So, as Sam and I are walking down the street, I notice that a number of “boutiques”—all catering to a self-parodic (if substantial) cohort of wannabe (if clueless) Kolônaki fashionistas who’ve self-consciously elevated their painful tastelessness to an existential ethic peerless in its sheer crudity—haven’t been touched at all. No broken windows, no shattered glass, no cracks, no graffiti, no nothing. When I turn, however, to the other side of the street, I find that the entire glass front of what is, by far, the most elegant flower shop in Kolônaki (and, as far as I’ve seen, in Athens) has been shattered.
My first reaction is bewilderment. But I realize immediately that behind the enormous shop window stands a stylishly adorned (and large) Christmas tree surrounded by an equally stylish array of flowers, plants, and toys making up a graceful and understated Christmas display. I then look just a couple of shops down and, again, notice that the shop anchoring the corner of Skoufa and Voukourestiou has had its entire glass frontage shattered. This particular establishment is another expression of Kolônakian wannabeism—in this case, the Pottery Barn. Except that, this being Greece, the basic professional competence of Pottery Barn buyers is missing, so that the merchandise here is more ersatz, less well-made, and (again, this is Greece) head-spinningly expensive. Still, for me, passing by it every so often is, if nothing else, a visual relief, as the eye candy in its windows evokes various simulacra of the daily life my wife and I have left behind in the (real) West, so near and yet so far from Skoufa. Clearly, however, this store’s transgression in the eyes of the enraged youth who had come down the street just a few hours before seems to have been the pseudo-Victorian Christmas display behind the glass.
The next day, on my way to the plateia, on Skoufa again, I passed another shop with broken windows that I hadn’t noticed the night before. It was a tiny place that sold vintage toy automobiles. I couldn’t believe it. I actually stopped dead in my tracks. The perniciousness of the previous night’s vandalism finally struck me, or, rather, I finally understood the moral cellar in which Greece’s cretinous left is putrefying.
I cannot begin to fathom the kind of human debasement required to consider a toy store a symbol of moral turpitude and class oppression, and, so, a legitimate target of “revolutionary violence.” How diseased must a mind be today in this country to look upon a Christmas tree as a sign of cultural coercion and the commodification of repression? How utterly unformed can a human psyche be; how deeply entombed in, and damaged by, their incapacities can human beings be; how pathologically (self-)deprived of any notion of human sensibility must young men and women (the very thought sears the mind) be to so thoughtlessly and completely exile the notion of pleasure, not merely from their world (I suppose everyone has a right to self-induced misery), but—and this is precisely the point to firebombed Christmas trees and vandalized flower shops and toy stores, for Pete’s sake—the world as a whole. This is not politics. And it is certainly not social resistance. This is psychosis.
As for the “commercialization of Christmas” that was allegedly the actual “ideological” target of the anarcho-idiots, give me a break. While I don’t expect Greece’s semiliterate (albeit college-educated) left to know who Clement Moore was, you’d think they’d have heard of the American’s contemporary across the ocean, a certain Dickens. Back in New York, the Sun was assuring Virginia O’Hanlon of Santa Claus’s reality in 1897. Finally, the mother of all public Christmas trees, the 75- to 90-footer erected every year in Rockefeller Center, was first put up in 1931 by construction workers, who were then building the complex, as a spontaneous gesture of human sentiment, and decency and grace, and—above all—social solidarity. I mean, what, exactly, is Christmas supposed to be if not celebration and excess and prodigality, which is to say the singular moment in the Christian—make that capitalist—calendar when the most extreme sense of the collective and of social integration is actually honored, even if only temporarily and with almost universal insincerity? It genuinely is a wonderful life for those few days out of the year when we delude ourselves into believing the best about ourselves.
The torched Christmas tree in Plateia Syntagmatos was replaced, and torched again, and replaced again, and then covered by garbage by Greece’s young revolutionaries, and then, finally, placed under armed guard—in the end, 2,500 to 5,000 (!) riot police were assigned to protect the square, according to some media reports. Among the many things I’ve come to hate about this country, the Greek left is now very near the top of the list.
Postscript: Between finishing this piece and posting it, I went out to buy a newspaper, and passed by that vintage-toy shop—or, rather, where the toyshop used to be because I discovered that it’s no longer there. It’s been replaced by a jewelry store. Another jewelry store. Exactly what Kolônaki, and the world, needed. It seems that the revolutionary vandals were successful, after all. All power to the imagination.
(To be continued)