Spinning our wheels

As time passes, we sink deeper into crisis and nowhere do we see any light, any hope for an end to our drama — which is both national and very personal. Why, after two years, are we still trapped in a social, political and economic dead end? Why has there been no new political proposal that would inspire people, that would lead us to believe that out of the ashes and ruins green shoots will rise, some of which will offer new hope and dynamism to the country?

It’s not because the Greeks have stopped thinking, of analyzing what brought us here, of imagining a better future. Countless public discussions, demonstrations, private conversations, aphoristic tweets, newspaper articles and blogs debate how we got here and how we could escape. ?We spent it all together… Or did we?? The politicians are to blame — or do we perhaps share the blame? It’s Merkel’s fault — or is Germany the only force keeping us alive? The memorandum is to blame for the recession — or should we blame the fact that it was never applied (at least with regard to the development that it called for)? What is the ?green economy? that we hear so much about and which could jump-start our stalled economy? Can the eurozone save itself? Will this save us as well? When does this torture end? Will it end?

The debate is taking place on many levels. At some point, something may come out of the ferment. But why has so much time passed without our seeing any improvement to our situation? Citizens have made many sacrifices and the PASOK government has borne a huge political cost — so we cannot stick to the dogma that our parties don’t dare change anything. Also, socialist PASOK, right-wing New Democracy and the extreme right-wing LAOS party have joined in a coalition government whose aim is to make further changes to the public administration and the economy.

But these changes also highlight the deeper problem that our country faces: the inability to change. The political parties, unions and other players in our public life have either been forced to act against their own nature or persist with attitudes and behavior that belong to the past. The parties that joined the government of Prime Minister Lucas Papademos govern with a heavy heart, while those that stayed outside give free rein to the populist rejection of all change, demanding a return to a past that proved catastrophic. The question now is: As we see no progress with the coalition of the wary, nor can we expect anything from the rejectionist front, why have no new political and social forces come to to the fore?

Although there are several (still disjointed) movements and tentative initiatives looking for support, political life remains trapped in the mechanisms of past decades. The main parties, relying on the force of inertia and the structures they developed over decades, act as they did before; and citizens who appear to persist in supporting them probably do so because they need to hold on to something familiar in today’s uncertainty. It is very difficult for party officials to leave in order to create new parties; it is also difficult to form new parties that will achieve the name recognition and national structures of established parties when elections must be held within a couple of months. And so our political system is like a car that’s stuck in the mud: The more the driver steps on the gas, the more noise we hear, the deeper the vehicle sinks. No one wants to get out and push and then be left behind.

Politicians’ systematic sabotage of institutions, through repeated interventions that undermined every sense of objective justice, have left us with a deep emotional dependance on parties that we already know, even as we trust neither them, nor our institutions nor our fellow citizens. We do not trust our institutions because we know that they are staffed not by the responsible officials who would make them independent and effective, but by the clients of politicians. The weakness of our institutions (the judiciary, the police, the state, the news media, and so on) allowed our politicians to get away with the irresponsible actions (and inaction) that brought us to this mess. The same weakness and inertia hinder us from moving away from the old parties that are now bankrupt — literally and metaphorically.

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