Survival angst

Survival angst

The one thing that the government has shown any consistency about since being elected to power in January 2015 has been its targets. It always has someone or something to target – new targets and older ones – that alternate in a repertory of conspiracy theories and perceived ogres: international creditors, the European Commission, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, former finance minister in Berlin Wolfgang Schaeuble, capitalists, the opposition, and the list goes on and on.

Some targets are abandoned and others are transformed from foe to friend, but there is always something in the leftist-led government’s crosshairs. A part of the media and certain journalists are steady fixtures. Then it also has a general category labeled “vested interests” that can include anyone or anything that appears opposed to the government line.

The more the popularity gap – currently at around 10 percent – widens in public opinion polls between ruling SYRIZA and opposition New Democracy, meanwhile, the more signs of panic we see in the government camp. The administration vents its survival angst and frustration by lashing out indiscriminately at others, something that is not really that hard considering that it is a tactic which relies on an emotion that is extremely popular in Greece: envy for another’s success. And when this success threatens to topple a government narrative, regardless of how shaky its foundations may already be, then even more effort is put into spreading damaging innuendos and accusations. The government’s version of reality, moreover, is readily embraced by those who always see an ulterior motive behind every word or action.

Nothing about this behavior is strange or unheard of in Greece, but it is exceptionally dangerous right now as the crisis has in many regards brought people’s worst selves to the surface, and this has been fed by lies and paranoia propagated via social media and online platforms.

The weaker the government feels the more it is compelled to lash out, and it is not just sowing discord and division, but it’s also cultivating a much more dangerous sentiment – suspicion – and harming the very people it purports to trust and defend.

Its anxiety over the reversal of how it is viewed by society because of a lack of preparation on a number of extremely important issues (such as foreign policy, for example) is obvious. It is evident in the words and facial expressions of its most prominent ministers and officials. A complete absence of dependability has replaced the false confidence of 2015.