Steering clear of the sirens of extreme populism

Steering clear of the sirens of extreme populism

A great deal of composure and prudence will be required in the coming weeks. Citizens are very tense after a year of financial and mental suffering due to the pandemic. They do not believe anything or anyone as far as when the day of “liberation” from the restrictions will come is concerned. 

At the same time, society and the media are experiencing a schizophrenic situation concerning the government’s measures to prevent the spread of the virus. Sometimes we complain that the measures are too relaxed, other times that they are absurdly strict. Endurance and acceptance are close to zero.

The Hellenic Police has a mission that is testing everyone’s nerves – both citizens and officers. Considering that we are all ready for a fight, officers are often faced with tricky situations which they do not know how to handle.

Is this an excuse for the excessive use of violence by police officers, as appears to have been the case on Sunday in the Athenian suburb of Nea Smyrni? Or for the rude behavior of others? Of course not. This incident must be thoroughly investigated until a credible conclusion is reached. Any “rotten apples” in the police force need to be dealt with severely.

It is wrong for young police officers to be thrown into these situations without special training and without the direct supervision of older, more experienced officers. Maybe it’s time to ask for the help of other European countries that have a history in this area, by acting without hysteria, in a technocratic manner and with a system in place.

At the moment, however, it is obvious that some people want to mix the existing anger with cultivated hatred and cause a social explosion. They have done it before. It would be tragic if they succeeded, just as we are reaching the end of the pandemic. Greek society has so far shown incredible patience and maturity compared to those elsewhere in Europe. We still have to travel the last, unbearably painful, mile in the pandemic.

The government has shown that it can balance between the “law and order” dogma and a liberal approach to human rights. It is not an easy balance and the pressure is huge. But this balance is the one that provides it with political dominance and should not be lost.

Nobody else can do it because the main opposition is stuck in an old repertoire which it does not seem to be able to let go of. Citizens want the pendulum to swing back to its original position in the middle for the first time in 47 years. They hate extremes and exaggerations and ignore the sirens of rampant populism despite their personal anger. Only mistakes caused by fatigue or haste can push them into their arms.

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