It is said that a pessimist is simply a well-informed optimist and there is, at times, a certain truth in this. In crisis-hit Greece, we don’t need to be well informed to be pessimistic. There are plenty of good reasons, not least of which is the number of our fellow citizens who are suffering greatly. The way the political class conducts itself, meanwhile, is nothing short of disappointing. In a way, it would be the easiest thing to crawl into the corner with your pessimism and act the modern-day Nostradamus or Cassandra. But that is too easy. And, unfortunately, it is something that, as a nation, we know all too well: We find meaning in conflict and separation instead of in unification and building together. We find meaning in endless philosophizing rather than action. We laud the past, ignore the present and deny the future. We canonize the beggar and demonize the person who strives for self-sufficiency through daily toil. We find meaning in the concept of the victim, but not in the quandaries of hope, choice and decision making – because the latter entail assuming responsibility. And as we know all too well, for someone who always feels like a victim, it is always somebody else’s fault.
It is often true that someone else is indeed at fault. But the question still remains: What are we doing about it? The issue is that pessimism appears to have become a prevailing mentality and a way of life, irrespective of how things are going. That said, at no time should we have been more pessimistic than a few years ago, when we were sinking into a state of consumerist, counterproductive inertia, when the concept of duty was seen as tainted and the concept of entitlement was so abused that it became debased.
It is not just ordinary citizens who were guilty of these transgressions but, first and foremost, the ruling political class, and it was in this way that we ended up with millions being unemployed and unpaid. In this sense, the pessimist of 2004 was indeed a well-informed individual or, rather, a wary optimist.
But enough with pessimism and optimism; enough with overdramatizing our weaknesses. Let’s do something about it. Sure, it’s not easy, but we have no choice. The world is changing: The world has always gone from good to better and we as humans have always gone forward, though not, of course, without periods of bloodshed and injustice, and period of stagnation born from fear. We mustn’t be fooled by the steps back; the course is forward. And as Greeks, beyond pessimism or optimism, let us stop wallowing in this constant narcissistic denial and try to be a part of the changing world.