Here is a beautiful –I know it’s not the way to describe this sort of thing but I definitely loved the way it was shot– documentary on Greece, well the recent Greece! The 35 minute documentary (by Ross Domoney, Jaya Klara Brekke, Christos Filippidis, Antonis Vradis, Dimitris Dalakoglou and Giorgos Triantafyllou) deals with privatisation started before 2004 in preparation for the Olympics, racism towards migrants and refugees and very ‘egalitarian’ police violence for all living in Greece in three separate parts.
The first part is about the transformation of Athens to a “competitive city” through privatisation and how the Olympics fuelled this idea. Not surprisingly, the process also created a controversial body, the TAIPED, “to restrict governmental intervention in the privatisation process” which only deals with the investors’ interest and very opaque in the way it deals with who gets what. As many other cities facing rapid privatisation of public spaces, the process totally ignored the people, the owners of those spaces to be contracted. The process left people alienated to their new surroundings. I can imagine the extent of evacuation to and from peripheries which creates cruel interruptions in people’s lives. It must be a dramatic change especially for a city such as Athens where, as I remember from a visit long time ago, people engaged in politics as they pass by each other. Every salutation was followed by a critique of the government or EU, etc. Hard to see that here in UK but very similar to the city I grew up, the choice of the cafe you get your daily fix is political; kissing someone on the busiest street in the middle of the city is political, window shopping not in malls but on streets can even be political. You may come across a sudden gathering for a protest, you can watch or you can join if you feel like it.
Second part is on everyday racism and unemployment. Increasing racism in times of crisis is usually and fairly linked to economic conditions. A woman in the film puts it: Locals can’t find jobs while “foreigners” work illegally. The directors add: in conditions where locals wouldn’t think of working. What I experienced closely during the protests in Istanbul last summer was that racism or intolerance increase not only due to financial crisis but other forms of crisis as well. At the beginning, it looked like the people of Turkey from all ethnicities united against a common enemy, an oppressive father figure but shortly after the recent elections showed something else. I don’t mean to compare the two as they are very different but I think when it comes to racism, the perception of “the other” is so embedded in the minds of normal people that it only awaits a tiny event to sparkle. What moved me about this part was the emphasis of space left for the migrants in the city. I realised I tend to think of migrants and refugees in their economic conditions and about their physical safety from violence of locals or the police. Personal space, a house for your own, sitting peacefully on a bench, falling asleep in the subway all become luxuries. Being on the run constantly without a break, watching out for everything around you is violence. They named the part “Devalued”; brilliant choice of word.
The last part deals with police violence. The text by Jerome Ross directs us to Agamben’s speech in Athens this February in which he talks about policing as a form of governance. He argues that the modern state is not democratic as the notion of security took over all the space to be political and citizens are not political anymore with all these biological measures of identity. Also, lines between political parties have become so vague that it is hard to tell which one is right and which one is left. Especially in times of crisis (but also in normal times to some extent with the help of globalisation) almost all decisions a government makes are subject to international verification if they are not directly imposed. Very few things are completely dealt domestically at this moment. That is how your government deals with your body. It’s almost the only space where a government has autonomy. It makes sure it uses it to prove its shrinking potency.
Check out the producers’ project “crisis scape” http://crisis-scape.net/
And Agamben’s speech http://roarmag.org/2014/02/agamben-destituent-power-democracy/