Greece will either return to a state of much-desired normality or go through another period of serious division so that some people can satisfy their delusional obsessions. We just can’t have it both ways.
You can’t take credit for Moody’s upgrade of Greece’s credit rating and at the same time have ruling officials behave like post-modern communist guerrillas, engaging in character assassination and sowing the seeds of discord.
The country suffered a major crisis because its political and economic elite made criminal mistakes. Some officials squandered and mismanaged state money. However, as demonstrated by the case of former socialist minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos, there are capable and honest judges out there who can deliver the punishment such officials deserve. Punishment of this kind, owever, must be meted out in the context of the rule of law, and certainly not with the intention of smearing eminent political rivals.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has been pursuing two narratives at the same time. One aims to appeal to outsiders and the political center. According to this narrative, Tsipras had styled himself as a moderate leader who takes difficult decisions and has the determination to see them through. From pension reform to the contentious 'Macedonia' name talks.
The other narrative is much more shamelessly populist, designed to win round SYRIZA’s grass-roots supporters who were estranged by the party’s U-turn after Tsipras's capitulation to creditors' demands.
The two narratives are totally incompatible. The former is pro-Europe and forward-looking. The latter is deeply populist, anti-democratic, anti-institutional and is decisively backward-looking. Of course, it does have a keen audience. But what serious investor – apart from some big fish who are used to striking deals in third world countries – would trust a nation mired in lawlessness and political cannibalism? Investors want to put their money in countries with a certain degree of predictability, where parties interchange smoothly in power and politics is not a game of survival.
The worst thing, however, is that Tsipras is using division as a tool that risks turning us all into hooligans in the stands of a Roman arena. Polarization is forcing people into roles that had long been lost together with the ghosts of the civil war. Those who do not wish to play along remain excluded from public affairs.
The vicious cycle we have entered will be hard to break, as those who will succeed Tsipras will invariably follow his example in the same ruthless manner. Hard-core leftist supporters will feel like they also have a role to play in a new kind of civil war and will embark on daily vandalism sprees. Logic will be cast to the wind and outside threats will resurface.
We are one step from officially exiting the crisis. Europe is doing everything to see Greece move forward and Tsipras could take advantage of this so that we could regain the status of a normal European country.
However, because of the tactics he has favored, Greece runs the risk of resembling a European country only in bailout reviews and on paper.
Meanwhile we are at risk of seeing our institutions and culture become totally divorced from Europe.