Greece is threatened by a combination of outside factors and domestic weaknesses. Whereas national consensus would be our best – our only – defense, whenever dangers multiply our hostility toward each other increases. And so, even though no one would deny that the country needs clear heads and stability in order to revive its economy, to deal with Turkey and to handle the migration crisis, our political protagonists invest in each other’s failure. This ceaseless conflict would be meaningless if it did not undermine our future.
One of the foundations of our political culture is the fact that we succumb to domestic disputes continually, even to the point of endangering our freedom. We saw this right from the start, in the War of Independence against the Ottoman Turks. The causes of division may change from age to age but one permanent feature is that the protagonists are always unshaken in the justice of their cause and their hatred of each other. The years of crisis intensified this extremist mentality. Popular discontent and insecurity found expression in rage and disobedience. Populists and hooligans helped shape a framework of permanent suspicion and conflict in every expression of social and political disagreement. With each side expecting the worst of the other, we have reached the point of violence between police and citizens, with the state and the citizens all losing. Because no opposition party ever fights the temptation to contribute to the government’s discomfort, and no government can withstand such tension with citizens, the usual result is paralysis, stagnation.
However, even though international economic developments, Turkey’s aggression and migration flows do not depend on us, it is us who have to manage these problems, to find solutions before we are swept under. This demands a change in mentality – we must understand that the rules and conditions have changed, that there is no safety net, that no one will save us from external pressures nor from ourselves. Despite the poisonous fumes emanating from the necessary parliamentary investigation into the activities of a minister of the previous government, despite the political cost that both parties may incur, the government and main opposition party have no option but to set an example of cooperation and common sense. The country’s new president will have to play a leading role in helping build bridges over the ravines of custom.