All power to fantasies
Our political parties persist with faux ideological differences even though, for years now, it has been clear their only choice is between trying to stop the country’s fall from a cliff and ignoring the danger and allowing defeat. After six years of severe reality testing, it would be useful if we stopped mocking our “first left-wing government” or bragging about it, if we stopped blaming capitalism and neo-liberalism and accepted the truth: In Greece in the past few years the major divide has not been between left and right but between incompetence and gross incompetence, between relatively harmless folly and catastrophic mistakes, between macho irresponsibility and hesitant (to the point of hypocrisy) responsibility.
This painful generalization may be unfair to many who, over the years, tried to put a brake on the unbridled populism that led us to this point, but it does explain the magnitude of the problem that the country faces and why it is so difficult to take measures that otherwise would appear simple and necessary.
Having learned how to lie to ourselves and each other, we have exhausted this path, so that neither the government nor the opposition can find refuge in lies. When the policy of Alexis Tsipras and his SYRIZA party brought the country to a dead end, the prime minister was forced to undertake the responsibility to wean his party and voters off their mass fantasy. The repeated contradictions in their statements and behavior illustrate how difficult a task this is.
Tsipras showed surprising strength of will in choosing to try keep Greece in the eurozone, coming into conflict with leading members of his party and taking a major gamble with September’s snap elections which returned him to power. But he is still trying to balance on two boats. Last Tuesday in Parliament he expressed rage against “so-called anti-establishment types” who try to force their will on society, clashing with a group that SYRIZA had coddled in the past. This showed clear and sudden maturity, but the fact that undertaking such an obvious responsibility should impress us indicates the immaturity of our politics.
In the economy, Tsipras’s talk of the need for the country to break out from the “supervisory mechanism” of creditors indicates understanding of the hard work that this demands; at the same time, he confuses necessity with revolution, speaking of the struggle “against social injustice, the foreign and oppressive enforcement of neo-liberal models which are extreme and unsuccessful, but also against domestic cronyism.”
The confusion between hesitant responsibility and revolutionary fantasizing found its most genuine expression in SYRIZA’s call last week for party members to take part in the strike and demonstration against government policy. It found expression also in the expulsion of two MPs from the ruling coalition last night when they refused to vote for measures that are a precondition for the release of desperately needed funds.
Even as fewer and fewer citizens believe in fairy tales, many politicians are still afraid of the truth. Those who see the danger and want to do good for the country ought to join forces and work responsibly and conscientiously.