The drama we are living through in Greece results from the collision of two massive forces – the inertia that gave birth to the crisis and the absence of policy when the crisis hit. Problems accumulated for so many years that we came to believe that living with danger was natural, we felt immune to it, at home in its presence. At the moment of collision, neither our partners in the European Union nor we knew what to do. And so we mutely accepted their demands and then failed to implement much of what we agreed to.
The results show that neither the bailout program nor our implementation of it has been a success. Who is to blame and why is not our main problem now. Events developed in a way which showed that the road to disintegration was probably unavoidable. The bailout, with its austerity and reform, caused the fragmentation of the political center to the benefit of the extremes. After this, the questioning of our country’s membership first of the eurozone and then of the Schengen area, the impromptu borders thrown up internally by protesting farmers, capital controls and the collapse of the stock market are all parts of the same process. Because we did not do anything to prevent what happened, because our country remains dependant on others’ policies, we are unable to predict what is to come.
We cannot know whether we are living our version of “creative destruction.” Will the pieces of our economy, our political system, our society come together again in a way that is more stable and more just? Or is our race toward disintegration unstoppable? SYRIZA’s story highlights the dangers we face: The party benefited from the center falling apart and today is in power, but the country’s problems are too great for the ruling coalition to handle. SYRIZA alone is not to blame – the long crisis and recession have dealt a heavy blow to the country – but it is to blame for not setting itself any target other than to represent the wish for a return to the years of inertia.
Now we are experiencing the consequences of the vain attempt to revive the failed model of past years. Some are enraged because SYRIZA did not deliver what it promised, as if they are not responsible adults who should have had a grip on reality before voting; most, however, are in despair, because they do not see how we will move on from where we are, they know that the sacrifices will not stop and will be in vain. And the government, even as it freezes in the face of major problems, persists with policy obsessions in other spheres – such as education. This mix of helplessness and arrogance leads to more and more mistakes, hinders the possibility of opposition parties offering support on important issues and prevents a correction to our course.
The questions are many: Where does this collapse stop? What will be left for us to start our reconstruction with? What will Europe look like in a couple of years, now that it, too, is in the throes of a dangerous adventure? What will be our place in it? Which banks and which investors will we have to support development? Which citizens and which political forces will place the country’s interests above their own?