Letter from the Editor: In memory of a canine rebel

This letter will begin in tribute to a revolutionary icon who died this past May but who’s death was not reported until this week. I am referring to Loukanikos, the legendary riot dog of Athens. When a mass uprising broke out in Greece in December 2008 following the police murder of an unarmed Athens youth, Loukanikos, an oak-colored mutt (I use the word proudly being one myself), first appeared at the barricades barking at security forces. But it was during the 2010-2011 riots, when the Greek economy collapsed and the International Monetary Fund imposed “austerity measures” which provoked mass unemployment, and even spiked suicide rates, that Loukanikos became an icon. Like a four-legged Marat, Loukanikos, who belonged to a local homeless man, ran through clouds of tear gas, even carried tear gas canisters in his mighty jaws, and snarled at police, sometimes sinking his teeth into them. So iconic did Loukanikos become that he made Time Magazine’s 2011 Personalities Of The Year list. Now he has passed, a victim of the physical toll the tear gas had on his lungs, according to vets quoted by Greek media. Like any true revolutionary, Loukanikos gave himself for the cause, But why mourn this rebel canine? Because Loukanikos deserves our respects as an internationalist symbol, because his underground fame shows us just how small the world is becoming. Not to mention the fact that Loukanikos displayed more bravery in the face of the oppressive state than most two-legged humans.

I might be biased because I like dogs. I have a little poodle mutt who was raised amongst a pack of pitt bulls before he was given to me, and shows it when a stranger or possible intruder is nearby. His heart is greater than his size. But Loukanikos’s passing takes me back to 2010-2011, when Greece did seem as if it was about to erupt in a social revolution that would shake all of Europe, and indeed it almost did. In a time when public education suffers slashes, and finding a stable job is still difficult, especially for students, the Greek fight was a reminder of how international these issues are. Loukanikos showed how even a dog can be swept by the tides of history. Sometimes it takes crisis or disease to remind us we’re not so isolated.

In this week’s issue we look at topics such as the Ebola virus which has crossed over from Africa onto U.S. shores. A recent death in Texas and near scare at LAX is a reminder that even in our modern, industrialized age, disease is still a human reality that dismisses international borders. There is a palpable fear in the air, impulsed by the media, over the Ebola situation.

In our Photo Story we report on this past Sunday’s AIDS Walk in downtown Los Angeles. The shadow of the AIDS epidemic is still with us, and while it has been somewhat controlled, the virus is still a part of our world. It is another case of disease that forces us to consider the wider world to which continent is immune.

As Ebola, economic crisis and war force us to pay attention to the world beyond our borders, a canine like Loukanikos should also make us reevaluate our cultural heroes.

Where are our bold thinkers? Where are the manifesto writers? Even the Hong Kong protests are dying down, watered down by the claims of its “leaders” that they seek a “polite revolution.” Devoid of any strong political ideas, they recede when the state imposes its power. This is the time of celebrities, when sociopath CEOs are icons and when relationships are measured by the terrifying fantasies of Nicholas Sparks.

In news we take a look at the new law which will ban plastic bags all over the state of California. Santa Monica’s example of eco-friendly legislation has now spread statewide and Jose Gutierrez reports on the latest.

But now that Loukanikos has passed, we can only hope there will be more like him, in the form of two-legged visionaries determined to at least make the world a little better, wherever they may be possible. As the great 19th century revolutionary Bakunin once wrote, “there should be no other frontiers but those that respond simultaneously to nature and to justice.”

OpinionAlci RengifoComment