What's wrong with the rudder?

By Nikos Xydakis

Following the ratification of a new raft of austerity measures, Greece finds itself bleeding from self-inflicted wounds and suffering from a serious systemic illness. Now it is only just managing to hold on as it waits to see what its creditors will do: whether they will keep their word and quickly disburse the next tranche of the country?s bailout loan. At best the money will act like an opiate that will dull the pain of the long decline to ruination.

Meanwhile, though, the disease that has Greece in its grips is mutating rapidly. It is not just the recession and soaring unemployment that is gnawing away at the fabric of society, but also fear and hatred, which are growing in potency and scope after being zealously cultivated over the course of the two previous years by the German media and many of that country?s politicians. The ethnic stereotypes and Teutonic brand of populism with which Greece has been cast as the demon of Southern Europe perhaps serve the vision of a German sphere of influence or could just be a part of the pre-election campaign of an isolated Germany. But here in Greece, this culture of hate has manifested itself in fascism of the homegrown variety, in strident brutality that can be summed up in one phrase: ?Look at me when I talk to you, worm.?

Then again, we can?t blame all of our problems on outsiders. Weak and intellectually inferior leaders whipped this once-modest nation into a frenzy, and together we sank into a state of mutual degradation, inflicting more and more wounds upon ourselves until we hit the bottom. It was already too late when we began to wonder, in the words of George Seferis, ?what?s wrong with the rudder? The boat goes in circles. And not a single gull in sight.?

Nevertheless that was then and this is now. Today, let us look beyond the next tranche and whether we will get it in full, in part or at all. Let us overcome the paralyzing anticipation of waiting for the money like a drug addict for a fix. Let us look beyond the kindness or meanness of outsiders. Let us stand tall under the clear November skies, free to make our own decisions, with responsibility and integrity.

Yes, Greece is a small country made of stone, but it is also magical and endowed with plentiful gifts. Yes the nation is small, but the people are, above all else, natural survivors. So, let us live, one way or another, in the homeland or in the diaspora, as we always have done. But we mustn?t forget to create the formula that will heal us. And we mustn?t forget to keep our hand firmly on the rudder.