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Fear and loathing in Exarchia
Had dinner in Exarchia tonight, at Lacantina.
… what, take photos at Exarchia?! OF COURSE NOT! THEY MIGHT HAVE KILLED ME!!!!
Ok, not really, but yes, those of our party that had not been to Exarchia before entered it with some trepidation. The place has quite the reputation.
Exarchia is Athens’ long-standing haunt of people’s anarchocommunist collectives, where cops have just as long been reluctant to go in. Heavy policing nowadays, though only in bits of it.
That aside, Exarchia is what you’d stereotypically expect it to be: shabby in a way that elsewhere would look chic, but here in Athens just looks even dirtier than usual; lots of graffiti and political posters; lots of political bookstores; lots of co-op and street food places; lots of young people hanging out, sitting on the sidewalk. Lacantina was consistent with that atmosphere, and would not have looked out of place in Melbourne’s Fitzroy.
(My readers may have noticed by now that I am not exactly a fire-breathing leftist. So my response to the values of Exarchia is not one of enthusiastic approval.)
One of the delicate balancing acts the long-term anarchists of Exarchia have had is that they aren’t the only people living there: there are run-of-the-mill civilians there too, and those committed to the long-term presence of Exarchia as a model alternative have had to be careful not to antagonise the civilians too much, but be seen by them as their allies.
Which meant that when militants started smashing up the local butcher’s windows a decade ago, and decrying spisismos (speciesism), not all the Exarchia anarchists thought this was a great idea. (The revelation for me was: not all contemporary Greek anarchists revere every single thing the Greek proletariat does, as used to be the expectation: certainly not their love of lamb chops.)
I did see one older guy lovingly crafting a bouzouki in a workshop, tonight: that was as close as I got to noticing a civilian. Exarchia was a lot quieter and less crowded than I expected.
The other thing that astonished me about Exarchia is that it is precisely the next district along after Kolonaki, residence of the PM and renowned hoity-toity district.
If the anti-authority forces actually wanted to cause serious disruption, they wouldn’t have to walk that far to do it. If they wanted to, as opposed to whatever it is they actually do within Exarchia. The district has for a while (though apparently not recently) been run through a tacit agreement: the cops don’t go in, the anarchists don’t go out…