By Patricia H Kushlis
Just last week, a member of Golden Dawn, a Greek neo-Fascist political organization that has been expanding exponentially in recent months, stabbed to death Pavlos Fyssas, a leftist hip-hop singer outside a cafeteria in a working class suburb of Athens. The voices his murderer responded to may have been external but their message was certainly internalized and acted upon viciously in a pique of rage.
The voices in this Greek extremist’s head likely came from or were triggered by Golden Dawn’s virulent demagoguery, a political extremist movement that threatens to tear the country apart. Giorgos Roupakias, the 45 year old man arrested for this murder has, according to Greek police, confessed to both the crime and his connections to Golden Dawn and the Greek government is considering outlawing the party. This has been, according to the Athens daily, To Vima, the 300th case of violence perpetrated by Golden Dawn in the past three years.
Golden Dawn, now the third largest party in the country, is the latest version of the juntists who took power in Greece in April 1967 as democracy crumbled. These colonels (who then promoted themselves to generals) ran the country until 1974 before going down in a blaze of colossal ultra-nationalist mismanagement of the country’s foreign affairs over Cyprus. The result: Turkish military occupation of Northern Cyprus that continues today.
Today Golden Dawn’s demons are Communists, socialists and immigrants – people who threaten a perceived Greek social order as the far right wing believes it should be.
This far- right movement’s explosion in popularity is triggered by the country’ severe economic depression now in its fifth year. It should be a warning to the European Union, the IMF and Greece’s conservative leadership that Greek democracy can only be pushed so far before it cracks.
Meanwhile in the US – Different Voices
Shouldn’t we have learned well before now that guns, drugs and schizophrenia don’t mix? Neither, apparently, do US federal government security clearances conducted by private companies combine healthily in the mix either. These clearances – seemingly worth less than the paper they are printed on - have demonstrably failed to protect our government’s physical security - not to mention protect our national secrets.
How many more Snowdens, Mannings or Alexis' are out there lurking in contract agencies with all too much access to state secrets they are not authorized to reveal on the American, let alone the world stage. Or, alternatively, to drive unimpeded onto a major military installation in the country’s capital transporting a sawed off shot gun and then proceeding to embark on an indiscriminate killing spree?
We’re told that, in hindsight, the signs were there. From what I’ve read or seen in the news, Alexis’ symptoms, in particular, were all too apparent beforehand and a lot of investigatory skill or smarts should not have been needed to have figured them out.
Years ago when I was young, I witnessed the ravaging effects of paranoid schizophrenia first hand. One of my aunts, my father’s older and only sister, had developed the disease in her early twenties well before I was a twinkle in anyone’s eye. She was institutionalized because the family simply could not cope with her delusions and bizarre anti-social behavior – it was tearing them apart. And yes, those commanding voices in her head provided the driving force. I witnessed that strange behavior early on when she would be brought home for the holidays. I read her tortured letters and saw her peculiar haunted paintings.
Where those voices came from, or how they became the demons that controlled her sad life, I’ll never know - but at least this country then had a system – as imperfect as it may have been – that kept her away from firearms and liquor and in a place where she was taken care of so she could harm no one. Who knows what those voices would have commanded her to do to right some perceived – or usually misperceived - slight or wrong had she been allowed to wander about on her own.
It was only when she was in her fifties or perhaps sixties that medications had been developed that allowed her to live the rest of her essentially wasted life in a half-way house until she died.
Was hers a recessive gene lurking somewhere in her DNA that struck no one else in the family? Could it have been a strange reaction to an unknown virus that set off those raging mental firestorms? What makes one person succumb to devastating mental illness while others are spared? Medical science has so much more to learn and to tell us before this illness is cured, but let’s face it, her symptoms were obvious even then to a seven year old.
Yet until a cure becomes available, the country needs to deal far more effectively and compassionately with this benighted population beset by their inner demons so, at the very least, they do not turn them on us. A few may even be helped to become contributing members of society with what we know now.
An oped in Friday’s New York Times by Stanford University anthropologist T.M. Luhrmann tells us that research has shown that delusions among America’s delusional are far more violent than those among counterparts in Chennai, India, and that furthermore, there may be more effective treatments than the favored methods – or lack there of - used here now.
Most often the truly violent are young men – not women. In fact, statistics show that more men suffer from paranoid schizophrenia than women.
Despite the fact that we have the libertarians and the all too powerful gun lobby whose members object to the slightest regulation or whiff of personal control, there is a limit to where libertarianism and gun merchants and their acolytes can lead us if we are to live peacefully and productively as a society.
Somehow there needs to be a reinstatement of a modicum of social control and accountability that, at a minimum, keeps lethal weapons out of the hands of our most mentally unstable and better yet, provide them with the care and treatment they need.
A Republican Party that has caved to its libertarian, racist fringe, one that never accepted the fact we have a popularly elected black president and, furthermore, a party that does everything it can to thwart even basic social services, food and medical care for the neediest is a piece of the problem, not the solution.
The voices in their heads combined with the megaphones in their hands are pernicious enablers of a way of life more attuned to nineteenth century’s rural America where families could hide their troubled offspring in the Hollows, than to today’s complex, fast-paced twenty-first century urban and internationalized society that most of us inhabit. The two mindsets, behaviors and social needs mix about as well as oil and water.
I realize that gun control, competent security checks conducted by experienced federal (not contract) security officers, better social services and the restriction of hate rhetoric spewed from the media are no panaceas – they will not cure the mentally ill but they could at least help protect the rest of us from its worst excesses.