NEWS

A dim view of immigrants

Most people believe immigrants should be deported if they commit any kind of crime, that they cause unemployment and that they are a burden on the economy. It is clear from this survey – and from previous ones – that Greeks are particularly ill-disposed toward immigrants. The problem is a serious one and volatile from a political point of view. It would be criminal if prominent politicians wanted to exploit this xenophobia, but it would be superficial to treat the fears of the mainly lower-income brackets by wagging fingers at them. Moreover, we should add that in contrast to other European countries, there have been no mass outbursts of racism. Anyone with any knowledge of history will not be surprised by the fact that this upheaval took place at a crucial point in the 1990s, when Greece turned from being a work force exporter to an importer. In the second decade of the 20th century, the anti-Venizelists were shouting «Out with foreigners!» – meaning the Cretans. When the refugees (ethnic Greeks from Asia Minor) came in 1922, they met with hostile reception in most parts of the country. The real problem is that we have an education system and a form of public debate that avoids explaining to children and to ordinary people the way a nation is born, the difficult process that creates what we now consider «ethnic homogeneity,» as the survey clearly showed. The survey showed that 80 percent of people preferred to live in a place where everyone is the same race or ethnic group. Doesn’t this reference to ethnic homogeneity conceal a strong fear of people who are different? I think the survey showed that Greeks’ current insecurity is multidimensional and indicates a fear of a «new age» they do not understand very well. By new age, I mean the 1990s, after the fall of communism in the Eastern bloc and the end of the bipolar division of the world, when certain ideological and value systems were restructured in very specific ways and at a great historical and political depth in Greece. Not only among the Left but the Right as well. The major political ideologies and conflicts involved many evils but, at the same time, they offered people a way to interpret reality, a collective identity and a code of ethics to distinguish right from wrong. So when all that collapsed, or at least changed radically, many chasms were opened up, psychologically, cognitively, politically and economically. Particularly for the lower income groups, the «masses.» In public debate, we usually focus on «economic insecurity.» I believe that this is the great mistake made by the parties and the politicians, particularly those in the ruling party. They do not understand or do not want to deal with problems of this magnitude. Even more so now that there are international problems – but which in Greece have been expressed with greater intensity.