Syntagma suicide: could this be Greece’s ‘Tunisia moment’?

  • April 6, 2012

People & Protest

Could the public suicide of a 77-year-old pensioner in Athens trigger a popular uprising in Greece, just like Bouazizi’s suicide sparked the Arab Spring?

BANG. That was the sound that shook people to the core on Wednesday as a 77-year-old retired pharmacist killed himself in front of the Greek Parliament.

It echoed in the hearts of all those who feel his pain – a life full of debt, a future full of uncertainty, and a lingering question on the tongue: what’s the point? In a country rocked with draconian austerity measures, entering its fifth straight year of recession, and where one in five are jobless, this may have just been the sound that will awaken a revolutionary rage like none other seen in Greece. Though 2011 was a year full of riots, demonstrations, and angst against the bankster dictatorship, I cannot help but feel that this tragedy may just be Greece’s Tunisian moment.

The suicide by this man described as “dignified” was a moment that would send a singular powerful message. The banks coupled with the political elite can and have taken one’s dignity away. This man was not a lone fruit-vendor shaken by police repression. No. He was a retired pharmacist – part of the middle class. His disparity was only drowned out by his debt as he yelled “I don’t want to leave my debts to my children” before pulling the trigger.

A note left in his pocket blamed the political elite for this suicide. He wanted “a dignified end before I have to start scrounging for food from the rubbish”. This is Greece’s true angst. More than that, this is the pain that every country and its citizens can truly relate to in the West. Be it European or North American. For who is not wrought by the perils of debt?

This man’s suicide is a message to everyone in the middle class: you are not immune. We have entered a struggle of not only the poor, but the middle class, as well. What the banks haven’t taken, they will.  Who the banks haven’t hurt, they will. When, is the only question. The Greeks, Spaniards, Portuguese, and Italians are up first. Soon the French, Germans, British, Americans, and Canadians will feel the pain of a country under banks’ control.

There are questions still lingering, though. Could this re-start the domino effect of the Arab Spring? If so, we might soon see a revolution explode in Greece, spreading to Spain and possibly to the rest of Europe. Or, will it take a public suicide in each country to awaken the masses? Only time will tell and no intellectual can ever really guess at what will shake the average person awake into an ‘all or nothing’ state. One this is for sure though, this tragedy will not soon be forgotten.

Nadim Fetaih

Nadim Fetaih is a writer, activist and documentary filmmaker. His first film is A Tale of Two Revolutions.

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