Pope Francis’s address to the US Congress was a moment of historical importance for several reasons.
If we had to single out one, it would be the fact that from the steps of the Capitol and with the entire world as his witness, he put man back in the center of his speech. He spoke about people, not politics or the economy.
“Building a nation calls us to recognize that we must constantly relate to others, rejecting a mind-set of hostility in order to adopt one of reciprocal subsidiarity, in a constant effort to do our best,” he said. “Our efforts must aim at restoring hope, righting wrongs, maintaining commitments, and thus promoting the well-being of individuals and of peoples. We must move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good.”
Here in Greece, particularly since the start of the crisis five years ago, we have come to link productivity exclusively with the economy and the prospect of investments. We are not entirely wrong in this assessment but we do tend to limit the notion of crisis to a lack of liquidity.
Maybe this approach is an unconscious way of banishing the painful thought that Greece is not only suffering from a lack of money but also, and mainly, from failing to acknowledge complete defeat in almost every important area: politics, the economy and society. Because the truth is that what we are witnessing today is the defeat of hope, the defeat of productivity and the defeat of fair competition.
We shouldn’t forget that there was plenty of money going around in the years after the fall of the 1967-74 dictatorship. Yet all the investments and progress made in that period did not ultimately help in building a solid educational system or a functional public administration, to name just a couple of areas. Quite the opposite.
The wealth of a country should not be measured in euros alone. Other European states attracts hundreds of thousands of people a year with their theaters and universities. The discussion about culture and education should not just be about money; they are a matter of political choice as much as they are about a thirst for creativity and knowledge that needs to be cultivated in society.
When we say that Greece is not productive, we should not just be talking about the economy. We should be talking about the fact that we are no longer producing trends, ideas and desires.
We should, in short, be talking about the need to restore hope.