Hope’s hostages

Hope’s hostages

It is difficult to care about our country and to put our faith in people in whom we do not have great confidence, in the hope that they will do their best for us all. This is the citizens’ fate under any regime – monarchy, dictatorship, democracy – with the difference that in a democracy we can hope the electoral cycle will set things right. In any case, whether we see ourselves on the left, right or center (anywhere other than the crazy fringe), we understand that we and our country are one, our personal and national fate are the same. Whatever our other allegiances, we all support the same national team.

This is obvious. The peculiar difficulty arises when people of good will are trapped between their hope for an improvement in the country’s fortunes and their concern that those in power do not share the same hopes nor fear the same dangers. Many who place themselves in the political center may hope that, finally, there are signs that the crisis could end one day; at the same time, they worry about the government’s arrogance, excessive taxation, ever-increasing private debt and the encouragement of violent, antisocial behavior. They are forced to yoke their yearning for something better to their fear that things will get worse unless the government changes tack. They know that those in power today did all they could to undermine previous efforts to get Greece out of the crisis; now we all hope that they will support what they opposed – improving the public administration and labor regulations, supporting private projects and investments, managing responsibly the many challenges of a society that has undergone a swift fall at many levels.

The people at the center (not only in terms of politics but also in their moderate character) know, too, that this government is doing all it can to enjoy the benefits of power while carrying on the pretense that it remains a group of restless young activists. Previous governments – out of fear lest they appear authoritarian in the years after the dictatorship, out of feelings of guilt because the Left had been shut out of public life for decades after the Civil War – did their best to appear open to the thought and practice of the Left; this one shows deference to the preening hooligans whose sphere of influence continues to grow. It is impressive to see how comfortable the radical-left SYRIZA, supported by the nationalist populist Independent Greeks, appears in power. Yet, while the government acts as if it will be here forever, its cadres’ chief concern appears to be that they must not displease anyone who places himself further left than the ruling party. This split is painful enough for SYRIZA but could be the cause of much greater dangers for the rest of the country.

Society is undermined by the presence of groups whose sole reason for existence is to impose their will on everyone else. Whether they preach revolution or racial intolerance, fanatics whose actions are not curbed by the state will continue to grow in numbers and influence – until they cannot be contained, or until the effort to contain them results in an explosive reaction. Each excess that is tolerated serves to undermine institutions, and the very concept of justice, even further. While encouraging this state of affairs, SYRIZA itself is in danger of losing support to leftist movements of cleaner pedigree.

In this climate it becomes ever more difficult to remain moderate and well-intentioned. Some will despair and fall silent. Others will be enraged and lose their moderation, leading to new disputes and further clashes. Most, though, will continue to hope. They will hope for jobs when they see that a single wage is not enough to ward off poverty, let alone raise a family. They will hope to get by with dignity as things keep getting worse. They will hope that when elections come they will believe there is something better ahead. They will hope that those who govern – and those who support them or force them to do what they do – will have in mind the well-being of all citizens, and not just of specific groups.

They will hope that, through some miracle, through the sudden awakening of citizens in every home, village and city, they will see the Greeks unite in a joint effort to build a just society. A society which, with the resources that we have, is not impossible. As long as those who are in power realize the true strengths of the people and not those of their favorite myths. Because in even the most heroic tales, the greatest victories are based on the hard work, the inventiveness, the collective effort of countless moderate, unnamed people. Those who wait. Those who hope against all odds.