OPINION

Deconstruction and rebuilding

Let?s look at the bright side. Greece is not bankrupt, nor are any of its banks. Everything is more difficult but our society has not had to change radically. Aside from some spectacular outbursts of rage and a widespread sense of suspicion, people are showing unexpected patience — perhaps more citizens have come to understand the need for radical reforms and are ready to take part in the effort to rebuild the country, as long as they are given something to believe in.

At the same time, foreign officials are beginning to see that the majority of Greek citizens cannot keep being asked to pay more and more for the cheating of others and the mismanagement of their governments, and are pressing for reforms beyond the economy. Now that the nightmare of immediate bankruptcy is past us temporarily and we are negotiating the nature of our next loan, we can think a little about our course, consider the greatest obstacles in our way and try figure out our future.

The immediate task our country faces is the deconstruction of the very many distortions in our economy and society, so that we can begin the process of rebuilding. We are still not at the starting point; we have to cover some distance and deal with much tension before we get there. It is natural that the status quo of decades will not change quickly, nor will this be without turmoil. Many groups will lose benefits and income, be they members of liberalized professions, people who will be made redundant or those will see their privileged social security funds merged with others. Spending cuts and higher taxes are not some abstract concept; they involve money that will be kept from people who were used to getting it. They will react, either in public or in silence, inside themselves. The signs of rage are easy to see — in protests, endless tweeting and graffiti; the signs of depression are not immediately evident, but they will follow.

No serious person can claim that our society does not need to change, so it will be good if change comes soon and the government appears decisive and with a clear plan. The longer the application of reforms is delayed, the longer their benefits will be delayed and the current tension will continue. Like every previous government, this one too announces changes, provokes the greatest reaction and then backs down from applying them. The result is a society in continual turmoil: Those who will lose from the changes know that if they protest hard enough they will win, and if they do not protest, they will be the only ones to lose while other groups retain their benefits. In this way, governments pretended to govern and, even as they provoked reactions, they did not want to lose votes and so they let sleeping dogs lie The consecutive loans allowed us to put off the day of reckoning, and so they extended the injustices and distortions in our economy and society.

If we have learned anything today it is that problems are not solved by good intentions, without facing difficulties. The government is forced to take measures that it has a hard time taking, while various interest groups have to understand that they are members of a society and cannot have more privileges than others. However, those who will be affected by the changes must not be pushed into a corner — if they are not part of the solution they will remain a part of the problem. We are all part of society, we cannot endure endless conflict. When some difficulties are surpassed, citizens will be able to believe in the need for change and in the results that this will bring. Today, even members of the ruling party act as if they don?t believe in the reforms, while the opposition does nothing other than sit back and enjoy their discomfort. This collective intransigence and paralysis reveals the size of the problem and the lack of leadership at many levels.

Great change is never easy, and we cannot expect messiahs. That is why among the positive aspects of our time is the deep understanding that if we do not wipe out the structural weaknesses and injustices of our society, if we do not support institutions, and if we do not believe in the way out, we will remain stuck here (at best). No one wants this any more. Where we want to get to, however, will remain murky and controversial if we do not take the first step.