“Syntagma Square” of Athens

One morning during the [military] dictatorship [of 1967-1974 in Greece] my wife and I were driving towards Syntagma Square. The car before us was an American station wagon [of the US embassy or the US Mission]. In the rear window of the car there were three [American] children between the ages of six and nine. The children were looking towards us and then after a little while they started pointing their palms in our direction with all fingers extended apart, on their faces an expression of unbelievable HATE.

The palm-gesture (known as "moutza", of Byzantine, or French, or Venetian origin) is considered by the Greeks as the ultimate insult towards a person. There have been cases of one driver killing another one in a traffic incident after the exchange of such an insult. [My ZNet Commentary: "Greece: 'The Odd Man Out' " of April 22, 2002.]

It seems that, in general, there are six ways for a people to express their opposition (or anger) against what is called their "government":

1. A strike. [Historically it has been proven that it is not very effective.]

2. A demonstration (rally, march). [A demonstration's effectiveness is best described by David Swanson's: "Our Tahrir Square: DC's Freedom Plaza, October 6th" at http://warisacrime.org/58074: "This will not be another rally and march on a Saturday, make home movies, pat ourselves on the back and go home".]

3. Sit-in, in buildings, at squares, etc for a short period. [Almost as ineffective as a strike.]

4. Tahrir Square-type occupation of a city-square accompanied by a decision to die. [For Egypt that was quite effective, at the price of many lives. For Yemen, Libya, and Syria it will ultimately be also quite effective at the price of a lot of blood and pain. In Bahrain, the US will definitely try to smash the people even through genocide.]

5. Killing of government members, economic elites, etc. by "urban guerillas". [Totally ineffective, as it results in "patriot act"-type of reactions by the elites all over the planet.]

6. Insult! [The most effective way for a people to express its anger.]

Here is the Greek experience:

– About a little more than a year ago Greek citizens attacked verbally Greek politicians who were dining in a restaurant on the tourist island of Paros.

– On December 15, 2010, during a small demonstration at Syntagma Square a few demonstrators attacked verbally, and with a few punches, Kostis Hadzidakis a conservative (rightist) member of parliament. Hadzidakis is a rather mild-mannered and polite person. The attack was not approved by many people.

– At a rally initiated by the great composer Mikis Theodorakis and organized by the University of Athens about a week ago, there were about six thousand people in front of the U. of Athens, while nearby, at Syntagma Square, there were people in the tens of thousands. Mikis Theodorakis gave a speech and the rally ended. Then about 500 of the people from the rally walked to Syntagma by the Parliament and started spitting and using the (fatal) "moutza" insult of the open palms, against the members of the Greek Parliament as they were leaving in their cars.

– For the last 5 or 6 days there have been such incidents daily. On June 7, there were three such incidents. The attacks were verbal, "moutzes", and throwing of eggs, yogurt, coffee cups, etc. In a couple of cases someone threw a stone. It was immediately condemned and was not repeated.

The results of the insult activities:

– All the Greek politicians (repeat: "all") have the shit scared out of them. They know that they and their families from now on cannot visit a restaurant, or a coffee-shop, or other public places.

– Papandreou, the Prime Minister, on June 7, was obliged to consult with his cabinet for 8 consecutive hours. Yesterday, he did the same with the entire team of his parliamentarians, around 160 people, for 13 consecutive hours.

– For the first time in Greek politics the parliamentarians of a governing party are talking back to their leader… the Prime Minister. It seems that this might be a case of the rats leaving a sinking ship.

However, for the "insult" attack to be effective one has to have simultaneously the support of a few hundred thousand people at the "square", nearby.

Can this hold for other countries? Say for the US? Already, the ordinary Americans had the "precious" bumper stickers: "Throw the bums out", of the Bill Clinton era. What is needed is a few hundred thousand people in DC's Freedom Plaza on October 6th.

What is happening in Syntagma Square in Athens is very important and its collateral "insult" actions have already proved to be very effective.


– The reader can find some information about Mikis Theodorakis in my ZNet Commentary "Cultural Resistance" of December 16, 2005.

– For two weeks a total of almost 2 million Greeks have been using the "moutza" insult directing it towards the Parliament and its occupants, raising both hands. 

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