Greeks have a soft spot for national myths and one of these is fueled by the widely held conviction that they live in the birthplace of political thought. As a result, people believe they have strong knowledge of politics, that they are thinking in a political manner, that every issue is essentially a political issue and, for that reason, it must be dealt with and solved in a political fashion.
Furthermore, any political solution reached must be comprehensive and radical, or it is not really a solution at all. That last thing, combined with a chronic divorce from reality, is the basis of opposition politics in Greece. That does not mean to say the governments have been much better than that either.
Such navel-gazing in order to examine whether Greece is a beacon of political thinking and whether Greeks are the world’s most politically active citizens serves no real purpose. It should be noted however that for the majority of the political class and society (which is where politicians come from in the first place), politics is mostly reduced to petty politicking; meanwhile nearly everything is seen as the result of secret dealings and dodgy conspiracies. After all, reality around us shows that neither our tendency for elaborate political thinking nor our complex political interpretations have done us much good.
So we need to ask ourselves whether the myth of a politically mature nation is an alibi for the attitudes we see around us today. There is no safe and generally accepted way of measuring the political maturity of an individual or a society, but what can be the degree of political maturity of a society that, as shown by official data, indulges in rampant tax evasion? What is the political interpretation of the fact that dozens of thousands of our fellow citizens used to receive pensions that they were not entitled to? How can one politically explain the fact that thousands of people have illegally grabbed land that is state property or habitually dip their fingers into the state coffers? Why is there such a strong reaction to any attempt to overhaul the state and enforce the law? Why is there so much political violence and why do so many parties invest in perpetuating this situation?
We all know what the usual response is: The real problem is the state, the crisis, the politicians or the bad foreigners. But it is the people who operate the state and the judiciary; politicians only tend to adapt to the demands and the behaviors of the public. All these observations in fact preceded the crisis. Nor can the state constantly seek to impose its will with squads of riot policemen. So maybe what appears to be a political problem is in fact a social one.