We have been so divided in recent years; let’s not be divided any further. SYRIZA and Independent Greeks (ANEL) invested in hatred and division. They tapped into the dark world of the internet and the social media. They gave voice to people’s frustration and amplified popular anger. They indoctrinated citizens with the notion that there is no limit to protest, both in terms of violence and rhetoric. They cultivated a primitive nationalism directed against Germany and its role in Greece’s bailout programs. They targeted individuals and media organizations. They defamed innocent people on the basis of misguided gossip.
A small minority that tried to warn people against feeding the monster of populism, because it would eventually bite back. They laughed the warnings off. “Your words are dictated by fear,” they said. Now they too are afraid as they see the monster baring its teeth. They realize that hatred can kill, as was the case of the Gdansk mayor who was stabbed to death at a charity event last week. The attack last year on Thessaloniki’s mayor could have ended in a similar way.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has shifted position. He came close to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who probably thinks he is preferable to another Matteo Salvini. This is true. In the meantime though, Tsipras and the political zealots close to him already spread their poison in the body politic.
The biggest danger is that we all become hooligans from here on. I already see important people getting overly passionate and acting like uncontrollable Dobermanns in the public debate. I can understand them, particularly those who have been subjected to unprecedented bullying in recent years. However, it is important that the opposition does not try to win the battle of hatred, hyperbole and extreme attitudes. Rather, it must concentrate on winning the battle for the day after.
The fanatics are a lost cause for some, yet a sure bet for others. In the midst of this situation, many Greeks are looking for hope and a plan for the future. They are fed up with the vulgarity and extreme attitudes. After all, if they were into all that, they could have followed one of the purely anti-systemic politicians who have no inhibition about crossing the line into verbal abuse. Even now that the political center is on the verge of extinction, there is a significant number of middle-ground voters who are genuinely put off by these histrionics.
The Prespes deal has divided the Greek people. We all have an opinion about whether it is good or bad for the nation. The trolls, however, are talking about fascists and traitors, further fanning the flames of division among a people that is already divided. It is very important to keep division at bay – and responsibility for this lies mainly with our politicians.