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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 28 January 2017
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 28 JANUARY 2017 3 NEWS be done with him, as soon as possible. Instead, we will have to wait for months until he is actually brought to justice. Still in recovery after the surgery to remove the bullets that the police fired at him, Gargasoulas was charged with five counts of murder; he will face the court in August, but his trial will not take place until practically the end of 2017. Justice is definitely taking its time there. In the meantime, we will have to make peace with Gargasoulas and the others like him. Not Greeks, mixedrace or not, nor Kurdish, Yazidi, homophobic, whatever. But with Gargasoulas as a symbolic presence in the broader community. The bad apple that threatens to make all the apples rotten. Which makes us call for a death penalty, in order to make sure to dispose of them. But who are ‘them’? Drug addicts, people whose perception of reality is distorted by the effect of illegal chemical substances on their brains, prone to violence, poorly educated, raised within a culture that measures success by wealth and possessions, a culture of competition, not one of cooperation and inclusion. Gargasoulas' presence is a failure of the broader community to deal with the factors that made him who he is in the first place. Instead of calling for his immediate and severe punishment, instead of asking for someone to take the blame for what happened − the police for not acting in a way that would have prevented this turn of events, the justice system for letting him out on bail, his parents for failing to provide him with a stable home, anyone, really − we should work on mending the damage in the social fabric. If we really need to make sense of the world around us, if we want to mend the damage done to the community and to our sense of safety, we should head in the other direction. We should appeal to our sense of empathy and compassion and humanity, reach out to the bad apples among us, treat them as the sick, seriously unwell people that they are and try to find a way to heal them. Address the culture of violence, face up to the reality of the failure of the war of drugs, see how marginalised people can easily turn to violence and aggression, search for viable alternatives. It's not going to be easy. But then again, neither is waiting for the next act of irrational violence to further damage the social fabric. Who is ‘Lou’, the Greek hero of Friday’s car rampage? It was through a Facebook post that we first read about Lou Bougias, a "genuine hero", as dubbed by another man, Henry Dow, who also stayed put while Dimitrious Gargasoulas' maroon Holden Commodore was painting Bourke Street the same colour last Friday. "Administering first aid with me, under that skinny little tree, is a man named Lou: he is everything great and courageous you have seen, heard or read, rolled into one authentically humble bloke," Dow wrote. Having seen the car fly past, Dow described the moments his legs carried him across the street almost on auto-pilot, "swearing under my breath repeatedly as it sunk in what had just happened. Some basic Surf Life Saving training got me through the first stages of helping this poor woman: roll her on her side, support her neck, we talked kindly and as calmly as we could to her," he continued. "Then the gunshots." While holding the woman's hand, Dow's hands were shaking, bouncing, moving several inches up and down from fear. He was losing it, just like many other pedestrians standing by, having not fled, but still too stunned to think or move. "Lou grabbed my hand and firmly told me to keep it together, that I was OK and that Henry Dow Bougias of Bourke Street DEAN KALIMNIOU PHOTO: FACEBOOK we needed to keep strong for this woman. In a level and loud voice, Lou barked orders at others," Dow described. "He [Lou] directed assistance to several of the victims laying on the pavement around us, all whilst keeping me calm and speaking lovingly to this woman: ‘I am Lou, you are going to be OK, we are looking after you’." And while Dow was thanking his luck for having an emergency services veteran by his side, helping him pull it together, he finds out Lou was neither an ambulance or police officer or SAS, but a humble taxi driver. "In our small story, of this much bigger tragedy, Lou took command and was a genuine hero." Henry Dow's Facebook status was shared 18,000 times, in a way 'forcing' low-key Lou, Greek Australian Ilias Bougias, to come forward. "I saw three people flying through the air, I wasn't worried about myself," he told Fairfax Media when recalling the tragic event, adding that if he had been closer to Gargasoulas' car he would have attempted to intercept it. "I was basically just trying to keep people calm and stabilised until the ambos turned up. I was thinking very clearly, I was talking to the victims, the coppers and everyone else who was trying to help. It was basically just a big team effort. I think it was just a matter of adrenaline." It was the military training he received at a younger age that had prepared him for such a predicament. "I'm not a hero, I'm just a bloke who did what they had to do," Bougias said. "If I had stopped the car, fine. But at no point was my life in danger, so I'm not a hero." Xenophon: ‘People who commit serious crimes while on ‘ice’ should be treated the same as terrorists’ South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon called for an urgent review of his state's bail laws earlier this week, condemning the lenience of current bail policies. "People who commit serious crimes while under the influence of the drug ice should be treated the same as terrorists," he stated, adding Australia needs tougher laws that will send offenders known to abuse ice to mandatory rehabilitation centres, instead of them being released. Meanwhile, the Victorian government has announced a shake-up of its system, which currently uses trained volunteer bail justices after hours, whereas in South Australia police officers can grant a person bail in the first instance, and if it is denied then an application can be made to the Magistrates Court. South Australia’s prison population continues to grow rapidly, leaving very few beds available across the state, resulting in more cases being granted bail unless there are good reasons for it to be refused. "There's an argument that the bail laws in this state and around the country should be changed so there is a presumption against bail if you are on ice, unless there are special circumstances to be released," Xenophon said, stressing that the key issue has to be community safety, while quoting parents of ice users who have complained it was hard to get their children treatment. "I make no apology for saying that a crystal meth lab has the same potential to cause damage to the community as a terrorist cell − given what this drug can do to people and given the impact it can have on people and, in turn, it can lead to acts of violence." Answering to his opposition, Senator Xenophon stated that he will be working with his colleague (state MLC) John Darley on a national overhaul of bail law changes but also to "address the scourge of ice". "We need to consider having preventive detention laws, in the same way that is used for terrorists, for those that commit dangerous offences whilst on the drug ice," he continued. "A meth lab has the same potential to cause harm to the community, to cost lives as a terrorist cell and it's about time that we had laws to reflect that." Supporting Xenophon, Australia's most senior parole board chair, Frances Nelson QC, highlighted that about 80 per cent of parole applicants had a substance abuse problem. "Of those (80 per cent of) prisoners, nearly all of them have a marijuana problem but also have an amphetamine problem, and we're seeing more and more amphetamine problems now," she said. "Prisoners tell me frequently (ice) is extremely addictive, even one use can lead to an addiction and the effect on that person who uses it, their families and the victims in the communities is disastrous. "In my view, and I speak from experience, we need a residential facility to deal with people who have a drug problem. It's not possible to deal with it in the community. I'd rather see us preventing crime in the first place and having fewer victims in the community," Ms Nelson concluded. I want to introduce you to my friend Liako, a member of our community who is proudly of Maniot descent, and with whom all of Melbourne is currently well pleased. Twenty years ago, when I first met him at his parents' house, I was immediately struck by his penetrating eyes, the simplicity of his demeanour and his acerbic sense of humour, which divests you of any pretentions to egotism you may harbour, even unwittingly. Over the years, we have argued passionately about almost everything, especially Greek politics and history, for, in Liako's world view, everything that needs to be done is settled and crystal clear, whereas for me, everything is nebulous, uncertain and untested. He exudes confidence where I exude doubt, conviction in the face of my indecision. Liako articulates his views with firmness, unyielding, but always listening, appreciating, but never retreating from his deeplyheld convictions. Fiercely independent, devoted to his ideals and his family, it is his solidity and stoicism that mark him as a true friend, one with whom you can have an intellectually brutal argument over abstruse points of Byzantine history one minute in the small hours of the morning, and the next rely on him for absolutely anything, brushing previously spoken angry words aside, for this a person both of thought and action, a true elemental in the Olympian sense, who can melt the sum of human expression in the crucible of experience, reducing his relationship with people to their fundamentals. I am unsurprised, therefore, that Liako (known to the populace at large and lionised in the media as Lou Bougias) acted the way he did during the horrifying Bourke Street massacre, stopping his taxi and calmly and confidently attending to victims and those traumatised by what they had seen. For those who know him this is no aberration in behaviour: he acts in this way every single day of his life, for he is deeply imbued with a sense of decency and love of humanity that is expressed subtly and with deep humility. Consequently, to have had Liako not assist victims in the kind and sensitive way he did would have been perverse. When I spoke to him in the aftermath of the massacre, he was unchanged, curt and considered, though somewhat perturbed by all the publicity he has received and puzzled at the way people have made so much of what he deems to be a simple, logical and natural reaction to the circumstances in which he found himself and acquitted himself with such nobility. In an age of disquiet, when there are fears that community aggression and dysfunction are increasingly eroding our social fabric, unassuming but extraordinary Liako truly is an urban hero, a righteous role model, and I am both proud and glad to call him a friend. Lou Bougias PHOTO: THE AGE.
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