In the past five years, despite consecutive “bailout programs,” or maybe because of them, the terms “last chance,” “Grexit,” “ultimatum” and “destruction” have been doing the rounds with exhausting regularity in Greek and international headlines.
To begin with, they are exhausting our souls. They are also exhausting the country’s economy, which could not have withstood such a barrage of negativity even if it had been among the strongest in Europe. And that it is not has been acknowledged even by the most fervent champions of the famous “success story” which left Greece unable to meet its current obligations.
Whether these proclamations of doom are based on reality are blown out of proportion or invented is neither here not there because their effect remains the same – corrosive. And, unfortunately or fortunately, we cannot all deal with the fear being cultivated in the same way as Former Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis, who admitted to spiriting money out of Greece because he was scared. The overwhelming majority of Greeks cannot even dream of the kind of income he made.
The result is that gradually, from one scare to another, many – and especially those who have nothing left to lose – have given up looking for defenses, whether individual or collective, and have given in to the sin of sloth. They are not lazy or indifferent but experiencing emotional apathy. It has become a certainty that our destruction is much worse than a self-fulfilling prophecy: It has been orchestrated from outside. Either to punish the “lazy Greeks” or to warn others being tempted into believing that the European Union – as it is today, as a herald of a policy of austerity that can’t even be backed by the numbers – is repulsive rather than attractive.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker himself believes this to be true. His statements over the weekend in a German newspaper are probably the only comfort we can find in the deluge of negative news and commentaries about Greece, the majority of which are either patronizing and insulting or imperious and coercive. While Juncker naturally blamed Greek politicians for the country’s predicament, he ruled out the possibility of a eurozone exit and also added his concern that “not everyone in the European Union has understood how serious the situation in Greece is.” He was talking about the poverty and the unemployment, and the risks of the social fabric being destroyed if sloth spreads. Do the Europeans refuse to understand or just not care? It is a rhetorical question, especially when we consider how many times we have heard the European establishment that decides the country’s fate express its respect for the Greek people’s sacrifices.