OPINION

Restoring the social contract

A recent address by Prime Minister George Papandreou at Berlin?s Humboldt university was interrupted by protesters. More recently, Deputy Prime Minister Theodoros Pangalos suffered a similar verbal attack by Greek students while speaking at the Greek House cultural center in Paris. Berlin and Paris, of course, are where many of the politicians who now make up the nation?s guiding elite proved their anti-junta credentials.

Of course, no principled individual can justify the vulgar attacks on the two senior government officials and it would be great if a moral condemnation were enough to wipe out such nasty habits.

That said, the government?s efforts to attribute these attacks, and other similar incidents, to the left-wing SYRIZA coalition is to attribute near-metaphysical powers to a political party that will have to claw its way into Parliament in the next general elections. The decline of our political system has deprived political parties and party guided union groups of any real power to express the anger and frustration of the people. And this is true for all parties.

The government?s main concern right now should be the threat of social turmoil and disobedience beyond its control. The sooner it realizes this, the better for everyone.

At the same time, the ruling party must also realize that the government has not lived up to the needs of the current conditions and that it has estranged itself from society.

The parties that came to power after the end of dictatorship misled the people of Greece, and, instead of democratizing society, they encouraged its decline. Today, the Papandreou administration is facing up to the mess that PASOK, and to a lesser extent New Democracy, created over the past 35 years.

The catechism of the masses has been the task of various people in the past. This time around, most of the people who now lecture correct political behavior are the same people who have encouraged political instability. No real change can possibly come from recycled ex-communists.

The world?s elites are trying to navigate the storm of an unchecked economic crisis on the basis of past experience. But we should not be too hard on them because they have all graduated from the same universities and they all, more or less, share the same views.

Greece has bigger problems than coming up with fresh ideas. Politicians must regain the trust of the people, otherwise, any effort at reform and change is doomed to failure. And the verbal attacks will merely continue.