Society is reeling from dizziness as the Greek political stage appears to have become a carousel that is spinning out of control, throwing its horses and riders into chaos.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is doing it all: holding meetings, traveling abroad, talking with potential investors, etc. Few prime ministers have such energy. Though he deserves our congratulations and respect, the prime minister’s job is to shape and supervise policy, to make sure that the ministers are implementing it and that the government is moving along smoothly or at least in a synchronized manner. A prime minister keeping an eye on government is the only way to make sure that the political stage does not become a school playground where a handful of misfits throw the whole group into disarray.
Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos recently took a swipe at Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, who though ostensibly a technocrat is constantly talking politics. Sources within the Socialist party say that Venizelos’s slip-up was nothing more than the result of his sense of humor, though everyone knows that he has none. Venizelos’s overinflated ego coupled with deep-seated insecurity put him among those who have no sense of humor whatsoever. What the president of PASOK does have is the ability to be sarcastic and to make jokes of the kind that pass in a university amphitheater, where students laugh at their professor’s cleverness, whether they want to or not.
There are two areas of government activity that are directly linked to society: public healthcare and education. Both are in a shambles. The need for change is evident and the reactions to that change expected. But the ministers in charge of dealing with the big issues ought to know that head-on clashes and stirring passions may make for great television but always end up working against the government.
As individuals, Greeks are in favor of progress but tend to be more conservative as a group. The forces of inertia are stronger than those of change – and in many ways this is a good thing. A society that is constantly in the grips of revolutionary fervor would be simply unbearable. Everyone wants change – each on his or her own terms of course – but the chaos that is created by forcing through reforms is undesirable.
The onus of the chaos is usually on those who react to change, but the real blame forever lies on the shoulders of the politician who is at the helm.
Putting displays of true political courage on the same footing as behavior that is arrogant and underestimates the force of reactions, albeit from a minority, always undermines the essence of reform. What is clear right now is that the government is nervous and this is the worst thing that could happen.