Greece, political activism and ZNet
By Elpida Samaraki at Apr 13, 2008
Hello Z! We have just launched a new network page: the Hellenic Network for Participatory Society.
HNPS is a Z network page created by active citizens who care about participating in what will happen in History, in what will happen to our lives. It is a network dedicated to Greek politics, political activism and self-organization movements that have recently started to operate in Greece. The main goal of this network is to seek those ways and policies that will help Greece get back on course in the "war" for a better future for all Hellenes.
Modern Greek society is characterized by a capitalist, materialistic lifestyle and has become a model of what economic Americanization is about. What capitalism offers to the "average Greek" is the (vain) hope for a future luxurious lifestyle. For the majority of Greeks, however, the price for this "dream" is an everyday reality of economic insecurity, financial debt, the sense that the state is being unfair and a sense that modern life is vicious. The majority of modern Greeks feel disappointed, helpless and unprotected and they have started expressing a selfish behavior, caring only about personal financial gains and prosperity and ignore values such as solidarity, comradeship and justice. Greek society is turning into a phobic society, and as an example, in many instances tries to take advantage of immigrants, ironically, forgetting that about 7,000,000 Greeks live outside of their country (41% of Hellenism). The average Greek citizen is not any different than the "average" American or Western European citizens who, as a rule, care only superficially and temporarily about what is happening outside their family and their small community.
However, as the ancient Greeks used to say, no evil is without good, i.e for every bad thing there is a good aspect to it. And the good aspect in this mess is that many Greeks have started to resist and political activism in Greece has grown exponentially in recent years. Indeed, the popularity and credibility of grassroots media and activist organizations is high (even higher than mainstream media for example) as long as these groups are not affiliated with a specific political party. The widespread use of internet was one of the most important facilitators of this change. The unpopular conservative government/European Union policies, bad economy and the ineffectiveness of traditional methods of resistance (e.g strikes, demonstrations) have led people to seek alternative ways to protest. Internet quickly became a significant tool for exchange of ideas. However, people use internet today mostly to share and complain about their problems. This is very reasonable, since people just discovered that they are not alone and they want to connect and discuss their issues. They have been having for a while the feeling that nobody is listening, that nobody cares, so it is understandable that now they want to cry out loud and express their anger. We now need to convert internet from a tool that people vent their anger to a tool that people seek and implement solutions.
Of course, these developing cyber-movements are not even close to claim any victory over capitalism or influence substantially the trendy and materialistic lifestyle of Greek society yet. The number of people that actively participate in politics cannot even be compared to the number of those who believe it is not worth even talking about politics and so they should simply enjoy life, because others make the important decisions for them anyway. If you take a look at Greek social utilities and media (e.g Greek groups of Facebook, or Greek forums) you will see that the number of people that participate in "celebrities'", tv shows and sports pages and groups, are counted in thousands or even tenths of thousands, while political activist groups still lack behind significantly. Part of the problem is that these activist movements need to build trust and credibility and convince citizens that those who participate in them do not do so to enrich themselves and are not entrenched in partisanship and corruption.
How and whether it would be possible for the majority of Greeks to overcome this state of hebetude imposed to them by the capitalist lifestyle and the recent history of Greek left remains to be answered. At least now there is hope that the foci of resistance might keep growing and one day may form a massive movement that will bring Greece back on track. Of course, another critical thing that these cyber-movements are still missing is how to reach out to people that do not have internet access, how to make an impact on the whole Greek community and how to connect to other networks of active citizens.
To extend these discussions beyond the Greek borders and Greek fora, a group of political activists will participate actively in Znet, hoping to get some ideas and support from experienced political activists and groups that are active in Z. We also hope that by presenting our experience, we might help other developing movements around the globe.
As a first step, we started up a network page and we are forming a group of activists that would bring these issues up for discussion. We do want to provide a lively and exciting stimulus for these movements and we would like this page to be a point of connection between Greek and global self-organization and political activist networks. We also strongly support grassroots journalism. Thus, one of our goals is to keep the world up to date about what is happening in Greece and in Greek politics. Z does this through the section called "Place pages". So, by keeping the Greece page up to date, we hope that this will be a good source of information about the recent developments in Greece for anyone interested. Finally, in the immediate future, we will start a Greek translation project. We will translate to Greek articles and content from Z, to make the content of Z available to our fellow Greeks that do not read and speak English.
Is there light at the end of the tunnel? Is Greece close to be forming the critical mass of political activists that is required to realize change? Time will tell. We will do our best to make it happen. For us the journey has just started...