OPINION

Stereotypes and nonsense

If we continue to confront today?s challenges with yesterday?s stereotypes, Greece will stay trapped in the dead end to which those very ideas brought it. Unfortunately, the harsh austerity measures and general sense of injustice encourage us to turn our backs on the difficult present and seek refuge in the failed — but familiar — past. A past that was built on errors, exaggerations and myths whose common ground was indifference toward the country?s reality and the dangers it faced.

Now ignorance and indifference have brought bankruptcy, fear and humiliation upon our heads, those who fight against every effort to reform and revive the country are again wielding ignorance and indifference as their strongest weapons, investing once more in the political charms of willful blindness and nostalgia. These stereotypes are so deeply rooted that the PASOK government was undermined fatally by itself, whereas New Democracy cultivated such extreme populist elements within its ranks that they broke away and now threaten to deprive ND of a self-governing majority in the next Parliament.

The polls show a rise in the popularity of parties whose ideological differences are papered over by the remarkable agreement they enjoy on the Greek trait of waiting for someone else to pull the chestnuts from the fire while we make life difficult for him.

Saying no to everything is easy, and the excuses for this are many and equally simple. When we live in a world in which we have no personal sense of responsibility and someone else is always to blame for whatever goes wrong, what can we do other than sit back and complain about conspiracies against us? When we expect everything from the state, although we know it is incompetent and run by those who use it for personal gain, how can we trust each other? When we believe foreigners are always scheming to get their hands on all our treasures, how can we avoid branding as traitors those who cooperate with them, even if this is for the good of our country? When we think it?s cool to tolerate criminal behavior, we call those who condemn it ?rats.? When our trade union, our ideology, our team is always right, we cannot accept tactical retreats — even if our obsession with victory leads to self-destruction.

The myths, stereotypes and distortions both hinder our ability to see reality and prevent any effort to save ourselves, making us believe we can?t work together and any effort at cooperation is doomed. That?s why the new polls, showing the fragmentation of our political scene, warn it will be a long time before we again enjoy anything like today?s stability.