Regardless of the upbeat notes infused into official speeches for the 39th anniversary of the restoration of democracy in Greece, celebrated on July 24, the undertones will continue to be melancholic. Even if we were to force ourselves into positive thinking, we would still find more negatives than positives to dwell on. By common consent, we are no longer in the period of the country’s history when the democratic deficit was attributed to the actions of elements operating beyond the borders of democratic institutions. Today, in the memorandum era, official Greece, as even the authorities will admit, has signed away a piece of the country’s sovereignty and in doing so hobbled democracy. The price was economic salvation that seems much like the distant horizon: the closer you think you are, the farther away it seems.
But the shrinking of Greek democracy is not just due to external factors. Financial ruin, international supervision, the erosion of the political system and the corruption that is inherent in some of its pillars, have all done their share of hatching the snake that is now biting foreigners just as much as it is biting Greeks.
The militaristic neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party – becoming increasingly aggressive as it receives more and more media coverage and is coddled by certain vote-mongering politicians – has imposed the “justice” of violence, vulgarity, hate and fear. Even Parliament sits by cringing as it tolerates one insult after another.
But a democracy is not whole when its citizens are frightened and its institutions are functioning below par.
Despite the 39 years that have elapsed since the fall of the junta and the return of democracy to its birthplace (something we Greeks like to boast about, without always being fully aware of the weight of our words and the responsibilities that come with them), there will be those on July 24 who will herald, once again, the end of the “Metapolitefsi,” which is how the tricky period of the restoration of democracy is described. Even though the “end of the Metapolitefsi” – suggesting that the transitional period is over and democracy is solid and here to stay – has become one of the tritest cliches around, not everyone interprets it with the same meaning. It continues to be a controversial point, even though the prevailing view is that the Metapolitefsi is responsible for all our ills today.
Those who believe that the process of building the Greek democratic state is where the evil really lies obviously forget that corruption existed before the Metapolitefsi as well (with the most corrupt being the dictatorial regime, even though its champions like to neglect the fact), as did populism, cronyism, vested interests, kakistocracy and nepotism.
The Metapolitefsi did not invent all these ills. Its critics also forget that a lot of good was done over these 39 years, so much in fact that the landscape today may have been much different were it not for the strength of the pre-junta roots of the clientelistic and corrupt state.
People who are eager to wash their hands of the Metapolitefsi are probably eager to do away not with the negatives it brought, but with the social benefits, the equitable terms of the labor market and the civil liberties that were established over the course of the restoration, because they are deemed as being counterproductive. But without these there is no democracy; it is disabled.