“We’re given our life only once, like a unique chance. It’s never going to exist again, at least in this autonomous form. And what do we do with it instead of living it? What do we do? We drag it from place to place, killing it…” (Hronis Missios)
The courts have a unit of their own to count life and freedom by; a unit that uses types and algorithms of the legal language to say what’s fair or unfair, right or wrong, normal or in decline. And in this process where lives and freedoms are being put in the balance of the law, you’re sometimes given the chance to look back; you feel guilty or you don’t. It’s an important moment because whatever you say might pour some more cement around you, it might increase the amount of those moments where the door opens up and closes, perhaps it makes your ear get used even more to the sound of the key turning into the door’s slot, enough to make you think you’ve always been hearing this sound, that there was no morning or evening you didn’t hear this sound at a certain pre-arranged time.
So here we are… For five and a half years I‘ve been hearing that key. Five and a half years that my eyes crash onto the walls. Five and a half years with two sentences (37 and 19 years) and another two coming. And now here in this trial one more. This will be the fifth trial in a row where I wait“to see what will happen to me” or for “my laughter to turn to crying“. And it is again the moment to put a mirror in front of the past and my choices and look back. So I look…
I look and I see myself growing up in the eras of the criminally indifferent, the peaceful monsters. I look and I remember that since childhood I‘ve been told not to delve into things I don’t understand. I remember they tried to teach me that it is wrong to care about things that no one else seemed to care about. I remember, still a young pupil at school, the humanitarian bombings in Kosovo and the various charity organizations coming to schools to convince us that the life of an orphan child in Yugoslavia was worth as much as a Unicef notebook. I remember the nights in my living room watching the gravediggers of the TV show broadcasts counting the number of those killed with such neutrality as if they were presenting the lottery. I remember the humanitarian fashion of adopting children of the so called “third world”, who suffered and died thirsty and hungry somewhere too far away to upset us.
I remember the streets filled with disabled war refugees and other people throwing coins at them as if they were spitting at them. I remember the street children, car drivers cursing the immigrants who were bouncing through traffic to clear windscreens and this… “go back to your owncountry”. I remember the homeless on the corners of the shopping streets, in front of, or just close by, to glitzy storefronts full of useless products manufactured by minors in a factory of a Third World country so that every citizen of the West can enjoy them, and the passersby who just passed with indifference and perhaps a little disturbed that their presence therein disrupted the aesthetics.
I remember the immigrant street-vendors who carried their wares in a sheet and the cops chasing them, beating them and pulling them by the neck dragging them onto the street in front of those passing by who only seemed to be bothered because all that happened in the course of their walk.
I remember entering puberty at the dawn of the millennium. When everybody celebrated and rejoiced just because it was the year 2000 and new editions of computer software were released. I remember most of my classmates not giving a damn about anything other than the new releases of some famous branded clothing, shoes, cellphones and video games. A whole generation spent the concerns of their adolescence in expensive garbage feeling happy, for they had the opportunity to spend money for that garbage. A whole generation learned to have fun watching stupid reality Big Brother-type shows where human dignity was voluntarily eliminated for a little publicity and some money was a prize, while at the same time it rained steel and death in the Middle East in the name of the war against terrorism.
It was a time when the morale and the background of values of the society was equivalent to that of the most stinking toilet. It was the time of there solved social issues. Stock exchange, entry to the Euro, dismantling of terrorism and the opening of the most solemn period: the preparation of the proud 2004 Olympics. Athens was modernized following the standards ofthe European metropolises; public transports were upgraded with metro, tram and new eco-buses, while they created new road networks to avoid wasting so many acres of burned forests during the previous summer-arsons. It was the opening of a long tourist season and they somehow had to upgrade the country roads, to make all kinds of brothels more accessible, as it is where the real holy spirit of the new Greek culture was highlighted, where the honored Greek peasantry spent their European subsidies, as in the rape of thousands of female immigrants of the former Eastern bloc, and the Greek housewives obtained a new national identity in the modern social environment, as they shared the same common concern “the sluts came to steal our men”. I remember the vulgar carelessness of that era. When the immigrants who drowned in the Aegean sea were not that many to appear in the news and at a push the politicians gave lifejackets to the children that survived from shipwrecks. The concentration camps for immigrants were fewer then; the killings and torture there did not reach so often to the outside and if they did there was only a slight reference just so as not to upset viewers. So…who cared that the construction sites of the Olympic facilities were built on the corpses of migrant workers due to the hundreds of accidents, in order to be delivered on time so that the public can watch doped athletes winning medals, it was a beautiful Greek summer where everyonediscovered the hidden charm of being Greek. It was then when the people full of national furore flooded the cities’ squares to celebrate the victories of the national soccer team in huge gatherings, shouting with one voice and one soul. It was the summer of proud Greece and nothing seemed to displease the “People” apart from the celebrations of Albanian immigrants at the win of their own national team. The locals were swept by holy indignation as “not only the Albanian children steal the flag in parades from our own ones, but they also have the nerve to stultify us in our own squares”. A holy indignation that caused a nationwide pogrom which apart from costing the life of at least one immigrant led to the injuries of hundreds of others. The social feeling of that era was not affected by the fact that we were heading towards a “control and surveillance society” with the so much advertised zeppelins with cameras seeing through walls and traffic cameras recognizing biometric features sprouting everywhere, but it could get people out on the streets with knives and shotguns due to their wounded “national pride”.
For me, it was the moment when something would break forever inside me and I would jump to the opposite coast. Because it’s not only that all this and even worse was happening, but mainly the total social indiferrence and silence. Since my very own childhood I remember asking and asking and asking… About the bombings on TV, the children in Africa, the homeless, the beggars, the immigrants, the police violence, and the answer cold, raw, cynical “it happens”. So simple. As if it was about a natural disaster, an earthquake or a flood. The young and the old, they were all using the same answer everywhere “it happens”, and the most rude ones, added “ok and what do you want me to do now?”. When I look back at that summer of 2004, I see myself disgusted and enraged with the world around me, with the will to move against it. Yes I‘m guilty for this. You can convict me for this. Because since very early I commited the crime of looking straight to the heart of this world and saw it being rotten, and since then I would never be the same again. I wouldn’t find peace anywhere if I didn’t do something, whatever, even if all by myself. From that moment on, I swore to myself that in this society I will always be an anarchist, an antisocial element fighting for the destruction of the civilization that gives birth to so much misery.
On November 17 2004, it’s the first time I took part in a demonstration with the organised anarchist block. A celebration that was controlled by the communist party (KKE) every year, and back in 1973 it had been condemned as an act provocation, something they were saying throughout the years that followed the junta when there were riots, proving KKE is a hostile, sneaky mechanism that has to be hit, because contrary to the clear enemies, the KKE pretends to be revolutionary. It was my first contact with the anarchists, the first time I smelled tear gas, the first time I saw riot police lynching demonstrators. I knew I was where I had to be.
Since then, only a few things have changed inside me. The hatred has settled down, matured and sharpened so as to be more effective. Not only did I not give up year by year but my first detentions, my first contact with the handcuffs a few months after November 17, strengthened my hatred. Persecuted like many others of my age from the parks and squares of our neighborhoods due to urban repression (which apart from a cataclysm of coffeshops that totally changed the regions where we grew up, the days only contained daily detentions, arrests, bullying at the local police stations). I started getting to know Exarchia. A place that I really felt it was pulsing. You thought that even the walls, the narrow streets exuded a feeling of rebellion. It was there where many of us met, we got to know each other and felt free from the oppression we felt in our own neighborhoods that had been forced to be modernized, upgraded and become so commercial and touristic that there was no room for us there. In Exarchia we felt like we were breathingin an air of freedom. We were not afraid to be arrested by a police patrol while hanging out on the street, at the square or at a narrow street. Many times, in order to get to Exarchia we risked facing police inspections by the squads of riot police and the cops surrounding the place and nevertheless we continued going there, learning how to approach the square while avoiding the police forces.
It was only a matter of time for me to begin to be part of the small or big insurrectional events that make this area special and famous, even abroad. Within these events very often there was neither targeted nor clear political strategy, no nothing. It was a simple, genuine expression of rage that reflected the oppression everyone of us received wherever we came from. Many times, things that obviously could not be the subject of a political project, were destroyed. Besides, what these insurrectionary events really were, was small, jerky, disjointed personal uprisings of a youth that perceived the metropolis in its entirety as a cage in which it suffocated and just as an enraged beast tries to destroy its cage we also destroyed everything we considered as an organic part of the metropolis-prison. Not because we would achieve something. Not because the state would fall. Not because we would send a message. And obviously not because we were nihilists. It was a subconscious insurrectionary purification as we wielded satisfaction from injuring the nerve endings of a metropolis-monster that we felt strangled our existence. That’s why now all these “elders“, the “experts”, the “veterans”, who in their own phase did the same and even worse, should bow their heads and listen to the pulse of this insurgent youth and what it has to offer, and see how they can pass on their own experiences so as to help having some conscious evolution and perspective. But if instead, they choose the easy solution of criticism, irony, derision and threats in order to be consistent with their conversion and transformation, marking a turn to the alleged quality of their aged political maturity, then they should first start by themselves. They should retrospectively make their self-critique and then let any threats begin. Because self-critique is not enough.
Following this, overcoming my initial excitement, I tried to pass from spontaneous insurrectionary outbreaks, to more organized groupings where I could collectivize my denials with other people who feel and think like me. So, constantly searching my way through procedures, groupings and conspiratorial networks I joined the Conspiracy of Cells of Fire and become an urban guerilla. During all these years I broke, I burned, I looted and I blew up as many symbols as possible of this disgusting civilization in whose name I am a prisoner and now go from trial to trial…
This was my way until prison with a small passage from the aggressive illegality where I chose my recourse as I wanted, not only to avoid captivity but also because I wanted to remain in an offensive stance against domination, as well. Looking back on then, I not only regret nothing, and I am proud of my choices.
I chose to be an anarchist because I believe in the destruction of all forms of power, explicit or implicit and I am determined to fight against every authoritarian alternative, no matter what mantle it uses each time. I am an anarchist because I believe in the absolute freedom of the individual and the free life that can be opened in front of such a prospect.
I chose to be an individualist because in a world where the rottenness reaches every aspect of social life I had no other choice, but I also consider that social legalization is a useless luxury and in no way a prerequisite for chosing my action. Some things cannot pass, no matter how many texts we give, how many posters we stick, how many interventions we do. The sensitivity, the interest for the injustice that occurs somewhere near or far away, are characteristics of the particular idiosyncrasy of each and everyone of us, just like indifference, intolerance and fear of the different. What many are afraid to admit to themselves is that behind every attitude to life, a free will may be in hiding. It is a common characteristic of all bigotry and obsessions that their followers always believe that all others are victims, deluded and deceived, the lost sheep constantly seeking for the good shepherd. This is because they feel terror when facing the idea that there may be people who freely choose to keep a distance from the dogmas that they themselves fanatically support.
I chose to be a nihilist, not because I do not believe in social revolution but because the only social revolution that I would be interested in is the one that would take place by conscious anarchist individualities. Besides, it’s the only possible way for an authentic anarchist revolution. Anything different moves towards other logics. Those that talk about pioneers, armed parties, leaderships, transitional stages, and other similar things, stand far from anarchy. This is utopian say several malevolent ones. Perhaps that’s why lately a shift in pragmatist realism which starts talking more and more the very language of the pioneers and the transitional stages, has been observed. Perhaps they’ve persuaded themselves that Anarchy is a utopian ideal and adopted more realistic revolutionary proposals. For me though, nothing has changed. Let anarchy be an utopia. I’d rather remain consciously on the sidelines, along with all those lunatics, the insubordinates, the antisocial, the provocative, the romantic and angry dreamers.
So I am a nihilist because I believe that only through the total destruction of civilization, and its ethics and values, that something really new can be born. And I am willing to fight to the end for this destruction.
I chose to become an urban guerilla to practice my desires, to arm my denials against this world. I have no illusion that my actions and my choices “touched” the world because most people have learned to be immune to any emotion that is not caused by television. Maybe I could arouse their interest if I was someone who promised a quiet and comfortable life with safety and prosperity. Because these are the values that modern subordinates worship, and of course they are as miserable as the civilization who gives birth and reproduces them. So I chose to become an urban guerrilla because for me it was an existential escape from the void world of organized putrefaction. I did not make this choice because it was the best, the most effective or objectively the more appropriate choice for a revolutionary but exactly because we’re given our life only once and personally, I did not want to drag it here and there killing it every day. Furthermore I do not believe in the prospect of a planned post-revolutionary future and so I don’t see the urban guerrilla as the most appropriate form of action for the “Revolution” but I understand it instead as a practical and continuous total denial of the existing world, as one piece of an overall mosaic where the anarchist denials find thousands of ways to meet.
This is my review of my choices so far. Concerning the present, I‘m again accused of a planned organized prison-break attempt. For a conspiracy intended to blow up the external walls of Korydallos prison and the escape of the members of the Conspiracy of Cells of Fire. The project was set, the explosives and weapons were ready, but luck was not on our side. The hiding places, the armor and the explosives came into the enemy’s hands, the chase begins and we saw successive arrests follow. Arrests of people unrelated and unknown to us, but also arrests of people we know, friends and relatives, all of them charged with accusations for terrorism, a charge which in the case of the latter will be founded on the occasion of the arrest of the anarchist Angeliki Spyropoulou. The state machine unfolds its revanchism. It’s not important that this attempt failed or that it was thwarted, since now they know what a determined anarchist minority, who wants to risk their own lives to live freely, is prepared to do, with the possibility to be able to attack again.
Because there is nothing more beautiful than risking your life to be able, free, to attack all over again with the same rage against the monster of modern totalitarian society, where the predetermined life requires everyone to think the same, to live the same, to fall in love the same, and to die the same way. But since much has been said and perhaps even more will be told, I feel the need to make clear in advance the following:
What always pushed me, after some point, in my choices, my actions and my decisions, was an inner urge to oppose every authority, an impulse which later became conscious and got armed. Just like I refused to be a well-working gear of the social machine that’s grinding human lives and souls into a chopper, I will always refuse to be a disposable unit that will serve the plans and ambitions of others. Obviously, the life I have chosen is a risky one. With risks that sometimes obey and sometimes do not, to reason. But when someone lets others decide the risks that he/she will take (due to technical or other difficulties) then one stops being a anarchist individuality and becomes again a gear in some other kind of machine that baptizes as timidity and excuses, anything that goes beyond its control. So I say that I could burn my life, throw it all in the fire even for the most absurd and self-destructive risks, as long as it would be my choice and I’d have with me real and original comrades who would consider me as equal to them. Of course, they should sincerely acknowledge the inequality of the stakes and not try to make an emotional decision out of an objectively correct one. Because obviously in life there are not only cold calculations but also the strong and comradely feelings between real brothers and not only (brothers)in words. So never again …
Therefore it’s not possible for me to fit into this world. I will always have this unceasing hatred against it, that pushes me almost simultaneously to constantly attacking it. It is like a unquenchable thirst for revenge. Revenge for our dreams that are being strangled. Revenge for the everyday execution of our wishes which are replaced by ads for shampoos and cellphones.
I don’t see the reality we live in as ugly because I’ve read some academic works or some kind of philosophical writings. It is ugly because it is the synthesis of thousands of millions of crimes in the name of power. And whoever doesn’t do anything against this reality, whatever, whoever stays inactive, is not just someone with a different opinion but an accomplice in this barbarity. Because mass silence, mass tolerance, mass indifference has always been the matrix of the most nightmarish moments in history. So I will not feel guilty because I’ve chosen a different insurgent life. I’m not elitist because I decided not to be an accomplice. I do not consider that I am superior to others, more clever, more skilful, on the contrary I think we’re at the same level and therefore I consider the mass as even more guilty for their criminal indifference. This indifference, this apathy is not different from the attitude of those who lived next to Nazi concentration camps going on normally with their lives, going normally to work, dining normally at their family tables, making love normally in their bedrooms as if nothing was happening, while at the same outside of their homes, the Holocaust horror was taking place. This silence is complicity. It was then, it is now and it will always be either in the big or in the small crimes of power. Because it’s not that “it happens” just like that. That happens when we, each one of us separately and all together, allow it. This responsibility is not something that’s lost in the crowd, we all have it because no one has the right not to take part in history unless one has fully renounced anything that has to do with the world.
That’s why I know I’m right. In this world therefore, in this society, it is a title of honor for me not an insult, to be considered an antisocial element. Because if choosing to be human in an era where the monsters wear the mask of peaceful and respectable citizens, makes me an antisocial element, then I’m willing to fully honor this title. Because I‘ve chosen the side of the anarchist revolt and no court (and you have already done many of them so far) will not make me repent for who I chose to be. We are representatives of two different worlds and I would have no hesitation to empty in cold blood a gun into your head for what you are, just like you have no hesitation to bury me under tons of cement, for what I am. And yet I don’t regret anything. In illegality at my 21 years, in prison since my 22, I already count nearly six years in captivity with an unknown perspective of exit, as both in this and in all other trials, everything is possible. I know that the years I have lost and those I‘m going to lose can not be replenished. It is valuable life time that evaporates within four walls. It is a lifetime where your own people are being crammed into the prison corridors to visit you, sometimes traveling many kilometres to arrive. It is an exclusion of the senses because all the senses are trapped in the dimensions of grey. It’s the slow death of desires, as you miss, you miss, you miss… Millions of obvious everyday things anyone can do at any time, a walk under the stars or in a forest’s glade, a swim in the sea, a loving embrace, you miss all of them. And as the“bill” of the trials rises, the time you feel this deprivation is lengthened. Nevertheless I prefer this life a thousand times to any other, more pleasant, more safe ones. Moreover I did not fall from the clouds. I knew from the beginning that the power is not gentle towards those who dare to challenge and fight it. However it was not my courage that made me choose this path, but my hatred for the situation around us. A hatred that helped me overcome every fear, every hesitation. It was this deeper inner assurance that I cannot be the one who’s wrong and not all the obedients who are swimming in the mud of their indifference.
Choosing anarchist conspiratorial actions I’ve helped a bit in disturbing order, tranquility, normality. And if I claimed responsibility for my participation in the Conspiracy of Cells of Fire, it was because it comes in the life some of us have chosen, that at the moment of arrest and depending on the case and the arrest conditions, it is necessary to show that conspirational action is not carried out by ghosts but by humans with a name and surname. Real people, with a life left behind, separated from their loved ones, and with a life standing by in the waiting room for whenever…
So I claimed responsibility not because I’m an one-dimensional being with only the identity of being a member of the Conspiracy of Cells of Fire, -besides I was also an active member of other processes of the anarchist movement (illegal or not)-, but because the opposite, by not claiming responsibility at the time of my arrest, I thought that would reduce the value of the conspiratorial actions. Certainly, I would have been treated in a more favorable way, but my personal dignity would have been injured. Because if an anarchist conspirator caught in the act tries through legal maneuvers to avoid further “weights” then what comes out is that actually we are people who easily find things difficult. Therefore claiming responsibility is not something we choose for some kind of posterity, as this would go against the spirit of anarchist conspiracy. The responsibility claim is only necessary when it’s worth showing that the anarchist attack is not an abstract conception but that it takes the form of a physical confrontation with the state as an entity. An individual stance where the subject is able to face with strength, laws, “anti-terror” laws, public order and justice ministries, courts, prisons and guardians, without fear.
In closing, with the occasion of this trial, I want to project some thoughts which were forged in the dark of some harsh moments that left some deeply engraved conclusions which I hope I won’t leave unused in the future.
Many times it happens, due to the excitement and the enthusiasm that’s caused by the extreme life we have chosen, a confrontational life full of excesses, to become absolute. So intoxicated by the absoluteness that we derived from our own excesses, we come to justify to ourselves this attitude and attribute to it the moral advantage of our consistency.
But what happens when there comes the moment when you realize with the most extreme way that you are not the consistency-monster you want others to believe and that you think you are?
What happens when looking in the mirror you see that not only you have extreme contradictions, but they are too many, that you’re swimming in them, that you’re drowning in them?
Then not only you lose your moral advantage over others, but you really start questioning deep inside who you are. Are you really who you say you are or have you simply turned into someone with weapons and explosives, who, fooled by a false image of himself, is trapped within his own contradictions?
The answer is never simple. And it doesn’t only require a self-critique however hard it may be because self-critique if it doesn’t start in turning oneself into another, to a different life‘s attitude, could easily serve something else, some tactics, a target or even your own illusions. That’s why for me the absoluteness is a bad advisor when you’ve already seen what extreme contradictions you may find yourself in, no matter how consistent you want to be with him yourself. The most important thing we should always remind ourselves is that whatever we do, whatever we sacrifice, it is not a reason to brag or self-praise. You are consistent when you realize that your sacrifice is a personal choice of selflessness and not a medal or a rank in the hierarchy of the guerrilla struggle. When you learn to handle your contradictions with dignity and humility so as to be able to show understanding of the contradictions of others.
The truth is that if you do not learn anything from the harsh and bitter lessons that life brings, then the extreme arrogance will make you even more absolute on one hand and even more submerged in your contradictions on the other.
An attitude that can make you forget things that should never be forgotten: the day that someone opened his door for you when noone else did while you were being chased, the day when someone came in to take you out of prison, the times when someone risked dying for you or when someone even made his life available for you. These are things that should never be forgotten whatever the distance between people.
So when your past is not as clean as you would like, you owe it to your own self to be more modest from now on. To move carefully, because you never know when you will need to face a future contradiction again, deriving from the fact that you don’t give up, that you continue on the same path, moving steadily towards the direction you have long now chosen.
No resignation therefore, no repentance, no retreat…
I still remain in a battle position with the continuous anarchist rebellion forever in my heart.
Long live the Conspiracy of Cells of Fire!
Long live the Informal Anarchist Federation / International Revolutionary Front!
For the Insurrectionary Association of Theory and Practice!
Everything goes on…
Panagiotis Argyrou – Member of the Conspiracy of Cells of Fire / FAI-IRF.
Translated by A-politiko/espivblogs.net