A man wearing a protective face mask sits outside a closed shop on Ermou, Athens’ main commercial street.
One section of the public follows developments and establishes an understanding of reality. Next to it, a larger chunk of the population has no interest in and no grasp of current affairs. Many of them are actually unwilling to learn the facts. They’d rather construct their own reality and believe that this somehow protects them from what actually goes on, meaning the events that shape their immediate and broader environment. This has often been evident in the past, as it is today.
It would be premature now to predict the consequences of the government’s decision to relax the measures introduced to curb the spread of the coronavirus, yet certain developments are certainly worrying. A false impression appears to be gaining ground that the danger is over. This is evident in the flawed implementation of the guidelines and the recommendations given by experts and the state. Party, union and anarchist groups have shunned the rules from day one, while professionals took the opportunity to violate the regulations. Meanwhile, according to witnesses, the people on some islands and in a number of provincial towns are completely oblivious to the safety measures. Furthermore, if one reads about the requests, the demands and the attitudes of individuals, unions and companies across sectors, it becomes evident that begging, stealing, shirking payments, saving your own neck and other such staples of Greek society remain firmly entrenched.
Everyone is turning to the state for financial support and other forms of special treatment, including those who were not impacted by the pandemic – worse, even businesses that actually benefited from the crisis. Moreover, their demands are not matched by their tax declarations in previous years. For the time being, the government is trying to meet all requests without making a real effort to rank needs and priorities. But for how long can this approach be sustainable?
Outside Greece, international risks also threaten to take a toll. All states are anxious to kick-start their economies, which is understandable, but no one can be certain about how the virus will evolve from now on. No therapy or vaccine is available to date. US President Donald Trump’s stance at home and internationally, combined with mammoth unemployment in his country and his efforts to level accusations in any direction (the World Health Organization, China and so on) he deems will help him ahead of the upcoming elections, is shocking. His disinterest in international cooperation and solidarity, an attitude which is imitated by states such as Russia, India and Brazil, only makes things worse. Last but not least, tensions inside the European Union, combined with the recent decision of Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court to call on the European Central Bank to justify its bond-buying program, leave little room for optimism.