Stuck in reverse


One does not need to look very hard to find out what it is that makes Greece a “special case,” thwarting efforts to pull the country out of the persisting crisis. While being mired in stagnation, public debate revolves around the role and legacy of Greek communist and resistance hero Nikos Beloyiannis. Instead of being stuck in the past, we should be channeling our time and energy into addressing the challenges of today.

Sure, the Greek left wants to safeguard its historic symbols and thus perpetuate its ideological hegemony. Ruling officials are probably thinking that their stay in power is damaging the purity, as it were, that was awarded to it by persecutions before 1974 and the lack of representation at institutional centers of power in the years that followed. For that reason, they are seeking comfort in symbols past.

All that however is of no concern to the vast majority of society. The iPhone generation does not put up Che Guevara posters in their bedrooms.

Meanwhile, Greece’s right-wing and centrist politicians are all but apologizing for winning the civil war that saved Greece from turning into a Bulgaria or Albania. This attitude has been one of the ailments of the post-dictatorship era (better known here as the Metapolitefsi), and it must finally come to an end.

The financial crisis, poor education, the penchant for conspiracy theories and growing insecurity have created a mix that blends together the Germans, the Americans, Winston Churchill and Wolfgang Schaeuble. All these have become pieces of a larger national narrative according to which everyone is trying to get us, but we are resisting fiercely.

Of course, the same people will fail to explain how Greece managed to join the world’s most exclusive clubs (the European Union, NATO and the eurozone) and, by the way, still rank among the top 50 wealthiest states.

If Greece is still a mess, it is because it has been chasing its own tail. We never took a moment to think with clarity how we can fix what is broken and move forward. Instead, we chose to take aim at outside enemies and evil conspiracies in a bid to justify our own failure to put the country back on its feet.

We are surrounded by nations that used to envy our status, and which would want to be in our shoes back in 1945. For they had firsthand experience of what it means to be unfree.

Now we are debating about Beloyiannis and we are staring into the rear-view mirror. They are moving ahead at full speed, while we are stuck in reverse. At some point, they will overtake us. Maybe that’s when the Greek filotimo will kick in.