It won’t be long before 2021 is upon us. In three years’ time Greece will be celebrating the bicentennial of its war of independence against Ottoman rule. It will be a landmark anniversary and should be commemorated as such. All sorts of institutions, foundations and associations will host events which, combined with the state ceremonies, will lend a celebratory character to the occasion.
All that is welcome, if not necessary. However, the anniversary also provides an opportunity to reflect on the state of the nation: where we are coming from, what direction we are headed in, what goals we should set ourselves for the next 50 years. In many respects, we are standing at a crucial crossroads. The recent tragedy demonstrated that we need to rebuild the state apparatus without delay if we wish to avoid a repeat of similar disasters.
Meanwhile, geopolitics in Greece’s wider region are growing more complex and fresh challenges are emerging. Our neighborhood is changing, and so are our neighbors. Migratory pressures on Europe will continue and Greece will always be on the frontline. Demographics is also a huge problem that we tend to brush under the carpet.
Meanwhile, Greek society has suffered a prolonged period of wretchedness and pauperization that has neutralized most of its reflexes. We have become cynical, we’re centered on making it through each day and vision has disappeared from public dialogue. We tend to talk about our country in vulgar, ephemeral and shallow terms. The economic crisis shredded our national confidence while feeding a superficial national egotism that is animated by sentiment. We believe we are the best (but also most victimized) people, but find it very hard to sit down and calculate how this could translate into economic well-being, stronger institutions and improved security against outside threats.
2021 will certainly also be a big celebration for the Greek diaspora. However, it will not be enough to commemorate it in Melbourne, New York or Montreal. The sight of an evzone parading never fails to strike a chord with the diaspora, but we need something more than this now. Greece has always moved forward when it managed to combine its domestic strengths with an enlightened leadership and the power of its diaspora. We here need to engage in a debate with the strongest Greek brains out there about what has gone wrong in this country, about what can be fixed and what our ambitions should be. We tend to admire these people when they are away and, out of insecurity, we isolate them on their return.
We have spent the previous years looking back – either toward our distant past to restore some of our lost self-confidence or the more recent past in a bid to pin the blame on someone or something for the big crisis. It’s high time we looked ahead, and mapped out a better future for this land, as it so much deserves.