“This is Greece.” This oft-used excuse gets on my nerves and I apologize for using it here, but I just cannot come up with a better alternative.
I understand how hard it is to rule this country. I also live here, after all. Anyone brave enough to sit in the driver’s seat is soon faced with madness. Former socialist prime minister Costas Simitis, for example, went through all sorts of tribulations just so that the Acropolis Museum could get the go-ahead. More recently, former conservative premier Costas Karamanlis faced a similar challenge with the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center. Both projects are the talk of the town today, but getting them off the ground took a lot of hard work and political capital, but also a high level professionalism.
The this-is-Greece mantra serves to rationalize inertia, the absence of courage, the inability to break with vested union and party interests, and the failure to take on influential oligarchs. The truth is that anyone who is unfortunate to know or suspect what happens behind closed doors is likely to fall for the pessimistic credo. But if we all do this, it will be the end of Greece. The country will continue to slide to the bottom of every global index, to find itself trailing neighbors that we once used to outclass.
We at Kathimerini are somewhat obsessed with positive role models: with nongovernmental organizations that make a difference, public schools that promote excellence, business people who take risks and succeed, scientists who make breakthroughs with their research, businesses that stand out, enterprising mayors. We got a lot of complaints at first because good news supposedly does not sell. And, of course, there are always two or three lazy critics arguing that this positive role model only serves to disguise some murky story.
Miserable navel-gazing and schadenfreude never seem to go away. We perhaps attribute too much importance to them and often give in to them without a fight. But there are dozens, if not hundreds, of inspiring examples around us to show that we can achieve anything we put our minds to, if we really want it. The Greeks are creative, hard-working and plucky. So we will continue to highlight positive role-models with passion and determination. We will also tell the stories of those who tried yet failed, because no one can succeed without going through failure first. It is important that we – as many of us as possible – believe that “this is what Greece can be,” and put behind us the defeatist this-is-Greece mentality, along with the politicians and pundits who propagate it.