Exarchei – Slumming It On The Fringe…
Martin Gonzalez – Athens, Greece
Originally, I was going to entitle this post ‘Exarchei – Where Anarchists Rule.’
Anarchists do rule but they are no longer a political force. The streets are lined with trendy coffee outlets, cool bars, and comic book shops. Tourists with hot pants and straw hats drag their travel cases to their Airbnb rental.
The anarchists in the squat that I am staying at tell me they are anti-fascist. The far right government of Greece was toppled in the 70’s – now a different ideology exists called liberalism. No one I speak to seems to be aware of this.
Liberalism encourages the individual to become himself, to be free of all those social identities and dependencies that constrain and define the individual from the outside. As for what the purpose of this freedom is, liberals remain silent.
I ask two of the anarchists how they’d feel about an organized, dedicated political group, with a cohesive leadership and disciplined daily life.
‘I don’t like having leaders.’
‘Yeah, me neither.’
They high five each other.
Every occupant has their own unique clothing style, they normally hang out in the garden or front room chatting about music, fashion or where the next party is. The walls are daubed with writing and pictures, none of which appear to be promoting an inspiring vision of the future.
Individualism is the central belief. The anarchists seem more preoccupied with changing their own behavior through self-expression and a desire to remove themselves from societal norms(washing plates for example) than focusing on creating a movement that can challenge power.
Modern consumerism was rescued by the “Me” generation because it suddenly allowed you to sell lots and lots of different things to lots of people who wanted to express themselves in different ways which means that the idea of self-expression becomes absolutely central to the power of modern capitalism. It’s what drives it.
So, if you then have radical art which is based on the idea of self-expression, which it is. Then, however, radical your message is, and however powerful what you’re saying is, the fact that you’re doing it through self-expression means actually what you’re really doing is feeding the underlying ideology of modern consumer capitalism. Because it depends on the idea that you’re a self-expressive individual.
The more time I spent amongst this so-called political movement the more apparent it became that this was, in fact, nothing more than a lifestyle movement totally detached from politics, merely acting as fuel for the current predatory capitalist system.
But to their credit, the vegan lentils were pretty good.