Given the celebratory nature of the Christmas season, any discussion of the country’s current situation or modern-day agnostics’ mystification at interpretations of the divine would be depressing at best, so perhaps this is a good time for some positive reminiscences.
For 70 years the Greek nation experienced an unparalleled period of peace. In the aftermath of World War II and a terrible civil war, the country made significance progress in comparison to its neighbors. In 2010, of course, the prosperity it had become so accustomed to was exposed for the ersatz condition that it was and the malaise that was decades in the coming befell the nation all at once.
For 40 years the political system built during the restoration of democracy, despite its innate weaknesses, operated with smooth transitions of power, a condition that could by no means be taken for granted given the turbulent history of the independent Greek state. The civil contract forged during the Metapolitefsi is now in a state of decomposition, though the duration of the state of equilibrium remains impressive.
The political battle today is defined in terms of the country’s complete destruction, be it whether New Democracy and PASOK’s government remains in power against the will of SYRIZA or whether the leftist party led by Alexis Tsipras comes to power in early elections, against the wishes of the coalition.
But nation states do not disappear off the world map simply because their people choose to elect a new government. The fate of the ancient Kingdom of Commagene, “ignominiously snuffed out” according to C.P. Cavafy, is the stuff of poets because destruction is not something that happens in an instant but in a series of painful events. Some of these events have already been experienced by Greece but we will not dwell on these today.
Greeks are mostly of a conservative bent. They are clearly not revolutionaries by nature, or Ottoman rule would not have lasted for four centuries. We are an outgoing people with a love of fanfare and drama – mainly on the political front – often undisciplined and always impatient. And now, the fatigue of four years of violent adaptation to European standards, or European dictates, has set in.
But in view of the time of year, let us remember that during the decline of Hellenism and when the East came under Roman rule, the Greek language and Greek philosophy were the vehicles that shaped European culture. Not everything began in Europe and ended with the Encyclopedists and the Enlightenment, despite what European covenants may have us believe. In short, we are not a nation to be derided. Our biggest shortcoming is a lack of leadership, but that isn’t really anything new.