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27 May, 2024
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Ghosts of history

Alexis Papachelas

Alexis Papachelas

It’s quite tragic that, 75 years after the Greek civil war, we have reached the point where prominent resistance leader Aris Velouchiotis is a central “figure” in an electoral campaign. As a country we had a hard time putting all that behind us. The country matured during the period after the collapse of the military dictatorship of 1967-74 and historic figures on both the political left and right contributed a lot to putting those dark days behind us.

Those individuals were Greeks who had experienced real violence and fanaticism, people who truly suffered and saw firsthand where division spread by madmen and fanatics can lead. They decided, however, to embrace and send out a message of national unity.

I don’t know what led to Velouchiotis being brought up. Perhaps it was anxiety over the loss of the support of a truly anti-systemic block of voters. Or maybe the pressure of the campaign had been testing the nerves and stamina of politicians. It may have also possibly been part of a strategy to throw about random slogans, hoping to impress members of the electorate.

It is, however, fascinating to see how some government officials still live in a historic fantasy. Despite the compromises and the forced shift toward realism, they often speak or operate as if they are fighting in the context of a civil war that – in their minds – never ended.

However, Greek society lives in 2019. It does not want to relive a civil war. Velouchiotis belongs to history, which will judge him in its own sober way. We live in turbulent times. Europe is facing new challenges: Extreme populism and nationalism are rearing their ugly head. A large number of our fellow citizens are feeling desperate after 10 years of economic hardship and impoverishment, and may easily slide from one extreme to the other.

In this climate, it is very dangerous to clumsily and casually stir up the ghosts of history, because they, in turn, will wake up nightmares we should have left behind by now.

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