EKKE survey finds revealing data about Greek society today

How do you explain the widespread interest in the EKKE survey? It belied many of the flattering stereotypes we have about ourselves. It contrasted these stereotypes with those of «Western» Europeans and showed us that we are not as good as we thought. I would say that it did away very smartly with the populist perception that believes anything can be done without hard work, organization or strategy. Don’t forget, however, that these kinds of stereotypes have emerged in previous experiential surveys of this kind. There is a wealth of data showing the continuity of the trend. The greatest difference is with regard to politics, that is, people’s interest in politics. But the survey came as a shock because we scored higher than other Europeans on a number of fronts. Let’s not pretend to be so surprised. In a number of economic and social indicators, Greece is usually placed at the bottom of the list of the 15 European Union member states, sometimes above, sometimes below Portugal. But because in Greece we tend to put a great deal of importance on numbers, I would like to distance myself from their absolute value. In order to analyze the situation in any one country at any specific moment in history, you need a number of different scientific tools. I think that the right way to look at the results of the survey is to include them within a general interpretation, using all the available tools. Nevertheless, the survey points to the validity of a number of controversial issues, which we cannot avoid in public debate. How do you explain the chasm dividing Greece’s place in the new age and the confused stance of the Greek people? In presenting the survey, I mentioned a paradox – that the country is moving ahead faster than its people. Let’s look at this image, as it is an indicative one. There is clearly some confusion about what we understand as the country’s national, geopolitical and economic interest. We act on that basis, and we vote on that basis. At the same time, we have not found a way to incorporate the changes we make into a new, more open world view. So are we, as a society, confused about new conditions? Yes, I think that is what is happening. We are a society that has not achieved satisfactory intellectual or moral cohesion regarding the country’s orientation and our own individual perceptions. There has to be cultural convergence with our European partners if this is to be resolved, as is true of other countries faced with the prospect of a relatively unified European identity. It is not something that the country is incapable of handling, but at present we are in a state of suspended animation. Is the new European environment to blame for the fact that we compare so badly with other Europeans in so many sectors? Our fears are focused on the new «globalized» world of open borders – of foreignness. This isn’t a Greek phenomenon. We live in a new world that we still do not understand and which we cannot get into step with. The underlying cause is the crisis and transformation of the nation-state, which is not simply a matter of power, but of culture. It is around the State that the nation and religion were set up – democracy, politics – and in which the political parties were founded. Now that the nation-state is in crisis, it is taking with it an entire cultural system, a way of life. This is the main reason for the insecurity, the confusion and the suspended state in which we find ourselves. On the other hand, I would say that Europe is providing a lifeline for Greece, not only on the political, but on the cultural level. Isn’t the political system responsible for the problems in society? The crisis in political structures in postwar democracy first became apparent in the developed Western countries in the 1970s. In Greece, it happened a bit later, but at a much greater cost, because the major ideological and political movements played a very important role in Greece in the 20th century. So the crisis had a much greater effect. The same thing is happening elsewhere in Southern Europe. Politics is a unifying factor between the institutions and society in Greece, between the country’s course and the way ordinary people experience the changes; that is why we are talking about a gap between Greece and the Greeks. Greece is experiencing a period of great political stability, relative economic prosperity, geopolitical confidence, and yet we are seeing cultural, political and social intolerance. How has society reacted to this? Society appears to be leaning on familiar institutions, such as the family and friends, but seeking «protection» from non-representative state institutions (the judiciary, police, law and the Church). To a great extent, this is what happened in the past. But I think that the survey shows something else that is very important: People feel the need for a more stable, more functional and rational framework for daily life. The high value given to observance of the law is not only a conservative demand for «law and order;» there is a new demand for modernization and a more rational organization of daily life. It is a reaction to the widespread lack of respect for the law that makes even the traffic lights an object of negotiation. People want a way of life that is more modern, more certain, and that more closely reflects a rising standard of living and culture. This is an example of how the survey has helped us to highlight the contradictions of the moment and the age. Is this contradiction leading to a divergence from the rest of Europe? I don’t believe that. It would be a mistake to try to interpret the findings by means of Huntington’s clash of civilizations, or to rehash old questions from our domestic anti-Western camp as to whether Greece belongs in the east or the west. The differences and similarities highlighted in the survey reflect the difficulties within our nation’s experience, which since the 18th century has been played out within Europe and in concert with it. In fact, Greece’s history within Europe began on the periphery and has moved toward its nucleus. I have written about it in my latest book, using a metaphor: «Sometimes with fanfare, sometimes grumbling, Greece has managed to observe history’s major events and transformations within the more advanced European countries. In short, Greece is traveling on the best train in the world, but is still a passenger in the last wagon, who arrives at the very last minute and jumps aboard just as the train is pulling out.» The image that emerges from the EKKE survey reflects this metaphor. It is the image of a European country trying, and managing – for the time being, at least – to find a seat, even in the last wagon.