Ground zero

The next few weeks will be particularly crucial for the country. We care very little about which party will be in government or what will happen to X or Y politician. We all feel like nutshells in an unprecedented storm which is sweeping away everything we have taken for granted so far.

Besides, this crisis will eradicate everything, leaving behind a different Greece, for better or for worse.

The government lost precious time and consumed vital parts of the country?s productive base because it was unwilling to do the obvious — reduce the cost of the state. Remember how this government started out, when the stormy quarrels had to do with whether or not pay freezes would be confined to civil servants getting paid over 200 euros or not.

With very few exceptions, ministers never actually believed the need for reforms and engaged in a game of hide-and-seek with the troika, undermining, delaying and sometimes event mocking them. The climax of this was the presentation of an across-the-board pay structure which actually increased the public sector?s cost in terms of salaries and pensions. We tried our diversion tactics, they got wind of us and now they are pointing the gun at our head. This time round they did it in a more spectacular and harsh manner because they wanted to leave Papandreou and Venizelos no hope that they could persuade the EU and IMF leadership to turn a blind eye. Perhaps it was also a message directed at the main opposition, which has nurtured an expectation of a political negotiation that could change the troika?s stance.

We are now at ground zero. Within the next few weeks, the government will have to do all that it forgot or was unwilling to do in the last months. In the meantime, society is angry and tired from the deepening recession, while fans of chaos are aiming at complete destruction. Consensus seems like a faraway dream and it remains to be seen whether the ministers of inertia will change overnight and suddenly turn into super-reformers. It remains to be seen whether the PM will operate as an emergency leader or will carry on tolerating every chieftain who insists on operating as a 1980s minister.

For years we?ve been listening to those who claim that ?unless we hit rock-bottom, if we don?t go through a major disaster we will not change.? For the first time I?m afraid that they could be vindicated, even though I still believe that beyond the bigotry, the sensationalist media, the union syndicates and partisan politics stands a silent, powerful, healthy Greece which in this final hour will push the political pendulum toward better solutions than expected.

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