Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras seen during his unannounced visit to Mati, the eastern Attica seaside resort that was worst hit by the wildfires on July 23. The government’s response to the disaster has been all but insulting.
The public outcry against the government over the deadly wildfires that ravaged the seaside resort of Mati, east of the Greek capital, was an anticipated, if not justified, reaction against the political representatives.
The government’s response to the public’s reaction, particularly in the days immediately after the inferno, was all but insulting. Officials switched to a damage control campaign before being swallowed by the inefficiency of the Greek state apparatus, which is, almost by definition, unable to fulfill tasks far less complicated than civil protection.
At first, cabinet members embarked on a smear campaign against their political rivals. Only in that case, it meant turning against the unfortunate fire victims, most of whom are still reeling from the tragedy (especially those who lost friends or relatives in the blaze). After their arrogant campaign failed to deliver, government officials engaged in a game of hide-and-seek. This strategy also failed to impress because even if people manage to take themselves out of the picture, their responsibilities are impossible to disguise.
The government’s abysmal failure to handle the crisis, both on the ground as well as on a communication level (which was until recently privileged territory for the spin doctors at Maximos Mansion), is testimony to a certain fact: SYRIZA officials have been in power for long enough to forget what it is like to be away from it.
The SYRIZA-led government – like many others before it – was able to climb to power on the back of a quasi-metaphysical, moralist set of arguments. Leftist officials portrayed themselves as the champions of a superior cause which would do away with their evil predecessors who had smeared the pure yet misguided nation that had lost its way. SYRIZA was voted into power by taking advantage of this belief – a belief that was deeply rooted in a large chunk of the Greek electorate.
It is very likely that the next government will be animated by the same political credo. But this is where the trap lies. The average voter must free himself from the mode of passive catechism and transform him or herself into an active political subject. Is this doable? It is, but not with the formulas that have failed us until today.