Sadness, insecurity, despair. We all experience a mixture of intense emotional reactions as we see large areas of this country going up in flames. The thick cloud of smoke hanging over the country and the acrid smell of burning make it impossible to turn away from the hard reality. It seems we are faced with something bigger than ourselves, something which is hard to explain.
The fires are yet another episode in a challenge that will just not end. First it was the financial and social crisis, then came the coronavirus pandemic, and now this. It feels like each time we struggle to the surface of the water to gasp for air, some invisible hand appears and pushes our head back into the water. It is something we all feel; but it is felt the strongest among the most vulnerable members of society. The whys are justified. And so is the often silent weeping as the devastating scenes unfold on our screens.
I fear that the major blazes raging across the country will add to the river of absurdity that is running strong around us. The pandemic has swollen the river, which is now testing the banks of reason. The anger, the uncertainty and the surging toxicity will serve as an extra strain.
The situation requires extreme caution because no reasonable person, no “responsible” political party can expect to reap political gain by seeking to take advantage of it. Trust will be tested. We have to be prepared for unprecedented political monstrosities.
Meanwhile, we should focus on the questions of the day after. Measures such as stricter penalties for arsonists are welcome but we need to go beyond that. We have to examine if the fire service – putting aside the courage of the majority of firefighters – has left its bad self behind. We need to examine what we can do as individual members of civil society and how local administration officials can produce meaningful results instead of parading on TV windows. We must give some final answers to the issues that we have been debating for the past 40 years, from the maintenance of the power grid to our preference for pine trees.
Our time and the present conditions warrant restraint, pragmatism and organization. Greece is in short supply of all these traits. A wave of unfettered rage and unchecked toxicity will make them even more elusive.