A poor substitute

A series of strange coincidences last week showed that the «strong» Greece which, according to Prime Minister Costas Simitis, has become part of the European Union’s «hard core» and is confidently marching into the future, free of the burdens of the past such as the Church of Greece, is in fact an ersatz country, or a poor substitute for the real thing. The image so carefully and persistently created by PASOK’s communications experts has begun to crumble along with the nation’s roads and buildings, despite efforts to highlight Simitis’s initiatives as head of the current EU presidency. In brief, the government is pretending to govern, yet in effect is in a catatonic state, from which it emerges only to function as an «opposition,» bewailing the wretched state of affairs in daily life even though it’s the same party, with more or less the same people who have been ruling the country for the past 20 years or so. At the same time, contractors are pretending to be carrying out public works that collapse in heavy rains, which they arbitrarily claim are «extreme climatic conditions.» Finally, a private visit to Athens by the country’s former king, Constantine, and his family was enough to spread panic and anger among the ruling class, despite the fact that the country’s democracy has never been more stable, as all political parties have claimed. Private television media have been harshly criticized for focusing on Constantine’s visit last weekend instead of on the anti-war demonstration the same day. Yet the question is not the behavior of the private media outlets, which were simply obeying the laws of the market in exhausting their footage of the visit – during which Constantine made only one political statement, in support of efforts to find a peaceful solution to the Iraq crisis. Despite the orchestrated attacks, Constantine and his family are regarded with increasing sympathy by the average Greek citizen, not because «sinister forces» have launched a diabolical plan to restore the monarchy, but because the rudeness of his opponents indicate an even more undemocratic attitude than that which the political system once accused Constantine when he was monarch. Constantine can visit Greece whenever he likes, and no one can ban him from entering the country since he holds a European passport. Neither the state nor law and order are at risk. The problem is that the government, instead of orchestrating developments, is at the mercy of relatively mild weather conditions, that the destruction these conditions have wreaked is the result of the poor management of public funds, and that Greece today has degenerated into a poor substitute for a state entity.