Yesterday while visiting a neighborhood grandmother who is recovering from surgery, I witnessed a truly horrifying scene. The grandmother’s son, who knows I ran for office on the Green Party ticket in the recent elections, stormed onto the terrace, pointed his finger at me, and said with a vengeance, “You should know that everyone is going to be voting for the Golden Dawn from now on.” The Golden Dawn is the fascist neo-Nazi party that won 18 seats in the Greek Parliament and now claims the loyalty of nearly 10% of the Greek people. Golden Dawn members and supporters have (allegedly) been involved in hundreds of violent attacks on illegal and legal immigrants since the June elections. The police have done little so far to stop these attacks, perhaps because many of them support the Golden Dawn.
“We can’t go on like this,” my neighbor continued, “we must do something.” When his sister-in-law and I responded, “Violence is not the answer,” he got just got angrier. “Children today have no respect for their elders,” he continued. “We need to go back to the 1950’s when children were disciplined by being hit,” he shouted, swinging his arm towards us to demonstrate. “Do you know what happened yesterday,” he screamed, “Three boys came into my shop and only one of them ordered a sandwich. I brought him a glass of water. One of the other boys insisted that I was required by law to bring him water too.” “I agree with you that many children in this village do not respect others,” his sister-in-law enjoined, “but hitting them will not solve the problem.”
At this point, the man stretched his left hand out and started to mime hitting it with his other hand. “Do you know how we learned in school,” he screamed, “the teachers hit us with a stick on our knuckles if we didn’t pay attention.” “That’s right,” the grandmother chimed in, stretching out her hand and nearly striking herself with the other, “that’s how we learned.” By this time my heart was pounding. Like the grandmother and her son, I was remembering in my body the violence that had been inflicted on me as a child. “Don’t you feel sorry for the child that you were?” I interjected feebly. “Absolutely not,” the grandmother and her son replied in one voice, “we deserved it.” As the two of them got more and more worked up, the quiet protestations the sister-in-law and I attempted to interject were totally ignored. Rolling our eyes, we got up from the table where we had been sitting. The grandmother’s youngest son was hiding in the kitchen. As I left by a side door, I said to him, “How did you grow up in that family and turn out so differently?” He had no idea.
One of the principles of the Green Party is “nonviolence” or as it is translated into Greek, “no violence.” The encounter described above redoubled my conviction that we must address and comfort the cowering child within ourselves and our neighbors, if we are to have any hope of changing the world. Violence against children begetting violence in public and political life is not a “Greek” problem. It underlies politics in almost every country in the world.
Carol P. Christ, a founding mother in the study of women and religion, feminist theology, women’s spirituality, and the Goddess movement, has been active in peace and justice movements all of her adult life. She teaches online courses in the Women’s Spirituality program at CIIS. Her books include She Who Changes and Rebirth of the Goddess and the widely used anthologies Womanspirit Rising and Weaving the Visions. One of her great joys is leading Goddess Pilgrimages to Crete through Ariadne Institute.