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.
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
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
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
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.