Adrift in dangerous storms
The rapid worsening of Greek-Turkish relations and a general sense of insecurity gripping citizens in their daily lives may not appear to be directly connected, but both problems are exacerbated by mismanagement at the very top of government. The first issue may depend chiefly on the behavior of Turkey whereas the second one is purely domestic, but both are affected by the bad choice of people for important positions, a haughty disdain for any warnings of possible consequences of dangerous policies and, then, by the ease with which naivety (or self-deception) is presented as an excuse. What may be even worse, though, is a mentality that practicing politics is nothing other than unbridled verbal violence, the persistent wish to crush rivals and to force one’s will upon reality.
It was Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s choice (helped by the massive wave of wishful thinking that his SYRIZA party managed to ride) which brought Yanis Varoufakis and Panos Kammenos from diametrically opposite ends of our political and cultural woodwork to positions of power that they would never have attained otherwise. One came, did his damage and embarked on an international career; the other, lacking similar star power, will do all that he can to stay in office, whatever damage this may cause. In Kammenos’s case, the prime minister may boast that he chose well, as his only criterion was that he pick a governing partner whose sole ambition was to cling to power.
The selection of Varoufakis, Kammenos and a host of others best forgotten, as well as the weakening of institutions such as the judiciary and police, have their root cause in the government’s pretensions of a “moral advantage” over the political forces that governed in the past. This implies the rejection of any concerns or arguments by anyone not allied with the government and the prevalence of verbal violence in our politics. When careers are built upon calling for hangings, on dividing citizens into “patriots” and “traitors,” when everything is “us against them,” then it is a simple step to speak the same language in executing foreign policy.
Now that things are becoming more difficult, many government officials stick to believing what they want to believe rather than trying to manage reality. On domestic issues, instead of pursuing broad social consensus and reinforcing the authorities necessary for the securing of law and order, they mock those who are concerned by the rampant illegality in our streets and universities. On the Turkey front, instead of focusing solely on a serious and calm policy, reinforcing the country’s alliances, making clear that Greece is in the right and isolating Turkey for its actions, Tsipras allows Kammenos to set the tone. The defense minister seems to believe that he can beat the Turks at their own game of bullying. Instead of pulling him into line, the prime minister’s office has even emulated him.
Kammenos’s shows of bravado may warm some “anti-systemic” government hearts. But in the end, the bill will have to be paid.