For this country to be truly saved and to flourish as it deserves, it first needs a middle class that is committed to the euro, not the drachma. Right now, unfortunately, we have a middle class that functions more like a Balkan than a European one and feels more comfortable with the drachma mentality. High-ranking cadres in the world of academia, business, the media and of course politics want to preserve the status quo and play by the same rules that have prevailed for decades – and which led to the crisis. Tactless public discourse, extremism, hyperbole and uncontrolled arrogance spurred by power and wealth belong to a society ruled by an oligarchy committed to the past.
There is a part of the existing middle class that belongs in a category of its own and comprises mostly politicians. Its members can only be described as bipolar, as they speak and think as though they were Europeanists but act and decide as though they were – to coin a term – “drachmaists.” Sure, no country has been able to surge forward without a few contradictions and some back-pedaling. But this is a time that will determine the future of this country to a great extent and currency is not something that should be worshipped or taken on its own merit. The battle that has been fought to keep Greece in the safe haven of the eurozone will mean something only if the country takes the next step forward and gains an open and working economy as well as a political class that act professionally rather than like low-ranking civil servants. It would be disastrous if Greece were to emerge from the crisis, its economy stabilized, only to go through the exact same ordeal just a few years down the road again. This prospect unfortunately looms, because it seems that the majority of politicians have failed to realize how much has changed since 2009.
There are those who argue that Greeks are what they are and cannot change. How audacious to put the onus on the people! This is where the urban middle class comes in: setting rules that it abides by foremost and setting goals that it tries to attain without looking to personal interest. Greece has its fair share of such people. These are the people keeping the system afloat today despite the fact that the state and the private sector are crumbling and who have paid the heaviest price for the crisis. Nevertheless they stand firm, supporting their country and their work, and trying to keep Greece from becoming a failed state.
Greece could have gone the way of its Balkan neighbors. The reason it didn’t is because Greeks have an extroverted and creative streak, they have at crucial times chosen visionary and courageous political leaders, they have formed strong international alliances and have managed to recover quickly from major domestic disasters such as civil wars.