Profound division is one of the worst things that can happen to a country and Greece’s history is full of civil strife. Even during the great struggle for national independence, the seed of discord sprouted poisonous fruit, with devastating results.
Greece is now divided once more, but perhaps for the first time since World War II so deeply and on so many fronts. Passion and animosity are running high through Greek society, making any new division that much more perilous. This division is already evident in politics, which has sunk to a new, vulgar low. I cannot remember a time, not even in the 1980s, when politicians behaved so viciously toward their opponents. There appear to be no limits or red lines that cannot be crossed. The phenomenon started with the governing parties during the anti-memorandum hysteria, but it has grown out of all proportion now, tearing down channels of communication and consensus and lowering the standards every day.
For the first time, this division is most evident over national issues, as the way the government has handled the name talks with Skopje has driven a wedge into society, splitting many Greeks between “patriots” and “traitors.”
There is also division between those who continue to pay the government’s ludicrous taxes and those who have benefited from SYRIZA’s tactics, either by being given a job in the broader public sector or by having privileges like lower taxes.
Division has always existed in Greek soccer, but it used to concern only the die-hard fans. Now, we have somehow managed to exacerbate this division – in combination with a lot of other factors – turning it into a major issue for the country, with a large part of the population in northern Greece starting to sing a different tune. The anger that has always existed toward Athens has now been mixed up with the PAOK soccer team, the shenanigans of its president Ivan Savvidis and the Skopje name talks to make this anger something deeper. If it should find a political outlet, this could grow into a dangerous north-south divide.
The bad thing is that the government has taken strength from the power of division and either is not interested in uniting the Greek people or does not know how. When division serves its interests, it does not hesitate to use it, sacrificing everything on the altar of political survival.
Throughout our history, serious division has coincided with national strife. Many of the components are present today and I only hope that our powerful survival instinct kicks in before it is too late. We tend not to know our history in this country, which his why we often repeat its mistakes – in a more vulgar manner and with pettier players.