Article by Th. Georgakopoulos: This is the video

When French police officer Florian Menesplier shot dead the 17-year-old Naël Merzouk in Nanterre last June, triggered a wave of reactions and demonstrations which shook the whole of French society. When in May 2020 the American police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on the neck of the 46-year-old man george floyd Until Floyd’s death, it sparked a wave of backlash and protests that shook the entire world.

A single detail linked these two cases of criminal arbitrariness: the riots and reactions were not triggered by the events themselves, but by the way they were known. They became universal and popular – even international – because we all saw the video. No excuses, no “official position”, no cover-up, no questioning on the part of the authorities, no press release with legalistic language from public relations offices stood up to the pure truth of a video which was clearly broadcast on the screens around the world. exactly what happened.

What would have happened if the video of the murder of the 36-year-old passenger in the “Blue Horizon” the other day; You don’t need a lot of imagination. We know what would have happened. Basically, we saw what happened.

The boat moved away from the body of the man thrown into the sea and began its journey as if nothing had happened. He walked carelessly for forty minutes, until he was ordered to turn back. Without the video, the culprits and the captain would not have been arrested. There would have been “announcements” about the “accident”, investigations would have started, a long and murky process would have begun, far from the public eye and the spotlight of society. We would have already forgotten it.

Human beings consume reality through stories. We cannot understand the world otherwise. We cannot perceive abstract ideas or concepts, our minds are not constructed that way. We must sketch real or imaginary stories, with examples, metaphors and comparisons, with good and bad, beginning, middle and end, through which we can capture, translate and understand ideas such as justice, morality or solidarity. We cannot, collectively and individually, get angry and rebel against vague concepts such as “lack of evaluation” or “poor procedures”.

But rage comes and floods our souls as we see before our eyes the white, blurry pixels representing the chubby ship’s clerk pushing the dark pixels representing Antonis, then watching him carelessly disappear into the darkness that represents the glistening water of the harbor like The blue pixels representing the ship move away towards the top of the screen.

In a scene from the movie “Independence Day,” aliens level the world’s largest cities. Thousands of buildings explode, millions of people die instantly. In one of the cities being destroyed, the protagonist’s family runs to take refuge in a crowded tunnel as the flames fall on them, and they succeed. But the family dog ​​was left behind. And so for a few moments we watch the dog get into the cars and run in time to get into the hideout with the rest of the family to escape.

And we, the viewers, are in agony, sympathizing with the dog and, as in the background, all the other people in the tunnel, along with millions of people around the world, are burning, as a genocide unprecedented in world history takes place on the margins of the screen, we rejoice when the dog finally escapes. The makers of the film do this on purpose. They know we can’t worry about burning all of humanity to the ground, so they have to show us something specific that we need to care about. This is how we are created as beings. Our empathy does not apply to the whole world at once.

What will remain of our collective anger at the loss of Antonis at the port? What changed after the outcry over the deaths of Nael or George? What will change from the anger and sadness that we feel together when we see in the videos the roofs of the villages of Karditsa rising from the brown water? Maybe nothing. More likely: with visibility and repeated protests, things will change, but more slowly than we would like.

However, one thing is certain. The crucial factor in all cases, the one that visualizes pathologies, problems, weaknesses and institutional gaps, the one that translates the vague and the abstract into history, into a tangible and understandable narrative, is video. This is perhaps a message worth emphasizing in these difficult days.

One of the things we can do as individual members of society, besides caring, observing, discussing and feeling, is to pay attention, with our cell phone within reach.

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