The country is on the boil again. Parliament is debating the new social security bill, unions are on strike, more protests are expected. We don’t know what will happen in Parliament, nor whether passing the law will persuade our partners at Monday’s Eurogroup meeting to favorably evaluate the government’s actions and free up funds from the third bailout agreement. Wage earners, pensioners, self-employed professionals, the unemployed, students and children – no one knows what tomorrow will bring. We have got used to the idea that today’s impasse will last forever.
Thursday was the sixth anniversary of the death of three people in a central Athens bank branch in one of the first mass protests against the first bailout agreement in 2010. When the “Marfin dead,” as they have come to be known, are the subject of verbal clashes in Parliament and on social media, instead of the focus of a universal call for the perpetrators to be caught and punished, how can anyone hope for security and justice? When those who “understand” the arsonists are content with the fact that three officials of the bank have been convicted for their secondary responsibility, we feel the extent of the chaos in this country – we may speak the same language but we are in different worlds. On Thursday, a doctor was shot and injured in the middle of a busy avenue in Athens. The victim is a man distinguished by his hard work and skill in the service of patients, medical societies and the National Health System. By late last night the perpetrators were not known, but it is notable that in the flow of events, in the general uncertainty, the attack was recorded as yet another incident among so many. Abnormality is the new normal.
With so much going on, why do we remember the Marfin dead? Because the lack of accountability for their killers hangs over us like a filthy cloud, because we are all guilty of tolerating injustice, because we carry on with our lives knowing that our society is not designed to guarantee our security and dignity. The worm of guilt has burrowed deep into us; we fear that luck is our only shield when we face criminals, when we drive on dangerous roads, when at the mercy of spiteful state officials, when in need. This lack of a sense of justice undermines everything – from personal relations to our relationship with the state. When we tolerate evil we find it increasingly difficult to avoid emulating it.
A friend who is a self-employed professional, wonders, after decades of work, whether he will be able to bear the new taxes and social security fees demanded of him. Speaking with him, I realized that he took it for granted that the economy will always be as it is today, that he will struggle to find customers and that when he does they will not pay him. He is worse off than a colleague just starting out, burdened by responsibilities and lost hopes.
The endless negotiations with creditors have made us forget that the aim of the talks is to get the economy running again. We have come to the point where tolerance of incompetence and violence has turned into fatalism. In catastrophe’s new normal, our only consolation is that things could be worse.