COMMENT

Dealing with lawlessness

By Alexis Papachelas

There are two schools of thought when it comes to dealing with lawlessness. One is about tolerance and maintains that breaking the law is inherent in Greeks and must therefore be tolerated. This way of thinking has been embraced by the center-right as well as the center-left, and of course with the blessing of the far left. It is based on the principle that when a society is accustomed to functioning on a basis of lawlessness and impunity, there is no point in trying to impose the law absolutely because the entire system will crash. So you just let the situation continue as it does, in that gray area.

This school of thought has come to represent the majority, and the effects are more than obvious. There is no other country in the world where a major thoroughfare such as the one that leads to Attica?s southeastern port of Lavrio can be blocked by a group of protesters for a fortnight without anyone raising an eyebrow. Nor is there another European country where illegal street vendors duck into university campuses in order to elude the police.

Lawlessness has gone, however, from causing the damage of a moth to wreaking the havoc of a cancer, eating away at the very foundations of Greek society. In the case of tollbooth jumping, for example, there are groups of citizens who are right to protest additional tolls without secondary roads and without signs of progress in the construction and maintenance of the national highway network. But if they take their protests too far and too many others join in without real cause, Greece will find itself in a position where it will no longer be able to borrow for large-scale infrastructure projects. And, whether we like it or not, state money simply won?t exist anymore. If we adopt the stance of the left-wing parties, who urge citizens not to pay their telephone and electricity bills, to drive through tollbooths and to skip bank loan payments, the road to bankruptcy will become steep and short.

What about the other school of thought? It believes that lawlessness is contagious, like a virus that grows too strong if left to get out of hand. The idea of finding a cure is not very popular, but it is beginning to gain ground if the decision to impose the smoking band and Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis?s determination to impose order on the city center are anything to go by.

However, the issue remains of what will actually get done at the end of the day. It is not just about reaching the targets set by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, but also about creating a country in which the law is respected.

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