?It?s not the government that needs consensus; it?s the country,? said a recent message on my twitter account. The tweet was neither a play on words, nor yet another smart sound bite. In fact, the text on my screen conveyed a critical shift in meaning.
The meetings of Socialist Prime Minister George Papandreou with the country?s political party leaders, which are set to take place this week, are habitually described in the press as a bid ?to reach consensus.? In most cases, the government will voice a less-than-strong demand for consensus; and the opposition will, unsurprisingly, respond with a less-than-strong denial. In most cases, that is.
But this is not such a case, because these are extraordinary times we live in. The crisis besetting the debt-ridden country is unprecedented. Economically speaking, it can only be compared to the year 1948, when Greece emerged, devastated, from World War II, from years of German occupation and the bloody civil war that followed. Like now, public debt back then went through the roof.
Sure, the Greeks of today do not have to shoulder the psychological burden of a national division between winners and losers. On top of that, there is a democratic state and a Constitution that can guarantee equality before the law. The country?s infrastructure is intact and living standards rank Greeks among the globe?s most prosperous people.
On the downside, there is widespread fear and insecurity. The people?s morale is in decline, and so is their sense of collective identity. Social cohesion has come under strain — a cohesion that we all struggled to build in the decades after the war.
It is here that political efforts for consensus must concentrate. The declining sense of belonging, of being part of the same social collective, demands our energy and attention. To be sure, the different social groups do not all share the same interests — they never did.
However, at this crucial moment, it is extremely important that we find a common denominator, and work on it. Our minimum goal must be to halt the decline and ensure our survival. Our maximum goal must be to get the nation back on an upswing trend.
The nation is in dire need of consensus; a consensus concerning the basics. Our political leaders will have to overcome themselves. Or we shall all soon be overcome by grim reality.