OPINION

Extremism from a bygone era

There are times when we seem to be overcome by self-destructive madness. I hear various commentators and politicians speaking in extreme terms of a junta, of defections, gallows, collaborators and so on. Do they have any idea how damaging this is?

There are no parallels to be drawn between now and 1965 or 1967, or any other tragic time in the country’s modern history for that matter. When we use terms from the past to describe the present it’s as if, subconsciously, we want to relive it. But look around. Sure, there is a lot pain, people are exhausted and there is an overwhelming sense of despair. Nevertheless, you can hardly describe the current regime as a dictatorship, no matter how much you may disagree with the tactics occassionally employed by the riot police. Eventually we become inured to the exaggeration, to the hysteria that causes such polarization and destroys any bridge of understanding. We should know by now that the populist beast will bite anyone, even those who nurtured it to begin with. Those who once referred to their political opponents as traitors are getting the same treatment today. It’s a vicious cycle of madness. Some cynics can’t wait to see SYRIZA taste the sour fruit of its own sterile, extremist protestations. But a victory is not what’s at issue here; it’s the country’s future.

Everyone involved in games of extreme polarization is causing harm. SYRIZA’s rhetoric may be irresponsible but it cannot be seen as Round Three for those wishing to take their revenge for the Varkiza Treaty of 1945, which disarmed the country’s communists. Perhaps there’s a group of 20 or 30 people who would like to go back to that time. Greek society will not allow it, however, as there are still enough people who are fully aware of what’s been lost but are unwilling to allow the country to become like Egypt.

Can we put an end to hyperbole, vitriol and fanaticism? Surely we don’t wish to relive another period of division, civil war and unrest? But as long as we employ bygone terms in our daily speech we are increasing the danger of reliving the nightmare. We must isolate the extremist voices, no matter where they’re coming from. We may not be conscious of it but it is this kind of barbarity that makes us stand apart from the rest of European nations. Of course it is deeply rooted in our DNA. Nevertheless, we have gone through 40 years of institutional stability and have reached a level of prosperity, which even today, places the country among the world’s 40 richest nations. We are going through a tough period, with grave dangers looming both inside the country and out. Let’s turn our backs to the fanatics and lay the foundations for a new chapter based on mutual understanding and self-restraint. We will need both qualities in the tough days ahead.