OPINION

Stopping the madness

Greek society is threatened by an overdose of madness and hatred. To be sure, behind the rise of polarization and of extreme – sometimes extremist – views is the harsh reality of the debt crisis that has affected every one of us. When living standards are in free fall, when you reach the point of not being able to heat your apartment, you are more prone to extreme views.

However, although it is true that Greece was not the only European Union country to be hit hard by the financial crisis, few other nations have witnessed the level of polarization seen here.

Other states too have witnessed the rise of far-right or anti-systemic parties, which in some cases have been very successful.

However there are some big differences.

First, mainstream parties in other countries more or less reached an agreement about the direction that the country and the economy should take. Such consensus has been sorely lacking in Greece. Public debate in other crisis-hit countries often verges on the limits of the politically acceptable, but the level of absurdity seen in Greece’s television panel discussions or on the Internet is quite unprecedented.

It is very worrying to see otherwise respectable people falling for the most paranoid of conspiracy theories regarding the “actual” causes behind Greece’s economic crisis. Common sense is often lost in an ocean of allegations, extremism and vulgarity.

We should be worried by the fact that although economic stability is gradually being restored, political life here is to a large degree still hijacked by extremist and colorful personalities endlessly trading barbs and accusations.

Some people say – and they’re probably right – that the trend will ease as the financial and unemployment figures improve. But it will take time before this improvement in the economic side of things reaches the life of the man on the street.

The risk is that all this rage and madness will fuel instability and polarization. Any politician who believes they have something to gain from this state of affairs is simply ignorant. If you play with fire, you will get burned.

If I have one reason to be worried, it is because I hear veteran – often cynical – politicians say how hard it is to win the mainstream voters back from the crazy ideas that once sounded absurd to them.