Which incident belongs at the top of the list of the most important things that have happened since Greece officially entered the economic crisis? As the eighth year draws to a close and we celebrate our entry into a ninth that looks poised to be underwhelming in several ways, what stands out? In an interview with Kathimerini a few days ago, Paris-based Greek filmmaker Costa-Gavras said that the Greek crisis and the country’s real impoverishment can be summed up by the 500,000 young men and women who have left in search of work elsewhere. “Poverty is when there is no future,” he said.
Pondering his words, I ask myself whether anything has been done in those eight years to reverse the brain drain into a brain gain, and come up empty. The brain drain has been lamented and reviled by a succession of governments and ruling politicians; promises have been made to move heaven and earth to change the climate and lure these businesspeople, scientists and other workers back – but that’s about it.
What it basically boils down to is that the longer the economy does not recover, sustainable investments are not being made and jobs are not being generated, the longer thousands of young people will stay away, either because they cannot or will not come back to contribute to the rebound.
Who can blame them? There is nothing enticing about part-time or seasonal jobs and salaries of 400, 600 or, at best, 800 euros, or about trying to push your way into a system where connections matter more than merit.
In order to reverse the climate that drove these people away, Greece needs working development goals, a mobilization of its forces, a complete restructuring of education and more areas where excellence is allowed to shine. Repetition has made such notions seem vague and impossible, but they’re not.
These notions should have been targets and priorities for every government since the start of the crisis, but, judging from the past four years and the revival of the old way of governance, young people are useful for one thing only: to serve as propaganda tools in the government’s quest for a better image.
When you weigh this brain drain against the seemingly tireless activities of the country’s young anti-establishment forces, meanwhile, you get the impression of the scientists being replaced by terrorists. It sounds extreme, but it is the natural course for any vacuum to be filled.