“How To Survive A Plague,” David France’s documentary about the early days of AIDS activism, blew the roof off any I-can’t-change-the-world—or my homeland, Greece—beliefs of mine. Ten minutes into the film, as startling as it may sound, I saw something bigger than AIDS. Whether the enemy is social stigma, sickness, drug access and exorbitant costs, or today’s Greek law-making, finance, tax and unions’ corruption, firepowers like Peter Staley, Mark Harrington and Jim Eigo (featured in the documentary) could simply hand me a manual on how to win uneven battles. Sold, I thought. But when “Naked But Safe” magazine asked for my angle on civil disobedience, I realized that there was little to arbitrage between gay advocacy in New York, thirty years ago, and Greece today. AIDS made people come out, something that gave them power and nerve. “Effective activism needs honesty which builds solidarity. You are fighting for justice,” Eigo told me. Although Greek journalists (including Kostas Vaxevanis who published names of 2000 suspected tax evaders) blame the Greek oligarchs for corrupting Greece, often it takes two to tango: During the last 30 years we swapped our votes for government-sponsored salaries, and the Greek middle class looked the other way when it came to tax evasion and racial profiling. Decades of corruption and chauvinism have consequences, there is no such thing as free lunch. Today in Greece we may be fighting for survival but I’m not sure that we believe we are fighting for social justice too. And that reduces solidarity. Makes grassroots movements weaker.
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