Decades-old taboos being smashed

Decades-old taboos being smashed

Something positive is happening in Greece: taboos and stereotypes that dominated the post-dictatorship mentality are being abolished in a sensational and swift manner. Who will ever again speak out against large-scale privatizations after the last few months? The sale of the former Athens airport, Cosco’s expansion and the deals for regional airports constitute major changes, deals made and approved by a leftist government. Tears were shed, remorse was expressed, but they were done. There is, of course, some uncertainty over whether the government will actually go through with these plans, and the griping and inefficiency of certain ministers is blurring the message that all of this should be sending abroad.

Nevertheless, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has adopted the so-called ‘Samaras model.’ He is initiating contacts with investors and reassuring them that he is personally available for whatever they may need. This fact alone breaks long-standing taboos. In the past, there were conservative PMs who were ashamed to meet with businessmen at government headquarters.

All of this means one thing. Tsipras’s successors will find the road well paved  – both on an ideological and political level – so they won’t balk when confronted with the obvious. The people have no more illusions about whether we can be a semi-Soviet state and a wealthy country at the same time. This happened, it lasted – inexplicably – too long, and now it’s over. Opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis does not have to wrestle with the ideological ghosts that led former prime minister George Papandreou to join protest rallies at ports. Mitsotakis, who deep down knows exactly where he wants to lead the country, will find the road open.

Tsipras will probably be unable to benefit from all this smashing of taboos. He will more likely feel the bitterness of former premiers who watched their successors inaugurate projects for which they themselves went through great pains and for which their political rivals, like Tsipras, demanded judicial intervention. It will be hard for him to join the other side again, picking up a megaphone and slamming this or that investment.

There is still room for the country to move forward and upward. Sure, damage is being done in crucial fields but we ought to look at the day after and the day after that. The post-dictatorship era did not end with the bailout, contrary to what certain people think. It will end on the day we officially bury its ideological fixations and its taboos. If we’re fortunate enough to have a political leadership with stamina and professionalism and a new business elite that cares about the country beyond its own pockets, there could be better days ahead.

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