When you have the migrant and refugee crisis threatening you from the east and the new coronavirus to your west – both serious problems that you have no responsibility as a country or as an individual for creating – the only thing you can do as a Greek is to stay calm and get organized. There is no other solution and anyone who tries to say anything different to what common sense dictates – from loony solutions to playing the blame game – is either stupid or despicable.
Unfortunately, there are plenty of both in Greece, but at least they have no qualms about showing it off all the time.
There are certain situations and problems that Greeks have to face together as a united front if they want to have any hope of overcoming. The migration/refugee crisis is one such problem and the new coronavirus is fast emerging as another. Judging, however, by recent reactions from the political establishment but also certain members of the general public, the migration crisis is being dealt with neither in a calm nor a reasonable manner, as we have all the elements in play – politicians stirring up angry locals and rampant populism – for the perfect Greek storm.
Hopefully things will work out, but the next few days will prove crucial in terms of the situation on the islands, whose residents are reacting to the construction of new closed migrant camps. Developments will determine whether we ultimately play into the hands of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is toying with the unity of Greek society by controlling the migrant flows across the Aegean.
References to the clashes between citizens and police over plans for a landfill in Keratea north of Athens in 2011 stir unpleasant memories, but the new facilities need to be given a chance, since the islands cannot be moved and will always be where they are, within sight of the Turkish coast.
The new coronavirus is a different problem altogether. There are no politics involved in its spread, despite the rubbish propagated on the internet. It slammed Italy in just a few days and now it has made its appearance in Greece. It will test the state’s ability to organize a response, but also the calm and discipline of Greek society, which is by no means famous for these traits.
Hopefully it will not be accompanied by the usual circus of populists and sensationalist media, politicians will behave maturely and health professionals will be allowed to do their jobs properly.
These are lofty expectations, some might say – and they might be right.
In many ways, the biggest threat is not the coronavirus, but the worst traits of the Greek mind-set. And if these two are allowed to come together and grow stronger as a result, we are in for a very bad time indeed. Hopefully it won’t come to that.