In Germany, it was the mysterious visage of imagined ancient Nordic supremacy, a chiseled face both beautiful and determined, intricate and hard. In Japan, it was the compelling vision of the Samurai tradition; unwavering courage in the face of death, romantic and inspiring and undefeatable in will and resolution. In Bosnia, it was the false-memory of a Golden Age of dominance from years past, a time or kings and knights when Serbs were the greatest and most respected people in the region.
Fascism has always needed an ideal to look for, a perfect model, accompanied by a scapegoat. In Greece right now, a fast-growing political party, the “Golden Dawn,” has risen to power under the powerful nationalistic image of Leonidas and the indomitable Spartans. Their selected scapegoats are immigrants, and they aren’t afraid to show it.
“If an employer wants to blackmail you, he threatens to call Golden Dawn,” said Javet Aslam in a documentary of the movement posted by The Guardian in late October. A Pakistani community leader, Aslam says that the Golden Dawn thugs aren’t afraid to use violence. “He gets them to beat you up. Gangs of fascists often beat up workers who demand their rights.”
For Abu Zeid Mubarak, an Egyptian fisherman, this sort of beating nearly turned deadly. “There were around 20 of them, all dressed in black. They kicked my face. I had to have metal plates implanted. I spent 27 days in hospital. Even now, I can only drink liquids and eat yogurt…They blame us for the crisis in this country. We haven’t created this crisis. We work hard; we earn our money just like the 55,000 Greeks that live in Egypt. They should find those who kill and steal. We work to earn our money like anyone else.”
Nikolaos Michaloliakos’ party bears symbolic and visual resemblance to the Nazi Party of Germany in addition to their behavioral similarities to the brown-shirts and black-shirts. Their flag looks remarkably like a swastika, their shaved heads and black shirts strongly suggesting inspiration from the SS, and their flare-wielding salutes are a spitting image of the gesture we all now associate with the phrase, “Hail Hitler!”
It’s worth noting that this new party isn’t the first to look to their Greek ancestors for inspiration – Hitler was another fan of Spartan government. Among the first practitioners of eugenics, the Spartans only made up about 10% of the population of Sparta – the rest was a slave class whose members were called “helots,” who were kept in bondage by their ferociously militaristic captors. The coming-of-age ceremony for young Spartan warriors was to kill a Helot without being caught.
With the backing of the Greek Orthodox Church and the police, the increasingly popular Golden Dawn seems poised to take political control of the entire nation, by election or by force. While there are plenty of national and international issues to contend with – Syria and Palestine come to mind – it would be a mistake to ignore Greece in our international efforts to restore the economy and work towards a more peaceful global community.
The old saying, “All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing” could not be more necessary and true than it is today.