Over the month or so that I spent in Athens I saw hundreds of foreign correspondents from all over the world pass through Syntagma Square. The day after the elections, however, the front pages of all the newspapers were exactly the same. All of Europe rejoiced, relieved. “Everything must change in order for everything to remain the the same” I suppose.
A photographer friend of mine who also spent time in Greece sent me his finished work. It troubled me. His photographs seemed identical to all the others. Identical to mine. The same as those of every Tom, Dick and Harry who attempted the difficult task of recounting the crisis through images. I don’t mean to be misunderstood or to judge anybody. I am no better than anyone else, but at least I am asking myself the question. Why did we all take the exact same photographs?
A tramp lying in the road; a passerby walking in front of a bank; a young person waving the flag of one or another poitical camp; An abandoned shipyard; A rusty boat; A soup kitchen. Syntagma Square and the parliament from which in the distant year 1843 the first Greek constitution was announced. That’s what Syntagma means: constitution. Which brings me back to the main point: the importance of questions. What, then, I ask, does “crisis” mean?
Crisis. From the greek krino, to separate.
That is to separate in the broader sense, as every instance of analysis and understanding requires a crucial moment for change to occur.
Crisis, in fact, implies a break that needs to be analysed so as to avoid a defeat. What I saw in Greece has nothing to do with the word crisis. I see more of a link to the word stasis. And by stasis I mean both the modern concept of “lack of movement and immobility” as well as the even more appropriate original meaning of “ lack of equilibrium in the political struggle” from subversion to civil war. Stasis, in fact, at the time of the polis, meant the breakdown of politics. And stasis-or stagnation if we want to see it from the economic perspective-inevitably leads to catastrophe. From the Greek: κατα (downwards) στροφÎ® (to turn). To sink.
Perhaps that is why none of us can find a way to describe the crisis, that is because it is not really a crisis. This is collapse.
The only way we have to describe catastrophe is to look for some poor representational substitutes. The collapse of the hopes of an entire continent is impossible to represent. Our poor dear old Europe.