The tangible evidence of democracy

Abiding by the terms of the new bailout agreement signed between Greece and its international creditors -- the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund -- will inevitably lead to the shrinking of the Greek welfare state and sweeping changes in social structures. The historical significance of these changes is only just starting to become apparent.

The effects of the terms Greece will have to implement include the weakening of support structures and of networks protecting needy groups and a reduction in the social services and privileges afforded to the weaker members of society. This will eventually have profound consequences on all of our lives, and its toll will be much heavier than that of cuts to salaries and pensions.

The Greek welfare state was incomplete and ineffective even before the crisis hit the country. Abuse of power and inept management stunted its growth and it never reached the level of its Western European counterparts. Nevertheless, underdeveloped as it was, it had reached a point where it could guarantee the entire population free access to every level of education and healthcare. This fact alone, despite the system?s flaws, put Greece on the same level as the rest of Europe, because this represented the very spirit of postwar Europe, the tangible evidence of peace, democracy and prosperity.

The erosion of this structure of protection and consensus puts Greece outside the European equation. It removes the guarantees of social equity and the tangible evidence of democracy. Sure, this country?s citizens can survive on smaller incomes, but they certainly cannot survive as people of Europe without access to basic public services and goods when public spending as a percentage of gross domestic product falls to the same levels as that in Malaysia or Botswana.

Greece has been in a state of emergency for some time now, and it must be addressed. The people have a duty to themselves to re-evaluate their priorities with a view to the future, without, however, compromising democracy or breaking society into so many pieces that it can no longer be put back together.

Defending the equitable state, the welfare state, is the top priority, a sine qua non condition for our survival as a civilized people.