On freedom’s shores

In the face of all our troubles, we Greeks must not forget that we enjoy something that many others do not – our freedom as a country, as a nation, as individuals. While the sea of uncertainty and restrictions on freedom rise around us, Greece is a beacon of human rights, freedom and choice. We tend to forget that though we inherited our freedom, its protection depends on us on a daily basis.

Freedom and democracy are not just abstract concepts to be dragged out whenever we want to brag about the past – they are the framework of our daily lives. When we allow extremist groups to trample on laws and the Constitution, when we tolerate violence, then our indifference and inaction make us enemies of freedom. It is inconceivable that the three parties in our coalition government have not managed to agree on a law that will curb the rise in racism, bigotry and violence. Sophistic declarations and party maneuvering mean nothing; only the result counts. According to the Constitution (Article 5.2), “All persons living within the Greek territory shall enjoy full protection of their life, honor and liberty irrespective of nationality, race or language and of religious or political beliefs.” The fight against discrimination has a strong and clear basis, but who is willing to wage it with determination?

Freedom is not just a decoration of our lives, it determines its quality. We need only compare the position of women in Greek society with those in other countries in our region. Even Turkey, which was the most progressive of our Muslim neighbors, has been interfering more and more in the lives of citizens at every level. Around us spreads a sea of Islamic puritanism, with all that this implies for personal freedoms. As the scene darkens, Greece shines as a place of freedom and human rights – freedoms and rights that must be protected. This is important not only for those who live here (citizens and immigrants), but will also be decisive in terms of tourism.

Many countries can offer sea, sun, culture and fair prices. What Greece has in addition is freedom that allows people to pursue their personal happiness, within the bounds of the law. The chronic inability of institutions to protect people and to ensure the absolute imposition of the law should not cast doubt on the core of our civilization – that under even the most difficult circumstances, only free citizens, in a democratic society, can create economic, political and social stability. However much we have lost in the past few years, when we are alert and ready to protect our personal freedoms and those of others, then we will recover quickly.