A few weeks ago, Greece witnessed one of the most interesting military parades in the last decades. A few female students in Athens decided to do a “silly walk” during the parade for the October 28th national celebration. That meant that instead of parading in a strict soldieresque way, they decided to walk out of balance, like out of tune wooden soldiers. They were protesting, in their way, the military parades that all students have to do at school. This not only caused a public outrage in the eyes of the Greek nationalists, who demanded that the teachers who allowed this “abomination” of a parade be fired, but from the leftists of the country as well. It has caused national outrage from the leftists of the country, because they think it’s ridiculous that in 2019 we still have military parades, when all they do is alienate any foreign person that lives in Greece. More importantly, they remind the Greek veterans of the horrors of war.
PTSD has multiple effects on soldiers coming back from war, some of them being the inability to feel positive, or the feeling of constant fear, anger, guilt etc. PTSD also makes them walk in a “weird” way, seen by some, a kind of spastic way of walking. One of the reasons these girls decided to protest the military parades was the growing nationalistic sentiment in Greece, and the fact that more and more people expect the youth to be behaving, communicating and dressing in a military way. Like little soldiers.
However, the question arises, why does Greece insist on keeping these military parades? Is it to commemorate the national holidays, is it to pay our respect to the fallen of the war? Or is it to prove, in the case of my beloved Greece, our nationalistic feelings?
This week is the eve of another national commemoration, that of the 17th of November, when there was a massive student uprising and demonstration at the National Technical University of Athens in 1973. Students protested the Greek military junta of 1967-1974 which escalated into an anti-junta revolt and ended in tragic bloodshed after a tank crashed through the gates of the University. On the eve of this national commemoration, it is unimaginable to think that nationalistic sentiments are still strong within the Greek community, yet this week a few policemen terrorized students who were peacefully demonstrating in the University of Economics in Athens. The policemen stressed that “You think this is a democracy? This is a junta” after they forcefully undressed and attacked a girl that was in a club they decided to raid on another colorful occasion of police brutality. Maybe the militaristic feelings never left the country.
However, lately more and more students in Greece decide to opt out of the military parades during their high school years, myself included. The reason is sometimes boredom, but in most cases, I’d like to think, it might be the absurdity of the continuance of these parades. If you ask the older generations, most of the people don’t want to see the younger generations, or anyone really, doing these parades, because it reminds them of the horrible things they went through during the wars. Horrible things they went through which they wished their children and grandchildren would not have to go through. The Greek national holiday of the 28th of October is a commemoration of the “NO” that Greece said to Italian fascism for Christ’s sake, and now Greek fascists are on the rise again. What the heck.
Time and time again there had been a national uproar, when the best student of the school that held the Greek flag happened to be black, Albanian or “different” in any way than the “regular” Greek kid. Were they not worthy of the Greek flag? Most of these kids were even born in Greece, but even if they weren’t, they are Greek, they just happen to come from a different background.
These archaic traditions that only emphasize the nationalistic and militaristic character of a country, separating that way “us” and “them” have to be eliminated before we fall into the trap of another major conflict that might cost innocent lives. Ours and theirs. Schools should never be a place of political propaganda; schools should be a place that all children feel heard, seen and worthy. We send our children to school, so that they gain all the knowledge and tools they need to become the best versions of themselves. We send them to school to become better than us. To make better choices than the ones we made. We might have destroyed their planet but let’s not destroy their lives even more.
There are other ways to commemorate the fallen, which do not involve strict dress codes and military parades that force the students to behave in the way the Greek nationalists want them to. Children are not little soldiers and should not be brainwashed and force fed militaristic and fascist propaganda from kindergarten. They deserve to make up their own minds, in their own time. In Poland, when they want to commemorate their fallen, they stand still and silent for one minute to show their respect. Not a single soul is moving. Things would be so much easier if we followed Poland’s specific example.