14 February 2012


I have been sickened by events in Athens, and Agrinion and Lamia and Thessalonike and elsewhere. 

I remember a conversation with my grandfather, Eugene Crawford Jordan, of Birmingham, Alabama, in the late 1960s.  We called him Papa. You must understand that Papa was handsome and courtly, the consummate Southern gentleman, but being a Southern gentleman did not exclude an intense racism.  

The conversation moved to "7415" which was the number of the house where he had raised his ten children, and to which I was brought with my mother after I was born.  He recalled 1926 when he was having the house repainted.  That year people in Birmingham were joining the Ku Klux Klan in large numbers.  The neighbor in the house to the right joined, and invited my grandfather to join.  Mr. Bell, in the house to the left, joined, and invited my grandfather to join. The house painters said pressured my grandfather to join and added, "We'd sure hate for anything to happen to those purty lil' chirren."*

Now, a late justice of the Supreme Court, Hugo Black, Harvard graduate, was practicing law in Birmingham in 1926, and he joined the Klan. He more than made up for it many years later on the Supreme Court, but he was highly educated, Harvard yet, and he still found it possible to rationalize the Klan.

Papa had to drop out of school as a teenager to help support his family and he always nursed a bitterness at the deprivation of education.  So what with Justice Black and Papa's racism, I didn't know what to think.

I said, "Why didn't you join, Papa?"

He said, "Sugar," -- Southerners used to, some still do, speak in Shakespearean mode, as Othello when he said, "Honey, you shall be well desired in Cyprus."

He said, "Sugar, a man does not have to cover his face."

Ὦ παῖδες Ἑλλήνων, you murderous attackers who beleaguer a city, glykoi mou, a man does not have to cover his face.

* This is Southern for "pretty little children."


  1. Dear Diana,

    The 'koukouloforoi' are in part anarchists as you mention (i dont know where you got your information on the involvement of members of anti-authoritarian movement in drug trafficking) and in part under cover policemen whose role is evident in dozens of videos and photographs.
    The 'parakratos' of post world war 2 Greek political life is still alive and its manifestations are obvious in the mass destruction of monumental buildings as well as in looting such as performed during the Sunday demonstrations (as well as in 2008). Media make good use of incidents like this and a demonstration of hundreds of thousands of people is ignored in favour of burning buildings. Anarchists usually hit iconic targets with symbolic significance, the targets are often pre-selected. A trained and experienced eye can easily distinguish between the two, even the way they behave while wearing hoods when you are in the street. you must learn to be protected from people in hoods (personal experience) but also people in hoods (the other species) might protect you as well when in need (personal experience). The anarchist movement has been severely persecuted by the greek state the past 30 years and many of its members have been jailed for their ideology (many times illegaly and kept without trial in jail for long periods of time). I am not part of it but the truth should be spoken out.
    Greek political life is turbulent and long discussions are needed in order to analyse every aspect. But i personally see that for the first time healthy parts of society are at last emerging out of the shadows (under the threat of poverty and complete destruction ie you should read the agreement that the government has signed)

    Furthermore, the experience of breathing teargas is also another big factor in the use of mask or face protectants. Greek police has been routinely using extreme amounts of unapproved substances (by the WHO) ie teargas, suffocation provocative sprays etc towards packed un-masked and un-hooded demostrators (even in the underground) without any regard to health and safety (wanting voluntarily actually to harm). You will often see also middleaged and old people hiding their faces wearing masks not because they are not men (as you claim) but because their life is at stake.
    Mikis Theodorakis (wearing mask) and Manolis Glezos were sprayed as well during the sunday demonstration and were hospitalised. So there we yet again have another species (number3) of koukouloforoi.

    Demonstrating in Greece is dangerous but very fullfilling. I see happy faces still in tears after every demonstration. Part of them may have been hooded as well. i dont care. there's much more at stake right now.
    What we need from you is solidarity.

    Kind Regards,

    Ioannis Papantoniou


    PS: i am a regular reader of your blog it is really interesting.

  2. Thank you for taking the time to write so thoughtfully. Greece has my solidarity, for what that is worth, but I cannot support the violence. I was in Athens in 2008 for the violence then: my information about drug money came from people in a position to know something about what was going on with the anarchists given protection by the university. I have also been teargassed in a peaceful demonstration in Washington DC.

    The conjunction of 'university' and 'anarchist' is inconceivable to my mind: how can an institution teach the ordering of thought and transmit an inheritance of ordered intellectual work, while making pets of people whose purpose is the destruction of order?

    People who arrive at peaceful demonstrations wearing hoods & carrying sticks are not there for good. I helped direct non-violent anti-Vietnam demonstrations for several years, and one of our mantras was No Sticks. If people wanted signs, fine, but on strings from their necks, or held in their hands. We did not threaten police, and we certainly did not set buildings on fire.

    I saw that in the riots after Martin Luther King was killed. I understand anger, I understand flaming anger. I do not understand destruction of one's own city, although I have seen it in Washington and Athens.

    Greece needs citizens with courage, not thugs with sticks and fire-bombs. I think Papademos and Samaras have been heroic, & I keep thinking about how exhausted they must be.

  3. Papademos and Samaras are members of a non elected government thus illegal and anticonstitutional government. Samaras in particular has made a 180 degree turn in his public position and beliefs. After one and a half year of ''brutally'' opposing the reforms of the government, once his party was made a partner in this Chimaeric political morphoma, he is now strongly supporting what before he was condemning .A contemporary Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde . U-turns have been the favourite strategy of our politicians the last couple of years there's nothing heroic there. Papademos is an appointed puppet prime minister (something like Alexios IV Angelos had been back in 1203 with the difference that we today are supposed to have a democracy rather than an autocracy) with the unique objective of signing the 'agreement'. Nothing heroic ther neither.

    It would be better to think about the hundreds of peaceful protesters ending up in hospitals, victims of police brutality, rather than extremely well paid political-mercenaries.


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