Something an experienced New Democracy cadre told me Thursday afternoon stuck with me. He said that for three days, as negotiations to find the next prime minister wavered, the switchboard at the conservative party?s headquarters was bombarded by exasperated ND supporters. But he said the complaints died down soon after the new premier, Lucas Papademos, made his first public statement. Maybe it was just coincidence, but maybe there is an explanation.
Clearly people?s rage won?t just die down overnight. Unemployment, high taxes and the incessant attack on the middle classes? quality of life make this anger justifiable. Maybe, though, we will all take a step back from the edge of the abyss.
Papademos Thursday exuded a sense of calm and knowledge of the tough situation. He isn?t part of a burnt-out political status quo that battled tooth and nail over the last few days to survive and keep control of the system. Maybe Greeks will now realize that beyond the regulars on the political debates on their TV screens, there are actually people with knowledge and morals who can offer something positive to the country when it needs it so desperately.
Maybe a calm and honest analysis of the situation will help dispel the many myths that have emerged to fan the flames of rage, such as that there is a third path for Greece to follow other than strict fiscal discipline and remaining in the euro, or returning to the drachma, or the story about a great national betrayal through the presence of foreign technocrats, or even the idea that we can bring about a renegotiation of our lending terms and embarrass the Europeans.
I know that all this sounds optimistic. The party mechanisms will fight to ensure that the Papademos government does not succeed. The left will revert to its usual role and the uber-patriots on the right and left will again start talking about the occupation of the Fourth Reich. The high priests of populism and the drachma will create another conspiracy, dismissing Papademos as a puppet of the international banking system.
However, maybe something has changed after the fiasco of George Papandreou?s appearance at Cannes and the emergence of a new type of government. Maybe raw honesty, reliability, correct negotiation with our partners and dignity will for now act as a strong antidote to the madness, hysteria and violence that made us stand out so much more than any other country experiencing a debt crisis.