OPINION

The high price of national tuition

This is where our four-month national tuition more or less comes to an end. We had to go through it to realize where we stand, what we face and what kind of room for maneuver we’re left with. The last five years saw the rise of persuasive myths capable of soothing the pain of Greeks who could no longer rely on their old political system. These were powerful myths that struck a chord with the average Greek. No one was capable of confronting them in time as public opinion simply did not want to listen. The anger was justified and out of control. The salesmen of rage sold their conspiracy theories, unfeasible alternative scenarios and geopolitical follies.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras undertook to put these myths to the test in our name, one by one. History, it seems, had this difficult role in store for him. He took on the groundless expectations nurtured by the Greeks which were based on flawed admissions. He tried to create the so-called Southern European alliance. From Moscow to Beijing, he went in search of money. He tried, albeit in a well-mannered and institutional way, to use the Kougi method [in reference to a group of 19th-century residents of the Epirus city of Souli who blew themselves up on Kougi Hill rather than be captured by the Ottomans] by not honoring an IMF loan payment on time. He threatened the country’s lenders with a referendum. He played the game of the institutions’ division. He attempted to use the American and then the Russian card. At first he also put the issue of debt relief on the table. As far as I can tell, there is nothing left for him to try.

We now stand at the same point where we left off last December, before entering this current, highly risky chapter. The issue of debt relief is off the table, unless the country exits the eurozone.

The funds required for Greece to survive in the next few years can only be found within Europe. Kougi may serve as a necessary national symbol, but it does not constitute an appropriate negotiation tactic in 2015. Southern Europe rallied, but not in our favor. And so on.

If Tsipras does not explain reality to the people, he has no future. In other words, if Greeks are unable to accept reality, then neither the premier nor anyone else will be in a position to avoid the drachma and disaster. This is because those wishing to put the national myths to the test until the very end – a disorderly default and a eurozone exit – are hovering. Tsipras could easily be overcome by them. So far he has not demonstrated that he is able to go against the tide and explain the nasty truth. Unfortunately, he has always gone with the flow. That is where the historical responsibility of middle-class politicians, intellectuals, businessmen and all those with a role to play comes in. If they don’t rise to the occasion, it won’t be long before disaster strikes, on the road to testing our myths in extreme and uncontrollable conditions.