OPINION

The old and the new

Facing the chasm of the crisis caused by a bankrupt state, society appears ambivalent and ultimately prone to unruliness. Rage and despair are the dominant emotions of social groups being propelled violently into a state of poverty and even beyond it.

These feelings are easy to explain and well justified, but they manifest themselves in violent behavior, such as in increasingly frequent physical attacks against politicians and other public figures. The enraged citizens, who together form a mass, demand that those they see as ?traitors? disappear from the face of the Earth. At least this is what we hear at parades.

Why do these people feel betrayed? Maybe because they voted for these politicians and supported these public figures in the past and now their expectations have been dismally disappointed.

The country?s two main political parties, which have held power for the past few decades, had the consent, at least in the ballot box, of the majority of society, even as much as three-quarters of the electorate. So criticism of the politicians ought to also contain some element of self-criticism. They should be asking, ?Why did we entrust our fates to such unworthy people for such a long period of time??

The other reaction to the bankrupt state is manifested in a withdrawal from public discourse and political action. Most Greeks, almost all in fact, agree that the old-style politicians have to go. Yet few would accept to take on an active political role in order to fill the void and to relaunch the painful process of rescuing and rebuilding the country under new terms and with new faces in the seats of power. Even new political parties or those that are not tainted in the public mind by past ?sins? experience an enormous amount of trouble attracting new, undamaged faces into their ranks. They are willing to help as best they can but balk at the idea of putting themselves forward, of putting their names on the candidates list. And so, flying solo from one political party to another, we are left with the usual political ladder-climbers, damaged and spent.

The crisis reveals the limits of the old way of doing thing and the demands of a new system. The old system is all about heteronomy, isolation and clientelism — in short, corruption. The new system demands autonomy, organization, participation and responsibility — in short, democracy.