It is impressive to see the quality and creativity of discussions that have been held in Athens and other cities in the past few years. On every subject, from foreign policy to the economic crisis, one finds inspired speakers and can take part in discussions of a high level.
A cynical view might be that this is no more than members of an elite talking to each other and no one else. Indeed, it is easy to be discouraged when meeting the same people at different functions. In Greece, as in the rest of the world, we are facing a problem of communication with a large sector of society. Those who are in despair, who believe that they cannot look forward to anything better, do not read newspapers, they watch little television and, of course, they do not frequent public discussions on complex matters. How to break down this wall and communicate with them is a challenge of global proportions. US President Barack Obama said recently that he was glad he was elected before the collapse of the old order in communications. People who want to be fed only conspiracy theories and hatred will not be moved easily by a dispassionate and positive dialogue.
We should not despair, though. Nor should we stop trying to achieve a serious and calm public discussion on all that interests us. Something comes out of all these meetings, irrespective of their ideological orientation. Who would have thought a few years ago that in Greek universities we would have open discussions of a high quality as to whether we should have private universities? Or who could find information on sensitive foreign policy issues as easily as one does today?
Yes, there is a danger of our talking to ourselves in isolation. But if we do not try to introduce a spirit of consensus and new ideas into our public debate, it is all too easy to see where this will lead. At the same time, we must find inspired new ways to communicate with the part of society which has barricaded itself (justly) inside the ghetto of anger and denial. This, too, is a challenge.