Even though there is little comfort to be had from the popular mantra that things could be worse, the saying is still used widely all over the world. It is used as a response to both personal dramas and collective disasters when we have nothing more profound to say, when reality trumps us once more, when we need some kind of verbal reaction that allows us to express our astonishment without really having to address the problem.
This strategy, mainly used in Greece in regard to the outcome of soccer games, is also often used in politics, or at least in politicking. After the results of two round of polls over two consecutive Sundays, this term is all the rage today, and not just because of the conquest of two Greek cities by soccer heavyweights, who sailed in thanks to the silent or even deafening backing of certain parties. Basically, “it could have been worse” has defined the way that the two coalition parties have decided to interpret this Sunday’s final results, believing that this philosophy will help them come to terms with their defeat, which is expressed in an electoral loss of 10 percentage points in total.
New Democracy thinks that it could have been worse because the political system was not overthrown. PASOK agrees that it could have been worse in the sense that it was for Democratic Left. Even SYRIZA masked some of its disappointment behind this well-used phrase.
But this phrase was also used as a way of self-comfort by those of us who were terrified by Golden Dawn’s performance. The neo-Nazi party not only survived the ballot but also succeeded in increasing its portion of the vote, gaining the support not just of the biggest victims of the crisis – people living in neglected parts of the country, as the urban myth goes – but also people from loftier walks of life, such as residents from the upscale Kolonaki district in central Athens. So, from having 0.46 percent and 23,566 votes in the 2009 European Parliament elections, Golden Dawn shot up to 9.4 percent and hundreds of thousands of supporters. But it could be worse. Golden Dawn could have scored in the double digits, which may have been the case if LAOS had not made a reappearance. Or it could have come first as the Front National did in France (its founder recently declared that the solution to the immigration problem is the Ebola virus), or seen the triumph of Nigel Farage in the UK and the far right in Denmark. Golden Dawn could have done better on the back of the success of myriad formations that preach chauvinism, intolerance, racism, anti-Semitism and more recently Islamophobia under the mantle of euroskepticism.
The map of Europe is turning grayer and blacker, and there is a black spot on Greece too. The only certainty is that saying things could be worse will not make them better.