Stuck in a time capsule

Stuck in a time capsule

I recently asked a filmmaker who was born in East Germany if he can see in Chancellor Angela Merkel the characteristics of a woman who grew up in what was the German Democratic Republic (GDR). “Recently, yes,” he said, pointing at Merkel’s stance on the refugee issue. I asked him if he thought so because he associated humanism with the GDR’s political system. My interpretation, he said, was too “simplistic.”

I could not see whether the person standing in front of me was actually relieved to see the Berlin Wall crumble into souvenirs, if he understood the collapse of the communist regime (he had once told me in the past that “a single wrong gesture or word could completely destroy your life”) as a victory of freedom. Or, if he instead felt some nostalgia about things that were forever gone.

Whatever it was, that man appeared to be suspended in some sort of time capsule. His perception of the world was based on a limited number of oft-used theoretical tools. He had no opinion on SYRIZA at the time but reckoned that Europe would never make political space for ideas that were as radical as those put forward by Alexis Tsipras’s leftist party. As far as that respected director and film critic was concerned, the 21st century had never arrived. The clock stopped in November 1989.

I wonder what he would say of SYRIZA had he actually spent some time in Greece. It would be interesting to hear what a person with first-hand experience of the Stasi would have to say after seeing government ministers being asked to hand in their mobile phones ahead of a key meeting “to prevent leaks” or for any other reason.

Tsipras this week admitted that, because of the crisis, his version of the Left has not exactly been what he had in mind. To be sure, nothing good can come out of this ersatz, “a la Grecque” version of the Left.

Divided between a system that was put into practice and failed before it was shed by the very societies it was tested upon, and a domesticated substitute (with all its infamous traits: clientelism, corruption, statism, cronyism and equality at the lowest common denominator), Greece has gone for the latter.

We are encased in our own time capsule at a time when the reality around us is more dangerous than ever.

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