We don’t need to say much about the fact that everything Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said at the congress of his SYRIZA party in 2015 had absolutely nothing in common with the content of his speech at this year’s meeting, which concludes on Sunday at the Tae Kwon Do Arena on Athens’s southern coast.
Last year, the leftist prime minister talked about “abolishing the memorandums” and the laws that enforce their terms; this year, he stressed that he expects all bailout commitments to be “implemented in full.” It’s also not really worth going into any depth on his ludicrous alliances and the camaraderie he showed toward his nationalist partners, even though every word and gesture is, of course, important in how it is interpreted and not just in its political and symbolic significance.
What Greek society got in spades from the SYRIZA conference was lies, a constant invention of a different reality, with all the inconsistency that follows – the real glue for a government that is incapable of governing. So, what is it that helps the government survive under such circumstances, and survive without the kinds of protests from the voters we would expect given the magnitude of their disappointment? Why, it is the simple fact that the voters never really had any expectations to begin with. No one really believed that the coalition government of SYRIZA and Independent Greeks would “tear up the memorandums.”
Political dialogue in Greece is invariably carried out in the sphere of the confidential, or inadmissible: What is said is nowhere near as important as what is not said. Was the hold of PASOK and New Democracy, for example, due to their political programs or to the steady and strong operation of a clientelist state? Who would admit to the real reasons why they voted for either of these two parties back in the day?
This is also the case today. SYRIZA’s voters wanted to exact revenge on the old political system and now they are simply realizing that the old political system also survives through those who are purportedly there to overthrow it. Next time they are called to the polls, they will possibly turn to another party not because they agree with it, but because they want to express their opposition to the status quo. They will likely want to “punish” the present government, rather than support another because they genuinely believe it can do a better job.
The only problem with this path is that the more we become accustomed to being lied to, the more we believe that negating one’s own word is common practice, and the more we tolerate the arbitrary over the ordinary, the more we start feeling that totalitarianism is an intrinsic part of democracy.