Justice, equality and a reboot

There is little doubt that the Memorandum, as applied by the Greek government so far, cannot pull the country out of the quagmire. Instead, it appears to be sinking Greece deeper into recession and desperation. Meanwhile, George Papandreou?s government not only appears exhausted, but confused, fragmented and barren, as though it has no strategy, not just for 2012, but not even for the rest of 2011.

This inability to manage the crisis is the most worrying symptom of all because it illustrates that the political body cannot create the motivation or generate the momentum needed to pull the country out of its free fall. The political system is unable to negotiate the terms of the country?s survival, to generate revenue, to impose a just and effective tax collection mechanism, to imbue the people with a sense of justice and, of course, to give rise to new ideas.

Never before in the history of the modern Greek state has this sense of ineffectuality and bankruptcy been so strong, and especially when coupled with the feeling that as a nation we are at a historical juncture. The transformation of the global division, immigration, the global economic crisis, the financial and political crisis being experience by the European Union and the revolts in the Arab world, are events that further intensify the structural crisis in Greece.

Greeks, meanwhile, are being forced to take a long, hard look at themselves and to change stance vis-a-vis the international environment. But, first of all, they need to reassess their position within their own country: they need to imagine themselves as citizens of a different country. After all, Greeks have redefined themselves time and again throughout the 20th century: through the Balkan Wars, the Asia Minor Catastrophe in 1922, World War II, the Civil War, in the aftermath of the junta and in response to the tragic events on Cyprus. On every one of those occasions, Greeks constructed an ideal for the future that was more or less consensual. After every defeat or historical upheaval they have had to deal with a change of stance from and toward the foreign element and internal disputes.

Unfortunately, this wealth of experience is no guarantee the the same mistakes will not be repeated; quite the opposite in fact. We may learn all there is to know about history, but this does not necessarily make us any wiser.

However, the hindsight with which a people with such a long history of struggle and strife is inevitably endowed with may help us view the current difficulties within a broader framework. It may allow us to step out of the eddy long enough to lay down some plans for the medium- and long-term future. Restructuring the debt is the first step. The recent and bitter experience of the Memorandum has taught us that we need to move fast if we are to gain any benefits from a restructuring and that we need to play hardball in negotiations. The next priority should be justice and social equality so that a real dent can be made in tax evasion and capital flight, so that the most vulnerable members of society get the protection they need and so that a suspicious and disheartened society is given some hope. Only if they begin to feel that everyone is being treated equally will the state earn back some of its shattered credibility.

The crucial question, however, is: which political party is in a position to convince the crushed, frightened and enraged people that they need to knuckle down and work toward a common goal? Which of our politicians can convince us that they have ethos, that they are willing to fight and that they will do so independent of all ties? Right now, there is only a handful of politicians up to this task who will be able to survive the times to come. We will also see new faces and new parties emerging over the coming years, though there are no guarantees that they will be good or at least any better. The fact, though, is that the clock is ticking fast and Greece needs change; Greece needs a reboot.