Frustration often makes us wonder whether Greece, culturally speaking, in fact belongs to the drachma, whether it is in fact part of the East rather than the West.
The crisis naturally prompts questions such as these, especially seeing that part of the country?s political class, media, state-dependent entrepreneurs and academics behave in a way that is not befitting to a eurozone country.
Greek society has been trying to grapple with such existential issues since the very establishment of the Greek state. Many people have always felt more comfortable — more at home, as it were — with the Levantine way of social organization. On the other hand, enlightened and dynamic leaders from Ioannis Kapodistrias and Harilaos Trikoupis to Eleftherios Venizelos and Constantine Karamanlis were determined to pull Greeks deep into the Western world. With all the protests, the battles, and some backpedaling the Greeks eventually managed to join the big clubs of the West and move forward.
But these leaders enjoyed the backing of an extrovert middle class that was inspired by vision, principles and a desire to contribute to the country. In the past 30 years, this class has been replaced by a kleptocratic bunch of nouveaux riches more interested in instant gratification and served by a group of politicians — the same ones that pushed the country to bankruptcy.
Today the battle for the euro appears to be all about cuts to pensions and salaries. It shouldn?t. It should be more about setting rules in the public as well as the private sector. This is not the mission of yesterday?s politicians. It?s a mission they don?t even understand.
But how can you fight the battle for the euro with the politicians of the drachma? How can you fight the battle for the euro with a private sector spoiled by state money and accustomed to Third World market principles?
As I write these lines, young people, businessmen, bankers and professors are choosing to leave this country instead of fighting the euro battle. They are fed up with the unorthodox ways of the Greek market and the fact that everything changes in theory yet everything stays the same.
This is the biggest concern for now. A country which is losing the most dynamic, most extrovert elements cannot fight the battle of modernization. This is why we must change the fundamentals that hold us ransom to the drachma era, before it?s too late.