OPINION

Feeding the beast of populism

People are angry but if their anger is allowed to degenerate into unchecked violence, then instead of solving its problems the country will plunge into absolute chaos. More violence will sentence Greece to a lengthy period of economic misery and stagnation.

But the worrying signs are on the rise: the attack on former conservative minister Costis Hatzidakis, the use of vitriolic language by politicians and unionists, the clashes between riot police and local residents over the Keratea landfill, the violence at sports venues.

A section of the local media is playing with fire, urging people to take the situation into their own hands, as it were. Some commentators protested after a youth was arrested for throwing a Molotov cocktail at police. Others questioned whether the assault on Hatzidakis was justified. It?s like a race dictated by ratings and by a desire to publicize people?s anger.

Those who make business out of trading in pain and rage deem that there should be no limit to their populism. And why should they think otherwise when our very conservative politicians condemn the alleged return of labor rights to the Dark Ages, when the Church protests about the nation being under the occupation of the European Union and the International Monetary Fund and when the Communist Party sees the threat of all-out war?

One might say that there?s nothing new to all this, just the usual political hysteria. But how is a person who has just lost his job supposed to react when exposed to talk about the Dark Ages, occupation and war? This irresponsible language is paving the way to violence and crude populism.

Sadly, the country?s elites fail to see that feeding the beast of populism with hyperbole and hysteria will backfire sooner or later. New Democracy should not be surprised to see one of its members being attacked despite the fact that its leadership actually voted against the memorandum.

Also, the conservatives are making a grave mistake if they think that there is something to be gained from fanning public outrage. Because if ND were to come to power again, it would not be in a position to rule the country. And if violence were to spread, the conservatives would not be spared just because they happened to vote against this or that piece of legislation.

Greece is in for a tough year. Everyone ought to act a bit more responsibly.