An anything-goes democracy


However justified some people’s claims may be, no democracy can function properly without some limits. These limits were abolished in Greece some time ago and this is extremely dangerous, especially for democracy itself.

We have developed a protest culture inspired by the French model in which anything goes and everything is permissible. This is not some left-wing or right-wing philosophy – it is almost universal. In places like Keratea and Halkidiki, the usual troublemakers teamed up with priests who blessed their Molotov cocktails. Soccer problems, the anti-austerity riots, the rallies against the Prespes name deal and the school pupils (and even some teachers) throwing rocks at police stations in 2008 are all pieces of a big picture that should be troubling us intensely.

It’s hard to criticize the phenomenon because you will inevitably come up against a vicious wave of bullying. Anyone who dares speak of limits is automatically branded a fascist. It has always been that way, but we have taken it to the next level in recent years as reason and moderation have been banished from the public debate. Children who grew up in the crisis tend to react to everything violently. It is not surprising in a society where youth unemployment is so high. But if you step back and look at the country calmly from a distance, there is much to be worried about. Our enemies know that the Greek state is effectively nonexistent. We are vulnerable to any “invisible hand” that wants to stir the pot, divide the nation and cause it harm. And the frustrated refugees and migrants know that if they stage their own uprising, they will meet with little resistance.

Greece has already gone through a lot and still faces serious challenges that could add more fuel to a very combustible mix: the soccer situation that threatens to divide us between north and south, the auctions of foreclosed properties, the tensions between Greece and Turkey and the migrant/refugee crisis. We are deeply emotional people and it takes little to set us off, especially now when social media and fake news are there to stoke the flames. 

The solution does not lie with riot police and the strict imposition of the law. It will take consensus and an enormous effort to safeguard our democracy from the fascism of violent protest. We have said this time and again, even when SYRIZA found itself caught in the jaws of the voracious beast of populism which it helped feed. The country will become ungovernable if we don’t take action to staunch this phenomenon.