Driving my car along a scenic route on one of Greece’s national highways recently, I could not help but notice the endless litter. There it was, at every parking stop, after every toll station along the highway: empty bottles, pieces of paper, cigarette packages. Even when I drove into the villages, I would see the streams fouled with all sorts of waste, including rusty refrigerators.
It makes you wonder. What is to blame for all that? Is it the “filthy foreigners” who destroyed our country? Is it the state which cannot get around to collecting the rubbish that we produce? Or is it the work of some foreign power seeking to defame our people and drive our tourists away?
I am afraid that this awful sight is of our own making, a result of our own uncivilized behavior. We need to be honest with ourselves. We have absolutely no excuse for the way in which we insult and destroy this unique legacy. I am pretty certain that it is the same type of Greek who throws his cigarette packet out of the window who shortly afterward reminds himself of “the beauties of this wonderful land which is envied by everyone else.”
Sure, we are making some progress. Youngsters appear to have a better understanding of recycling and show more respect toward the natural environment.
Recent experience demonstrates that Greek citizens respect rules and laws where these are implemented.
It’s impressive to observe how, for instance, they respect the Athens metro and don’t litter the trains and stations or how they never even consider smoking at Athens International Airport beyond the boundaries of the designated areas where it is actually allowed.
But we still carry inside the type of Greek who will happily abuse their country in a variety of ways while wishing to come across as a true patriot. This is the kind of Greek who has built an entire myth in his mind and who justifies every single illegality and vulgarity in the name of some kind of supposed state of unruly independence.
The worst type when it comes to such Greeks are the politicians who led the country to its current state. These are the kind of people who nurtured the worst instincts in this classic type of Greek and ended up justifying their behavior. If they witnessed anyone throwing rubbish into a river, they would ask for the “poor man to be left alone to do his job; that’s how Greeks are, after all.”
Eventually this became the perfect compromise. The leader did not have to display his unpleasant side, impose the law or persuade people about any kind of grandiose vision, while this type of Greek voter could carry on with his or her beloved habits without suffering any consequences.