Many wonder why there is such an air of apathy, almost speechlessness in Greece society today. Nothing seems capable of making people angry – or excited for that matter. Most people are simply irritated and on edge because they are struggling to survive in a country where you literally have no idea what tomorrow may bring, especially when it comes to anything related to the state. Society – not to sugarcoat it – seems to have given up.
A good friend recently gave me an explanation that he borrowed from simplistic psychology. A major loss, he said, is followed by five stages: shock and denial, pain and guilt, anger, depression and finally acceptance and, perhaps, hope.
When Greece was first slammed by the crisis in 2009, we did indeed find ourselves in a state of shock and denial. We convinced ourselves that it was a short-term situation and that things would get back to normal in a couple of years. What came next was a period of anxiety and some guilt as we began to realize that we had been living way above our means as a country but also felt that the rug was being pulled out from under us at the same time. All we could talk about was when it would all be over.
Then came the anger. Yes, we went through that phase as well. The old political order was swept away. Nothing was left standing and the people tried their luck with a government that promised to turn this collective anger into a super-weapon in negotiations with our foreign creditors. After a quick and very costly lesson, we learned that reality is a lot more complicated than we imagined it to be.
So now we are obviously well into the phase of depression. Citizens do not see any light at the end of the tunnel, nor do they expect a hand to reach in and pull them out of the darkness. Their lives are a constant battle for survival and they are resigned to their continuing pauperization and dashed expectations. Apart from the people involved in tourism who are living their own Greek dream, the rest of society has bowed its head and is just hoping to get by.
This is why nothing makes an impression anymore, why people tolerate excesses and behaviors that would have enraged them in the past and prompted a reaction. An allergy to the news is part of this depression, as people would just rather not know.
There is supposed to be a final phase after an important loss, that of acceptance and hope. It is obviously too early to start believing that we’re anywhere near that yet, but it too shall come in its turn.