The luxury of division

As time passes and we realize just how deep a hole we are in, we understand how difficult it will be for us to escape. This time we do not have a common enemy uniting us, so we will have to overcome our own selves. It is we who have to agree with each other if we will accept the proposed solutions, it is we who must endure the sacrifice and struggle without falling apart. However much some may try to present our predicament within the familiar framework ?us good guys against the baddies on the other side,? the truth is that this time we are all in the same boat. We have all been cheated because we are the ones who have to pay the bill for decades of mismanagement; we all have the same aim, to set our country on new foundations that will keep anything good that we have today and combine it with the best that we can do from now on.

However, when we observe the behavior of our politicians, our trade unionists and many plain citizens we get the impression that we are at war with each other — that either this government or the previous one is to blame for everything, that one group is against another, as are civil servants and businessmen and so on. This mentality was clearly evident at the recent meeting of political party leaders under President Karolos Papoulias. Faced with the danger of our not being able to meet the demands of our creditors in order to receive the fifth tranche of our loan, the president called for national consensus. What he got was each leader taking the opportunity to show that his party was better than the others. And our creditors, who wanted the opposition New Democracy party to support the PASOK government, are now reduced to hoping that PASOK itself will not fall apart because of disagreements over the measures that must be taken to meet the shortfall of revenues in 2011 and for midterm reforms.

Throughout Greek history we have seen that when we deal with a common enemy, and we have a leader who inspires and unites us, we can achieve the impossible. Our greatest triumphs involved tying our interests to those or more powerful allies. When the enemy is gone, however, we fall out with each other until one group triumphs over the other. And we do our best to exploit our foreign allies against each other. Countless tragedies were born of our divisions and we have still not learned to avoid them. Now we have allies but we can?t agree to use them for our common good.

So, as ND leader Antonis Samaras persists in being the anti-memorandum pole, and Prime Minister George Papandreou pledges to carry on alone in his effort to reach agreement with our creditors, and while the growing crowds question the legitimacy of our whole political system, all the concerns over the need for consensus are focused on the ruling party itself? Whether Papandreou is at fault for keeping his deputies in the dark over the major decisions that must be taken, or whether party officers are not keen on knowing what he plans, it is unbelievable that even government members feel they can afford the luxury of disagreeing with each other. When they act like this, how will they persuade the citizens of the need for harsh austerity measures? When both the conservative opposition and the whole of the left wing are opposed to the current course, how will people be encouraged to believe that their sacrifices will lead to salvation?

Very few people appear to understand that there really is no dilemma, so there is no real reason for division. No party wants us to leave the euro, no one can believe that our economy and society will survive if we stop paying our creditors, no politician can afford to ignore the people?s anger or try to exploit it without offering hope for the future. So why all the shouting?

Unless some people believe that the collapse of our society will benefit the citizens. If they believe that, let them say so.

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