Finding the right balance

By Nikos Xydakis

It’s been a few days since Greece beat Ivory Coast to pass into the top 16 of the World Cup in Brazil and the frenzy has died down somewhat. The supporters of the national team aren’t waving flags in public squares, drivers aren’t going around honking their horns and sports commentators are waiting for the next game. Nevertheless, it has all left something of a bitter aftertaste: The victory sparked a spiritual battle – let’s call it a division. On the one hand there was the majority, who celebrated the win spontaneously, albeit in an exaggerated manner, mainly verbally.

We heard a lot of the usual crowing about the indomitable Greek spirit, about the ingenious Odysseus, about blessed Greece, which was awarded a fake penalty because it deserved it, and so on.

On the other hand, we heard the voices of the critics of the jubilation. Some scorned the cries of victory as expressing underlying racism, others looked askance at the nationalist fervor of the madding crowd, others were turned off by the sheer vulgarity of some the revelers and others still wondered where they found the energy to be so vocal about soccer yet have none to shout for a better life.

It is all about maintaining some calm and awareness. Sure, we shouldn’t make vulgarity a badge of honor, we shouldn’t overcompensate or claim that mere genetics have miraculous powers. But we shouldn’t go to the other extreme either by depriving ourselves of the simple pleasure of a victory as a symbolic event when and if it occurs. We musn’t underestimate the unifying power and the shot of optimism that such events can offer, especially when the people of Greece have had nothing by shock and pain for the past four years.

Let us allow the people, the real losers today, to celebrate and hope that they regain some of their shattered confidence, some faith in their powers and abilities, some faith in the collective spirit. Giving way to the fairy tale sometimes helps rekindle the spirit. We can forgive the exaggerations and, even better, we can try to understand them, not in order to encourage them but to get over them.

Most importantly, let us try to find a balance between bitter criticism and unbridled consumerism.