Up in the air

Greece, in its entirety, is up in the air, and there is nothing worse than this kind of uncertainty and insecurity. Everyone wants to know whether Greece will manage to pull through, when this crisis is going to end and how much further our standard of living will drop. You can see the anxiety written on the faces of so many people, people who could never have imagined that they would experience this kind of crisis in their lifetime. Meanwhile, Greece?s politicians lack conviction, the media is scaring people and those who are in important institutional posts, from the president of the republic to the archbishop, are disappointing.

The beast of populism and violence grows more savage as it smells the void in the country?s leadership and society?s unrest. Its fans have taken up the battle cry, speaking in lunatic terms of a ?foreign occupation,? yet they still manage to fill the void. The champions of reason, be they academics or entrepreneurs, are silent and frightened. They are scared off by the boiling cauldron that is Greek politics and by confrontation, and they don?t understand that the hotter the brew gets, the more damage will be done.

The biggest and most critical issue today, meanwhile, is rising unemployment. The official number may stand at 15.1 percent, but in practical terms this means that in the private sector the number is closer to 20 percent. It is a major consideration to have to pull your children out of private school, to owe money and to have to borrow in an emergency or to give up on holidays. It is an even greater one though to experience the desperation of unemployment and to realize how difficult it will be to find work again. The number of resumes we receive in Kathimerini on a daily basis from qualified young people, with excellent academic studies, and who, they say, are prepared to do anything, is staggering.

This is Greece?s biggest problem right now and it needs a solution, because no society, much less Greece?s, which is known for its extreme reactions, can tolerate this level of unemployment. I agree that maybe as a society we need to grow up a bit, we need to stop expecting that a university degree will automatically get us a cushy job in the public sector, that playing at farmer will ensure a fat check at the end of each month or that a job in the tourism sector is beneath us. We have been spoiled as a society and corrupted by subsidies, kickbacks and the public servant?s mentality, which has also seeped into the private sector. Now we need to remember how previous generations had to survive, and to learn from this — and it will not be easy.

At the same time, however, we also need to create real jobs, real employment opportunities. To do this, we need to change the way we think. The war against entrepreneurship in Greece is like no other, and everyone is in on it: unions, political parties, media, large sectors of the justice system, tax offices, archaeologist — everyone. And, of course, we are also at the mercy of ?the fascism of the minority,? of that unconscionable phenomenon of tiny groups that band together to stop any progress in its tracks with the use of violence. Changing the way we think, though, will take years, as the large, silent majority has not yet reached that point of saying ?enough is enough; we need investments and we need them now!?

As a society we have a heavy duty to those who will not get through this crisis unscathed. First of all, we need to reach out to anyone and everyone we know who needs help and to remember that there was a time in Greece when we could all depend on the safety net provided by family, by the community and by friends. Secondly, and more importantly, we need to make Greece a country of opportunities. If we don?t make this transformation, we will leave no other outlet to the desperation and rage of so many people than the self-destructive course of blind protest and violence.

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