OPINION

How much can society take?

How much lawlessness can a society tolerate before it falls apart? When do we cross the line where the majority can no longer accept the impunity of organized groups and take action? Unfortunately, in Greece we are in danger of testing these limits and of learning what happens when the balance between social groups is shaken. This is the balance on which civilization stands.

Such fears may seem an exaggeration in our European country, but who would have believed a few years ago that today we would be living with the consequences of economic collapse? This situation was caused chiefly by governments which did not dare stand up to the demands of organized groups. And so, special interests kept raising their demands, at society?s expense, until the whole country fell to its knees under the burden of debt. Apart from a few (short-lived) efforts to avert catastrophe, successive governments followed a policy of vindictive indifference: Whenever proposed reforms would provoke strong reactions, the government would respond: ?You don?t want reforms? OK, see what will happen to you.?

The lack of personal and collective discipline brought us to this economic impasse and now we are obliged to accept the biggest bailout of our time. Economic revival, however, depends on the will of society to accept deprivation and to find new sources of development. This demands discipline at a personal level but mainly at the level of politicians and state institutions. Those in positions of power must shoulder the burdens of their office.

When a government does not dare enforce the law, when groups of citizens believe they can break the law with impunity, we have the basis of an unjust society, where the strongest thrive at the expense of the majority.

Like so much else that has gone wrong in this country, we grew accustomed to living with injustice, as if we had no alternative. But, looking at the damage that small groups are causing to the efforts of others to make a living, we appear to be reaching the point where the government has to impose the law in order to prevent one group from fighting the other in a battle for survival.

If such a war between rival social groups were to break out, all hope of recovery would fade for a very long time.