We have made something of a custom of division in Greece. It is something we do passionately, ready to fight with our friends and turn our backs on our neighbors.
The last time was during the bailouts and it split the country into two camps. Public discourse spiraled into insults and even the odd yogurt-throwing incident. The anger was justified and, as always, there were those who sought to exploit it – to score political or media points, in anyway possible. We boasted of having grown up as a society after that very expensive lesson.
But here we are, again, fighting over the Covid-19 vaccine. Who would have thought that the country would become so deeply divided by an issue that is so clearly a scientific matter? Yet, here we are: grandmothers arguing with grandchildren for daring to challenge the opinions of a popular anti-vaxxer; children not talking to their parents because they refuse to get the shot.
Many different trends and fissures run beneath it all, of course, and, as always, they are mostly driven by the image of ourselves as tiny Davids taking on mighty Goliaths. It is a narrative that never fails to excite, even if there is no correlation to Thermopylae, 1821 or 1940. It is more like a video game, where you put down the controller because you think you’ve vanquished the dragon. We are giddy with the idea that we’re part of a battle against omnipotent, invisible forces. Anyone who knows what makes Greeks tick can, if so inclined for whatever reason, easily light the fuse.
The truth, of course, is that we’re not alone in the great vaccination divide. Many advanced Western societies have been equally gripped and equally divided by the issue. Trust and confidence in institutions and the experts is collapsing and the conversation about what is scientifically substantiated and what is not no longer has any basis in fact. This conversation, meanwhile, is being conducted over social media, with a fervor that is often toxic and very contagious.
What is certainly not helpful is the lack of clarity and the contradictions between experts and different organizations regarding the amount of protection the vaccines offer and whether a booster dose is needed.
The furor will not die down anytime soon. There is a part of society that feels it is being pushed into a corner and keeps finding reasons to lash out against the “system” – even if it means putting lives at stake.