The crisis that we are living through is not only economic, not only political, not only social. It is also a crisis of perceptions: we live in a state of confusion, where each group sees only what it wants to see and tries to force its version of things on reality, where basic concepts are misunderstood and distorted. When each creates his own reality, when we use the same words to say different things, then the only thing that unites us is conflict. This makes division unavoidable. One such ambiguous and dangerous concept is that of the “system” – the system which forms the core of the state’s identity and functions, and is the focus of much debate.
Today we see that there is no person and no movement which could speak with the credibility that would unite the split interpretations of words, which would allow people to believe where we are, which would inspire them as to where we are headed. Instead, we have only the political system that we have, and politicians who function only through continual conflict. That is why the debate over the “system’s” faults is so heated. The opposition parties continually attack the “system” and vie to prove which is the most “anti-systemic” of them all, as if this title would be the greatest prize in politics. The parties that back the government do not dare to defend a system which – let’s not forget – coincided with the longest period of prosperity this country has known. They do not dare, because two of the three parties in the coalition are responsible for the shortcomings, the mismanagement and the corruption which undermined the system.
Today in Parliament we find many representatives of the Indignants, who not long ago were besieging it and hurling abuse at it. At that time, there were two main complaints – for all that former governments had done or not done, and which had brought the country to bankruptcy, and for all that the present government was doing after the collapse to try keep Greece on its feet. These two complaints were not seen as contradictory; instead, they complemented each other, uniting the crowd in a monologue of rage without answer.
This is how the public “dialogue” played out from the start of the crisis. First, George Papandreou’s PASOK government pretended it could not see that the country was headed for a wall, then, with its back to that wall, with the coffers empty, the government was forced to implement measures that no previous one had dared. But the party which more than any other had based its strength on state jobs and handouts, could not defend vigorously the necessity of its actions – not against conservative New Democracy, which was doing all it could to reap the fruits of public discontent, nor, of course, against the more dynamic protest groups from the extreme left and right of the political spectrum. Today’s three-party coalition government is showing greater conviction as to the necessity of reforms, but it is finding it hard to make citizens believe that those who are responsible for Greece’s failure can now save it.
On one side, then, we have the heirs of the system working half-heartedly with the country’s foreign creditors, while on the other stand the continually protesting “anti-systemic” forces. The main opposition party – radical left SYRIZA – has garnered a large portion of the peoples’ anger and insecurity, drawing from many of those who formerly supported PASOK and were firmly rooted in the system through political favors. SYRIZA, at the same time, is a political grouping that represents the more progressive social views of modern Europe and a traditional current of politics and thinking in Greece. It is obliged to offer shelter to the representatives of this established section of our political life as well as to wannabe revolutionaries. Its need to appear “anti-systemic” while also harboring ambitions to govern is placing a great strain on the party’s cohesion and will soon force it to take the difficult decision as to whom it really does represent. It’s “anti-systemic” credentials will then be tested.
Golden Dawn, whose violence and bigotry make it truly “anti-systemic,” obsessively describes itself as the indignant avenger of the system’s representatives, trying in this way to achieve legitimacy. Its practices and ideas, though, hark back to the darkest day’s of the political system that once ran this country.
Each group, then sees itself differently inside or outside the system. We all know the reasons for the country’s failure and we all know the hard work that needs to be done to fix it. But we are still not on the same page as to where we stand, as if we still have time to pretend that we can impose our will on events. Our politics, the state machinery, the mass media, all institutions, need to fix themselves. The fortunate thing is we have institutions; the unfortunate fact, though, is that they have not served us well. While we talk about how much the system is at fault, and where we stand in relation to it, we do not look at what we, as citizens, must do. And if we don’t do the right thing, we will remain trapped in a dance of endless conflict.