It is not beyond the Greeks’ intellectual capacity to understand that national survival depends on an objective evaluation of the challenges we face, along with our strengths and our weaknesses, so that we can move forward with strategy and daring. So why do we persist with endless, meaningless disputes, trying to tear out each other’s eyes as if this were our top priority? When faced with foreign threats, we look to the past to remember the need for unity; when facing each other, our frame of reference is our history of fratricide. As if we prefer an imagined past to today and tomorrow.
“The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity,” the great Irish poet W.B. Yeats wrote a century ago, referring to his own divided country. In ours, most of us are carried away by a mentality which dictates that if we are not on one side we must be on the other. Objectivity, the effort to evaluate things in a rational way, without ideology or emotion, is condemned as an exercise of keeping equal distances between “good” and “bad” as these are determined by each side.
In reality, it is possible to demand the rule of law without wanting either authoritarianism nor lawlessness; it is possible to be socially liberal, to respect each other’s rights, without being carried away on the wind of every new trend or suspicion. We may support public universities which are not playgrounds for militant minorities but which will offer them, too, space to argue their case. We can want reforms that will help us preserve what is good in our society rather than destroy it.
Slogans like “All or nothing” and “Us or them” excite those who are devoted to a cause, justifying their need to throw real and verbal stones. Whoever is in the middle, or tries to separate them, is stoned by the warring sides. And yet, there are many who reject today’s divisive lines, who hope that Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will achieve the difficult balance that the situation demands, that Alexis Tsipras, the opposition leader, will realize the limits of opportunism.
For these people to be heard, though, they have to prove that objectivity is a demand, not resignation.