For many, the restoration of democracy in 1974 is just another of the many anniversaries on the calendar, with celebrations basically restricted to a reception hosted by the Greek president. We take democracy for granted, it seems, though this might be a good thing.
The essence of the celebration is often overshadowed by criticism about the event itself, especially back when the presidential reception had been reduced to a social event where more attention was paid to what guests were wearing than what it was all about.
Nevertheless, it is one of the most important anniversaries we can celebrate; it is about the triumph of democracy, but also a reminder of the fact that just 47 years ago it was not something we took for granted. It is not something long past, a chapter in a book of old history, but a recent event that was experienced by a large part of society.
It is a celebration of a Greece that is democratic, politically and socially advanced, strategically strong and a member of NATO, institutionally buttressed by its equal participation in the European Union and closely connected to the United States, to which it is also attached by a large diaspora community. The biggest and oldest organization of this community, AHEPA (American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association), is actually holding a conference in Athens these days.
Criticism about the problems besetting Greece is necessary, but we also need to acknowledge the many positive things that have happened since the end of the 1967-74 dictatorship.
This is a country that has evolved despite the many shortcomings – a dysfunctional civil service, an educational system that remains mired in problems, a cronyist mentality, etc. – that continue to hold it back. It is a country that could develop in leaps and bounds if it became more friendly to business – the healthy type, not that governed by a lack of transparency and vested interests.
This is a country that could accomplish so much more, and it could use the bicentennial of the 1821 revolution as an impetus to do so, the 200 years over which the modern Greek state has evolved – albeit with setbacks.
To a significant degree we owe a debt of gratitude – across the political spectrum – to Konstantinos Karamanlis for his vision and persistence in getting Greece to join the European family.
Being a part of one of the strongest and most influential players on the world stage does not just support us economically, but also empowers us politically and diplomatically.
On the path to the present day, both the Right and the Left have learned a lot, and many of the more excessive expressions of their disparate ideologies have been replaced by moderation, realism and even consensus on a number of issues, if not to the degree that some of us would like.
Things have, overall, changed for the better, even though we are always aware that there is still some way to go.