Speaking to Kathimerini in an interview two weeks ago, shipowner Thanasis Laskaridis sent a clear and sincere message, calling on affluent Greeks to do more to help charities. “I think our country is a laggard in this department because we like to hold onto our purse strings. There are people who could do a lot, yet do absolutely nothing. Capitalism needs to be cleansed and to give back – either voluntarily or by force – a part of the wealth it has accumulated,” he said.
Greece had not yet been hit by the coronavirus epidemic at the time when the interview was conducted and Laskaridis’ appeals were not related to the extraordinary circumstances we are experiencing right now. Developments have been rapid over those two weeks, though, and the shipowner’s words could not be more poignant.
This is not to say that there haven’t been any donations for medical equipment such as respirators or even new beds for the country’s intensive care units, but the needs just keep piling up as the number of coronavirus infections and hospitalizations rise. Even the prime minister said as much in his address to the nation this week: “I thank all of those who have stepped up with significant donations in these difficult times from the bottom of my heart. But I also invite those who are not present to take stock of where their responsibilities lie,” Kyriakos Mitsotakis said.
The mobilization of the country’s wealthiest citizens in the battle against this invisible enemy is not just important from a self-evident and practical point of view. No one, no matter how much money they have, can protect themselves completely from the new coronavirus. The fact that the pandemic treats everyone equally is not the only point. The other is that like the virus, the act of giving is also contagious. It is uplifting and adds strong new links to a social chain that has been stretched to its limits over the past 10 years.
Forced isolation has made us witness the efforts by volunteers offering their services to elderly or otherwise housebound citizens, creating official or informal safety nets to protect the most vulnerable members of our society.
The coronavirus epidemic has put the spotlight on every country’s scientists, doctors, nurses and researchers, making us grateful for their knowledge and dedication. Our hopes for tomorrow rest on their shoulders. But, if we want them to survive the crisis, we cannot have people standing in the background twiddling their thumbs. It’s just not good enough; they have to step up and take responsibility. The needs are pressing; the invitation is open.