The sound of silence


The country’s pulse seems to have slowed down to such an extent that it’s hard to discern. A large part of society has fallen silent, while the remainder – at least those who are willing to respond to public opinion polls regarding the political future – seem to be more or less split between those who either don’t know what to say, or won’t offer an answer, and those who peg none of the front-runners for prime minister.

The president of the Council of State evoked a “bad climate” as the reason for the cancellation of a debate on the constitutionality of the government’s auction for TV broadcasting licenses. Later, after meeting with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, he defended the decision by saying that the judges’ duty is to feel the pulse of Greek society so as to help it move forward. Socialist strongman and constitutional law professor Evangelos Venizelos was quite right to point out in response that this is not the mission of the justice system; its mission, he said, is to uphold the law, safeguard the rule of law and defend constitutionally enshrined rights even when these pertain to a minority and are unpleasant to public opinion, because the issues of rights and the rule of law are not judged by the majority or by the democratic process.

Beyond this “institutional” argument, however, there is an important social aspect that should not be overlooked. It is this pulse, this dying pulse, that is referred to by sundry politicians and officials through the years, that is evoked (and the media is no exception) to back any argument that cannot stand on the merit of proof. Why is this pulse growing weaker? Is it because society has gone quiet from exhaustion, voiceless in the storm of more and more taxes and sliding incomes, growing angrier or even more indifferent? Who can tell? It may be all of this or even the opposite. The passive aggressive defense against “pauperization” and disinvestment from the SYRIZA government (if they had invested) passes below the pollsters’ radar and allows much room for aggressive denial. Maybe it means that society is silently becoming more radicalized and at the same time more conservative. It can mean a lot of different things, many of which may be impossible to interpret.

If there is one thing that is certain though, it is that the reason politicians can’t read the atmosphere and the pulse of society is that both are getting worse. Having run out of fuel and with the engines having ground to a halt, all that is heard is the sound of silence.