Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s recent statements and the falling-out between the government and former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis prove that life has its way of punishing arrogance and recklessness. Unlike ancient tragedy, though, today it is not the protagonists who suffer the consequences of their hubris but the spectators.
However entertaining the dogfight between the heroes of the “proud negotiations” of 2015, both are winners: Tsipras is the longest-serving PM of Greece’s crisis years while Varoufakis is selling books and attitude all over the world. Their success comes at the nation’s expense.
In Aristotle’s analysis, a tragedy’s audience sees the protagonists’ travails in a representation of life, so when they feel pity and terror they are not overwhelmed because they experience them at a distance – they are witnesses to a symbolic world, not victims themselves. For us, though, the pity and terror stem from our own lives and determine our future.
We don’t see the protagonists destroyed because of their failings; on the contrary, it is we who shoulder the burden. We acknowledge that the government elected in January 2015 is not to blame for all that it inherited, but this does not relieve it either of responsibility for what it has done since then, nor of the fact that in the past, when the country was hurtling toward disaster, those in power today were among the strongest supporters of policies that bloated deficits and the public debt.
It is ironic that now the government celebrates cost-cutting policies and the “return to the markets” that it mocked when previous governments undertook them. The prime minister has explained that he was the victim of illusions and naivete. He acknowledges, as in an interview with the Guardian, that people may call his government liars but they understand that his intentions were good and that he will be judged by the result.
His critics reply that Tsipras ought to have known of the difficulties and of his own weaknesses. A brief look at well-meaning commentaries before his election are sufficient to see many timely warnings. Tsipras and his friends chose to deceive citizens and themselves. This, after all, was the road to power.
The consequences – the waste of time, money and the nation’s diplomatic capital – confirmed that unlike the theater, in life the protagonist is not the loudmouth at center stage but the citizen. It is we who voted in favor of fraud. It is we who pay.