The anecdote is, more or less, known. In a university abroad, the professor of linguistics is explaining to his students that, in many languages, two negations can be equivalent to one affirmation. In no language, however, two affirmations can’t be equivalent to one negation. After a few seconds of pause, so that the students are given the appropriate time to understand, the silence is interrupted by a Greek student who, thinking loudly, exclaimed “ironically”, in accordance to a version of the anecdote: “yes, right!”.
Nonetheless, in democracy, two negations can’t be equivalent to one affirmation and there is no room for complacent obstinacies such as “yes, right!” as a proof of the –confessedly non castoriadian- version of this Greek uniqueness “theory”. For a long time now, the Greek society and state have been facing with a –far from being “unique”-phenomenon, which was considered to belong to the past by my generation at least. I am referring to the Golden Dawn, its life and times, its ideology and action, inside and outside the parliament, officially as a political party and unofficially as a social mentality moving to the light but, mainly, to the darkness.
I will not refer to the Golden Dawn itself, but to all of us who, in the name of urban democracy, develop or acclaim behaviours with controversial toleration. In other words, the present text is not another one which decries –as it should- the Golden Dawn calling it carcinoma –as it is- or searches for existing reasons and magical solutions to the phenomenon of the rising racism, ethno-national tribalism, fanaticism, nationalism and fascism, which was created by the current situation of the Greek society, where it lied. Instead, this text addresses to all of us calling ourselves democrats, taking the opposite line from the Golden Dawn and strongly applauding, in my opinion, any measure, behaviour even the authoritarian or the violent vigilante justice of the citizens as well as everything that limits and offends it.
In democracy neither the end justifies the means nor the democratic deficit is faced with less democracy, always in the name of our democracy. Instead, the means against the Golden Dawn should be appropriate, effective as well as democratically legitimate.
I have noticed that a large part of politically active, thinking, basically educated people, with undoubtedly good intentions and democratic feelings, tend to develop a kind of fanatic reaction against the Golden Dawn, supporting everything that our “team”, the “good” one, does as long as we win the fight against the “bad” ones. However, in democracy neither the end justifies the means nor the democratic deficit is faced with less democracy, always in the name of our democracy. Instead, the means against the Golden Dawn should be appropriate, effective as well as democratically legitimate. It is obviously a matter which requires concern and discussion but no simple terms such as everything that limits the extremism is good for democracy and therefore allowed. The situation is incomparably much more complicated. I also recognize that democracy itself may be a bulwark against the Golden Dawn or it may make the work of the legislator, police and courts more difficult. But who said that democracy is an easy “sport”? Who said that human rights are recognized only to “democrats” or that the dividing lines and answers are self-evident in democracy?
In a democracy, is it allowed to prohibit a Representative from speaking in the Parliament because he/she was ironic towards persons and institutions? Is it allowed to punish somebody who interprets or even misinterprets on purpose “my own” or the existing historical truth, for example refusing the Holocaust? Is it allowed to prohibit parents from registering their children to catechism organized by institutions, which cultivate ideas different or even opposed to official school teaching? May democracy prohibit somebody from giving publicly to charity on the basis of nationality, excluding donation to foreigners?
I strongly do not support that all or at least some of the above mentioned prohibitions are undemocratic. Moreover, my aim is not to answer these questions; each of them could be the subject of work in many branches of the social sciences or the subject of trial by supreme constitutional courts.
Instead of this, I will continue with some more questions. So, is it allowed to a democracy to prohibit a Representative from speaking in the Parliament because he/she was ironic towards persons and institutions, when he/she tolerates other Representatives calling the immigrants as dehumanized or characterizing a Representative as a “garter” (two of the many examples showing strong racism and sexism respectively)? If the society, widely, or the parliament as a constitution, more specifically, set a high standard of decency in the parliamentary speech, will there be respective reactions towards any speaker, regardless of political party, in the future? If the society prohibits the catechisms of fanaticism of the Golden Dawn, is it equally ready to take control and supress any kind of catechism, and if so, to what extent? To what point, are parents free to expose their children to different ideology and build a different identity than the one the state chooses?
What do I intend to say with these questions? The synopsis of the argument is as follows: in democracy, the limitation of freedom and action of undemocratic institutions is allowed, but… In the next part of this text, I will start with the first section of this point and afterwards I will expand to some “buts”.