Harmful populism

Harmful populism

Many Greeks are deeply frustrated with the prime minister and the government. On the one hand, they are angry at the damage done during the negotiations of 2015 and the way that institutional matters were handled. On the other, they feel sapped by the taxes they are having to pay.

I fully comprehend this anger because it is not baseless. On the contrary. I also realize that it desperately needs to be expressed on a political level. When citizens who are worn out and mad feel that they don’t have a voice, they will revolt.

Nevertheless, anger can be blinding and blur judgment. Those who voted in favor of the bailout agreement in last year’s referendum do not need to adopt the tactics of bullies. They need to show strength and moderation. Such tactics from the Right are just as harmful to democracy and public dialogue as they are from the Left. Using social and other media to tear into its rivals, to demonize and exercise irrational opposition is an easy trap to fall into but it doesn’t lead anywhere.

It’s difficult to maintain your cool and come across as a moderate when the arena’s on fire and the public is demanding blood. I do think, however, that the exaggeration of investigative committees and special courts, together with everything that these entail, are ultimately damaging. Of course, I understand that in the game of politics, yard dogs are a necesary evil in politics, to bite or defend accordingly, especially when the adversary is so tough. However, when they are allowed to set the political agenda and shape attitudes, disaster is near.

Along with others who stood against the tsunami of populism and folly in the past year-and-a-half, opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis has shown political courage. He has no reason to be carried away by the fanaticism. Besides, one would hope that Greek society has changed by now.

We have already paid a hefty price for Alexis Tsipras’s imprudence and now he is implementing policies that a center-right administration would find hard to carry out. Above all, through his words and deeds, he is freeing the next governments of taboos and decades-long entanglements. Ironically, it was Tsipras who had to teach Greeks that protest alone does not bring jobs. This is no small feat.

One last thing. By saying we should refrain from all kinds of immoderate behavior I’m not suggesting unconditional consensus, let alone an opportunist approach that serves individual or other interests. However, if the Right adopts left-wing fanaticism and unbridled populism, then the country will hit a wall. This is the last thing that all those feeling anger and despair need, while others will simply view a call for calm as just another tactic of populism.

When it comes to the political game, however, without boundaries and some basic national consensus, we will keep tumbling while the cries of the bloodthirsty crows continue their game of seduction.

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