We are always on the lookout for something to hold onto, something optimistic that will give us hope.
With this in mind, an event organized by Kathimerini yesterday to mark the upcoming rerelease of the 1947 landmark study by late architect and town planner Constantinos Doxiadis on the damage suffered and sacrifices made by Greece during the Second World War was a cause for some optimism.
Greece has come an extremely long way since the horrifying devastation of 1944. The generations of our parents and grandparents managed to rebuild this country from scratch. In the years that followed, Greece experienced unprecedented growth.
It’s true that many Greeks have a tendency to emphasize the darker moments in this country’s history. Nevertheless, though, we have achieved a great deal as a nation and the fact remains that Greeks succeeded in achieving a living standard which is envied by the vast majority of the world’s population.
We cannot forget – and we certainly should not forget – the bitter divisions of the 1946-49 civil war and what those who found themselves on the losing side had to go through in the years that followed. After all, it was only in the past 40 years that Greece managed to build a stable, functioning democracy and a system that protects human rights.
However, we have the right to remain optimistic. Greece may have suffered great disasters but at the same time it has proved able to rise from the ashes on more than one occasion.
Today we lack a clear vision such as that served by the reconstruction of the country after World War II. We also lack the professionals – from all walks of life – who could shoulder the burden of a unifying vision. Of course those people are out there, but they are caught up in a web of ugly partisanship, corrupt unionism and vested interests.
Greek society is lost. It has been swept by meaningless noise, revanchism and the counterproductive dedication to the day-to-day management of a bankrupt state. We are being self-destructive, we are putting enormous pressure on our institutions, and we are moving with no clear sense of direction. We are constantly flirting with catastrophe but also with the kind of civil strife which has led us to devastation in the past.
Can we avoid a new catastrophe? It remains to be seen. The only certainty is that countries never die and that Greek history is full of examples of disasters, often of our own making, that were succeeded by periods of renewal and progress.