Let us imagine that the pro-Europeans in Greece continued to walk around wearing the “yes” badge from last year’s referendum on whether the citizens should accept the bailout and remain in the eurozone or reject it at the risk of being cast out. This would certainly make it easier to identify which camp they belonged to and to tax them accordingly, something that the SYRIZA government would view as an easier way to ensure a more just distribution of the tax burden. It is not just the new leftist MP Giorgos Kyritsis who supports this opinion, as there is plenty of evidence to suggest that other lawmakers and coalition officials would have one argument or another in favor of punishing those who voted “yes.” They simply haven’t dared or found the right opportunity to come forward yet.
All this is just part of yet another recital of incoherent statements from the government covering a breadth of topics from the VAT hike on the islands to the new prizatization fund and so on.
The heart of the matter, however, is not the static created by these statements but the beliefs they give rise to, in the way that these politicians read the people they rely on for votes, in the way they perceive votes and voters. It must be a great relief to inhabit such a universe, where everything is black and white, where on one side you have the “popular forces” that voted “no” and on the other the rich that voted “yes.”
There is no middle ground because it has obviously been rendered invisible by the continued assault against it, by the animosity toward common sense. Society has been turned upside down by a string of upheavals and changes that have proven how destructive persistence with tired old beliefs can be, yet coalition partners SYRIZA and Independent Greeks remain steadfast: Greece’s problems are class-related. Whenever this argument starts getting stale, they invoke the classic rhetoric from the dusty annals of politics, such as the statement that the rise in VAT on the islands is “criminal and unconstitutional.” It appears that for the coalition, voting for a measure is one thing and accepting it is another. This is, after all, one way to build a political career.
People and ideas that continue to run on the steam of the Metapolitefsi (the period when democracy was restored following the fall of the 1967-74 military dictatorship) are attempting to address situations, to put forward solutions, in short to survive, in a political and social environment that requires an entirely different set of perceptions and interpretive tools. Ideological obsessions and self-interest have obviously passed the pressure test and proved extremely resistant. The problem is that the more society ails, the more their survival appears out of place and aggressive.