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April 1, 2013
April 1, 2013

From twisting words to a twisted government

Author: Thomas Tsalapatis Translator: Anna Papoutsi
Source: EfSyn  Category: On the crisis
This article is also available in: elesfrit
From twisting words to a twisted government

George Orwell, "1984": the three slogans of the Party written in elegant letters on the pyramid of the Ministry of Truth

March 2013 will be recorded in the crisis diary as the month when Cyprus was condemned, refused to conform and was re-condemned. At the same time, a series of events will be unfolding the concurrent truth of the day. Among them one can find “Operation Thetis” and “Project Athena”.

On March 6th and 7thof 2013, 132 drug addicts were detained by the Greek police and moved to an Immigration Detention Centre. “These operations will continue in order to tackle the drug problem and improve the city centre”, reads a statement of the Police (of course the Police forgot to mention that, in the meantime, the Public Health System is undermined and underfunded, OKANA[1] is gradually suspending its operations due to the lack of funding and traffickers and dealers are moving freely around the city centre). The groundless arrest, compulsory registration and mandatory medical examination of addicts were achieved with the help of the National Centre for Health Operations and were condemned by many Greek and international organisations. The operation was given the name “Thetis”.

At the same time, higher education is shrinking. The number of students is being reduced by 25%, various disciplines are being eliminated and, under a rationale that relates knowledge with its strictly practical and commercial use, humanities are being undermined and marginalised. This project was named “Athena”.

Thetis, on the other hand, was the daughter of Nereus and the mother of Achilles. In the Iliad, she appears as the nursing mother and as the symbol of protection (because of the way she cared for her son). Today, in a paradoxical translation of the Greek past, a protector is appropriate to embody the persecution, displacement and exclusion of broken, frail and wrecked people. Along with her, in this paradoxical inversion, the Goddess of Wisdom is in charge of the dismantling of public education. The triptych is completed by Xenios Zeus[2] , who is protecting foreigners by banishing them, stacking them in camps and sometimes torturing them in detention centres of the country.

For the government, this name-giving is a modern version of the festivities of “military virtue”[3] , a parade of twisted words and concepts. The government cloaks its actions in heroism simply by naming them after ancient heroes (even after locations). The water cannon, hosing down protesters, is called Ajax[4]; the response plan for refugees from war-ridden Syrian was named Ioni (ancient name of Gaza), while Ariadne[5] becomes the name of a project against insurance fraud. These operations seek to gain prestige from their names. From the present day, they return to the original myth of the nation formation. The return to antiquity clumsily claims an absolute legitimisation of the government’s actions since there is no counterargument for something, like the epic past, that only exists in the imagination. It does not converse but simply declares in an absolute way through the glory and awe caused by its distance. This comical asymmetry and the mismatch of sizes are twisting the words and the past.

The names given by the Greek Ministry of Truth do not simply fail to describe, but actually state the exact opposite. We are not facing an abuse, but an inverted literality, a pursuit in the exact opposite direction and at the same time an ostentatious confidence of power wielded in the most absolute manner. Words do not describe goals but rather an utter indifference towards the ethics of the real objectives behind the names. This cruel lexicon baptises objects and events not in order to describe them but in order to exercise power over them. When opposites are identical, disagreement and dialogue are cancelled and the outcome is well known; in this lexicon, protection and punishment are identical. From twisting words, we pass to a twisted government.

In crisis-ridden Greece, the entire language seems to have been put in quotes. A criminal gang is called political party, stabbing migrants is called right-wing activism, people are baptised illegal; torture in police headquarters and police stations is called reformation; the Ministry of Citizen Protection kidnaps citizens in Skouries; HIV-positive women are called health hazard. Instead of being treated and moved to hospitals, they are being pilloried under the unwavering support of the ever sensitive media, thrown into cells with flooded toilets, mice, cats and no hygiene conditions (what words could set it right to these women now that they have been unanimously acquitted after months of detention? But I forgot, words are used only as tools of slander by the mainstream media and austerity governments, in cases like this). In memoranda-ruled Greece, victims are described as responsible for their condition, as guilty and as victimisers. Condemnation is baptised a blessing.

It turns out that today the pursuitfor the literal meaning of words constitutes an act of dignity. In crisis-ridden Greece, being literal means resisting.

[1] Organisation against Drugs

[2] Xenios Zeus is the god of hospitality and protector of foreigners

[3] Festivities organised during the 7-year military dictatorship comprising of kitsch parades with ancient triremes or symbols of the dictatorship and the church

[4] Ancient Greek hero who plays an important role in Homer’s Iliad

[5] Mythical daughter of king Minos of Crete and Pasiphae, daughter of Helios (Sun); she associated with mazes and labyrinths due to her involvement in the myth of the Minotaur and Theseus.

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