How can it be that the average Greek does not realize the dangers facing the country? It’s a good question, and the answers to it are pretty obvious.
The January elections were followed by a mood of euphoria which is now easing, albeit slowly. Over the past few months, many Greeks have not payed taxes or loan installments. TV news bulletins are no longer dominated by recurring footage of troika officials going in and out of Athens ministries, which created a sense of collective humiliation. A large number of people were also happy because, as they saw it, our guys finally “had a go at” the country’s lenders.
After five years in crisis, a certain denial of reality is to be expected. The problem of course is that we cannot expect to move forward without making tax and loan payments, without some form of troika, and simply having Greek government officials criticizing senior European officials. The public coffers are running dry, lenders are turning into zombie banks, and some hardworking foreign technocrats are busy calculating the cost of all this, which we will one day have to pay.
Meanwhile, the government is making a very big mistake, for which it will pay dearly. No one can question its deft communication tactics. They are unprecedented and, from a technical viewpoint, admirable. But there comes a point when you cannot invert reality any longer; doing so will only cause you more harm. Greeks have always punished those who played with the truth in the end.
Now it is time to start a new round of educating people about who is with us and who is not, what is not a feasible compromise and what is not. It is not possible to advertise “Obama’s support” one day and then have the US president urge Greece to curb red tape and reform its labor market.
Every leader who has an idea of what direction he wants to go in ought to speak truthfully about where the country really stands and the compromises which are required in order to stay in the eurozone. We have already seen what Beijing, Moscow and Washington had to offer. We are faced with European leaders, the International Monetary Fund and Washington calling for a compromise that a section inside SYRIZA will find very hard to swallow. Sure, Noam Chomsky and Joseph Stiglitz may be on our side, but their contribution means nothing in terms of financial support.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has a very clear idea of what is going on and what is at stake. Greek voters are starting to realize that this brief grace period is running out. The country is in for a rough landing in the coming weeks. The pilot must choose whether he will let the passengers remain ignorant or whether he will warn them about what is to come. The responsibility is all his.