Inspired by the example of actress and humanitarian Susan Sarandon, Koutofrangos drove through the night, braving fog and the vagaries of long-haul lorry drivers on the Italian Autostrada, to board the last Igoumenitsa-bound ferry from Ancona to ‘bear witness’ to Greece’s ignominious ongoing decline into depravity.
Already horrified by reports from my informants that a member of Parliament spoke authoritatively about recently-arrived migrants from Pakistan having an unusual attachment to their goats, I was braced for the worst as I entered Athens.
Nothing, however, could prepare me for the shock of seeing gangs of street youth – boys and girls alike – going from door-to-door in a brazen shake-down of the elderly. This on Christmas Eve, no less. The streets have been crawling with urchins since dawn, clearly working under duress by foreign organised crime bosses, wielding menacing metal triangles and iron rods, pounding on doors and demanding cash from the already-depleted unemployed and beleaguered pensioners. Even casual observation revealed the elderly – those abandoned or forgotten by family – being accosted on street corners and in modest kafeneios.
This pitiful spectacle was made all the more horrifying by the fact that many of the youth – doubtless kidnapped and press-ganged into common criminality – wore red and white Santa hats, in a perverse and sickening show of blasphemy towards the holiday. The degree of organisation entailed by this mass extortion racket was evidenced by pick-up trucks cruising the streets, Christmas carols blaring from loudhailers to drown out the cries for help of victims, an adult ‘Santa’ directing the street gangs to their next victim. With no police visible anywhere, the streets of Athens have at long last truly become a jungle.
[You may want to read this before going to press – Ed.]
All of the above is of course imagined, apart from the external links which are 100% genuine.
Image: photo by Koutofrangos, somewhere in Athens, 24 December 2015.