Watching Lucy Kirkwood’s Chimerica the other day, I was reminded of a story I had forgotten. Even if you know little about the play, you have seen the photograph of the lone man standing in front of the tank in Tiananmen square in 1989. How this moment in time spurs and ties the story of Chimerica is the genius of the play.
But the photograph reminded me of another man in front of a tank. In November 1973, a massive demonstration against the greek military junta centered around the Athens polytechnic and gathered momentum. Eventually, tanks were called in and twenty four civilians were killed. Another man threw himself in front of a tank. The film below captures the moment and when I was growing up I saw it dozens of times.
Being greek and growing up in greece, stories like that were in our blood. We knew them because they had happened to someone no further than two degrees away. The heroism, and cruelty and sheer madness of it.
A friend of mine, four years old, on a stroll with her dad came across a policeman and she stuck her tongue out at him. The policeman slapped her across the face. Her father could only grab her and move away, hoping they won’t end up in jail. The junta regime fell a couple of months later, but only a few culprits were brought to justice. If that policeman was in his mid twenties then, he may not have retired yet.
Four decades later, greece is the butt of a thousand fiscal jokes. The cruelest joke of all is that many people who fought that regime ended up in power and are responsible for corruption and the current economic implosion. Another play is waiting to be written.
You can read my review of Lucy Krikwood’s Chimerica here.