He said he was a resident of New York and noted that he had come to the event straight from the airport because he was very interested in the topic of discussion. His voice had an urgency that revealed he really wanted to be heard. Two days ago, Kathimerini presented its new series of books titled “National Crises – The Divisions in Greece from Antiquity to the Present Day” in the crowded hall of the Hellenic Cosmos cultural center.
The man from New York made the following comment: “I live in New York, where dozens of excellent scientists arrive every year because they cannot find a job in Greece. I keep hearing about young Greeks who are seeking their future at universities abroad.” Echoing the same sentiment, a student at a Greek university who was also attending the event wondered what to do – “stay here and continue my studies or leave?”
The pair shared their concerns, which are not theirs alone. This is a national crisis rooted in unemployment, the state of our state-run universities, and an absence of meritocracy. The brain drain became apparent and was exacerbated during the country’s economic crisis, but it concerns problems that already existed in the system and the country.
At the same time, speaking during the parliamentary debate on the constitutional reform, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and the leader of the main opposition New Democracy party, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, described their own version of the “two worlds” that comprise Greek society.
Tsipras repeated his familiar views on voters’ binary options: autocracy versus boosting democracy, those who believe they are the “legal owners” of power versus the direct involvement of the people in decision-making etc. Among other things, Mitsotakis posed the question: “Who is progressive today? The one who wants open education or the one who prefers perpetuating the status quo?” He was of course referring to New Democracy’s proposal to revise Article 16 of the Greek Constitution (preventing the creation of private universities), which did not garner the necessary votes.
Even if Article 16 were revised, it would not be a panacea. It would not cure the ills of the educational system or hasten the return of the half a million young people who left Greece over the past few years. But it would have been something in an environment of complete stagnation, a nod to the right to choose your education in Greece. It would indicate the country’s intention to take a step forward toward extroversion, a shift from ideological obsessions to common sense. Such a small step, yet so decisive.