strong reaction and I hardly find any other solution than a dignified end before I start looking in the garbage to find my own food. I believe that someday the youth, that have no future, will take the arms and they will hung upside down all the national traitors as the Italians did with Mussolini in 1945 (Loreto Square in Milan)”.
Furthermore, his daughter with a letter to the media clarified that her father was ‘a selfless fighter of the left’ and his action was totally conscious and in accordance with his beliefs.
Even though, according to the specialists (Psychologists, Psychiatrists, Social Workers, etc), the suicides have increased during the last two years due to the economic crisis (about 1800 suicides, increase of about 45%), his action, as it was expected, caused great shock because of its symbolic character and because it took place in the public space. Immediately, the discussion in the social media began and the ‘indignant movement’ of the last summer re-appeared asking for a demonstration the same afternoon at six o’clock at the Syntagma Square with the following message:
I went to Syntagma Square at around seven o’clock. The square was almost full of people discussing the suicide. There were about one thousand people there but two hours later the number surpassed the two thousands. Among them there were members of the Parliament of the left coalition, University professors and people of every age and social orientation, with costumes, bicycles, cameras, but almost all of them had a common feature: they were shocked and angry about the current situation and the forthcoming new austerity measures.
Take a closer look at the bench the young boy with the older man. The whole time I was there they were not talking to each other and I assumed that they were not there together.
The place the 77 year old committed suicide became a holy place, a ‘civil shrine’ or as someone called it the “The bleeding memorial of the unknown citizen”.
Many people were arguing about the economic crisis and the political system, about the future and what should be done. Among the slogans of the demonstrators there was one saying that ‘this was not a suicide but a political assassination’ and another one saying that ‘blood flows and asks for revenge’.
However, even though this was a peaceful demonstration at around nine o’ clock some young people with masks (the notorious masked ones) attacked the police forces and this caused the violent reaction of the police, which was directed against every one regardless if this was a journalist, a man or a woman, an older or a younger one. Many people were injured among them a female journalist beaten on her back and on the head and the President of the Greek Union of Photo-Reporters (see the two videos below).
This suicide was an act very similar to the suicide of the young Tunisian, Mohamed Bouazizi, in Sidi Bouzid, which caused the uprising not only in Tunisia, but in the Arab world in general and afterwards influenced in some way the demonstrations in Spain, Greece and other countries around the world. By that it is not meant that this suicide in the center of Athens will lead to an uprising like the Tunisian or the Egyptian one. However it seems that this suicide led to the re-appearance of the indignant movement, which seemed to be inactive for all these months even though its social media and internet activity was quite high. We have to wait until we reach a conclusion about their re-appearance, but the fact is that they called for a similar demonstration for a second day in the raw in the same place and the same time.