The only kind of “normality” that has been maintained and continues to be nurtured during these six years of crisis is the constant confrontation between whichever government is in power and the main opposition party. Such engagement obviously provides fuel for Parliament to continue to function and perhaps even consists of messages that are heard by both parties, ostensibly to the service of the greater good, even when the tone of the discussion turns nasty.
It is also obvious that the coalition of two disparate forces – leftist SYRIZA and nationalist Independent Greeks – the deals made with creditors and partners, the bailout memorandums, the austerity measures, the lies and delusions also offer rich fodder for criticism by the opposition.
In the past few days, however, we saw this interminable confrontation transferred in codified version to the Internet, where it was expressed under the hashtags #fygete (get out), representing conservative New Democracy, and #synelthete (get a grip) on the SYRIZA side. The problem is that the use of hashtags did nothing to enrich the dialogue or the country’s political life. It was merely used to recycle the same old comments, to gather likes and to inspire the usual clever one-liners – with mixed success – from both sides. It became the subject of discussion for a while and was then abandoned just as fast as it was conceived.
What can we conclude from this brief episode? That when technology is put to the service of an old political system, it simply intensifies the feeling that the system is tired and obsolete. The hashtag does not instantly revamp the image of the political parties simply because it is a key symbol of the populous community of social media and more particularly the young. What needs rejuvenation is the stuff that makes a party: We need a richer line of thought and arguments with more depth, more nuance, that address the gray areas.
In this case, technology simply amplified the cacophony. The two hashtags also betrayed the outdated political habits of the users and ultimately sent the message that the medium alone cannot freshen up a tired system. Do our political parties have any other arguments (beyond harping on mistakes, imminent disaster, broken promises and elections that will extract us from the deadlock), any other arrows in their quivers, or is that it?
The country is dragging itself along, without appetite, without life, as the specter of more austerity saps our indignation and leads to an even-greater silence. Is this apathy or fatigue? Is it a sign of retrenchment to basic survival, a state that brings only agony and no joy? Either way, the political system needs to change. Sure, this is a painful and painstaking process that will certainly have its victims, and it cannot be replaced by hashtags and likes.