“Corpus Christi” censoring attempts and the politics of faith in Greece

Protester’s jumper against “Corpus Christi” reads “Orthodoxy or Death” via lifo.gr

Back in May of 1998, Manhattan Theater Club (MTC) in NY cancelled the scheduled production of the three-time Tony Award winner Terrence McNally’s Corpus Christi play, prompted by anonymous telephone threats to burn down the prolific theater and kill its staff and the playwright. The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights that was already campaigning against the play for blasphemy, disavowed responsibility for the phone-calls.  Those developments swiftly sparked outrage in the artistic community over the religious group’s intimidation and MTC’s administration for backing off and not standing firm.

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Media stirring up national pride over Germany-Greece soccer match

Football is one of the remaining spheres in which it is acceptable to openly display patriotic sentiment. This seems to apply in every country. The relationship between football and nationhood was shaped by particular historical and cultural factors. There might be different perceptions among people of how direct this association is, but those with far-right political affiliations apparently find it it easier to project symbolic meanings of Greek pride on a team of players that represents the nation in a game. Georgios Papadopoulos, one of the military dictatorship’s architects back in the 70’s, encouraged people to watch football whilst he imposed severe constraints in civil liberties. That says a lot about how to channel outrage on a safe outlet.

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Sex, hypocrisy and elections

Greek authorities  released  the name and pictures (along with other personal info) of 17 HIV- positive sex workers, who allegedly provided their services illegally, accusing them for intentional bodily harm. The incident attracted media attention and the women swiftly became subject of mockery, making headlines as “public health timebomb”. In an attempt to crackdown unlicensed brothels  prior to the elections, hundreds of alleged sex workers across the country are being screened for the virus by the state-run Center for Diseases’ Control & Prevention. The agency has been reportedly receiving numerous telephone inquiries about sex and safety issues from men seeking to be tested as well. In an interview at Net Radio, Health Minister Andreas Loverdos underlined the severity of  “AIDS time bomb” which “has now spread outside immigrant ghettos“, although he did his best to tackle the issue on time.

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Teacher takes his own life over austerity

Austerity seems to have pushed another man over the edge, who reportedly hanged up himself on Saturday evening. Savvas Metikidis, a 44 years old teacher, resident of Athens and married with children, went for Easter holidays to his hometown, Stavroupoli in Xanthi. He took his own life in his parents’ house allegedly leaving a long suicide note, expressing his resentment over the country’s bleak political situation. Following Dimitris Kotsaridis suicide outside the Greek parliament, it seems to be the second kind of incident with clear political connotations, a couple of weeks before upcoming elections. The man’s funeral will take place today at 16:00 (local time) in Stavroupoli. 

Outburst of applause in Dimitris Christoulas’ funeral

Approximately 1500-2000 people attended Dimitris Christoulas’ funeral on Saturday, who took his life over financial issues in Syntagma square – central Athens. Mourners started applauding as the coffin arrived in the cemetery, chanting  “Blood flows, seeking revenge” and “People move forward – don’t keep your head low – the only way is resistance again”.
For 4 days in a row, citizens have been gathering on the spot where the 77 years old pensioner turned the handgun against him, leaving flowers, Greek flags and pinning notes on the nearby trees.The incident had political connotation as it took place in a focal point for anti-austerity protests opposite the parliament and the man left a suicide note, expressing his resentment for the government and his belief that one day, youths will take up the arms against Greek leaders.

Elderly man commits suicide in Athens over mounting debt

Another dramatic incident amid austerity was added on the long list of suicides over financial burden this morning in Syntagma square, central Athens, during rush hour. The 77 years old  retired pharmacist, allegedly said “I don’t want to leave my children in debt” before taking his own life with a handgun near a tube exit. Passers-by froze when the shot was heard. Sources said the man left a suicide note expressing his resentment over the government that left him hopeless:

Tsolakoglouoccupation government has literally nullified any chance of my survival that was based on a decent pension, to which I’ve been the sole contributor for 35 years without any state financial aid.
Since my age doesn’t help for sheer resistance (of course without rejecting the possibility that if a Greek were to grab a Kalashnikov first, I’d be the second following) I see no other solution but a decent end (of my life) before I start searching for food into trash bins. I believe that one day, youths with no future will take up arms and hang upside-down those national traitors, as Italians did to Mussolini (in piazza Pareto-Milan) back in 1945.”

With Greeks being dragged into the downward spiral of financial and psychological insecurity -to put it mildly- the suicide rate has increased by 40% in the first months of 2011. The incident triggered spontaneous demonstrations coordinated through Facebook in Athens and Thessaloniki . Hundreds of people have gathered already in Syntagma sq   where riot police has formed a defensive ring outside the parliament.

*Tsolakoglou was a military officer who became the first Prime Minister of the Greek collaborationist government (cooperation with enemy forces against one’s country) under the Axis Occupation during 1941-2. 

Far-right popularity amid austerity and xenophobia

Approximately 20 far-right activists wearing helmets and holding bats reportedly attacked university students affiliated with left wing political groups. The attack, which appeared to be well organised and targeted, took place in Athens University’s school of science early this afternoon during students’ union assembly. Three students were transferred to hospital suffering injuries.The fascists were allegedly members of National People’s Front and Chrysi Avgi (golden dawn). 

Various polls* released in the previous week, show Chrysi Avgi picking up 2.3-3.4% of the national vote, raising fears that “armed conflict” might become a legitimate form of political expression. With Greece under harsh austerity measures, social tensions and xenophobia are on the rise. In an attempt to get voters back who have switched to Chrysi Avgi, LAOS far-right party leader Giorgos Karatzaferis, has been advocating for gun permit as a means of citizens’ protection against illegal immigrants. 

Meanwhile, 300 undocumented immigrants have been detained by police, as Minister of Citizen’s Protection, Michael Crysohoidis has ordered a “sweep” operation in central Athens. Thirty disused military camps across the country are planned to operate before elections as detention centres, aiming to provide housing for illegal immigrants. Northern prefecture’s official Aris Giannakidis, argues among others, that “immigration influx is a European issue. We cannot carry its burdens alone on our shoulders“.

 *polls by Kapa Research, MRM, Marc