The coronavirus will at some point go away. The big question is what the pandemic will leave in its wake, here in Greece and the rest of the world. It is too early to make predictions but it’s almost certain that only a few things will stay the same.
It is the first time that the world has had to go through a crisis of this magnitude in the absence of a credible American leadership – in fact, under a disastrous one. We knew that Europe would at some point abruptly wake up to find out that there’s no Uncle Sam to guarantee its security in the way it did after the end of the Second World War. The coronavirus outbreak has weaned Europe off the United States in a violent manner.
Will the shock prove to be an awakening for Europe? I want to be optimistic, but recent European history offers little comfort. The European Union and the eurozone were made for the good times. Decisive leaders and a common narrative are sorely lacking at the moment. The deep recession that will follow will make things even harder. Calls for closed borders will intensify, while solidarity will remain on the back burner. It will be a great battle. Nothing should be taken for granted, in my opinion, including the safety of Western democracy as we now understand it. A lot will depend on whether Germany will be able to evolve into something more than Europe’s chief accountant and undertake a leading – albeit not hegemonic – role. We will see.
Greece emerged from a 10-year financial struggle only to dive straight into the migrant standoff on the border with Turkey and the battle against the coronavirus. The day after will find us striving for the country’s economic reconstruction. It is a great injustice, particularly for those who are at the beginning or the close of their lives.
Just as the man in his 30s had started to breathe a sigh of relief and felt he could make an extra 100 euros, and perhaps even start a family, instead got a slap in the face. Our older fellow citizens, who were already battered by the crisis but felt that they could turn on the heating this year without giving it a second thought, no doubt felt the same.
We should not mock these people when they line up outside the bank or when they get frustrated because they will not be able to go to church on Sunday. Like all of us, they too cannot stand what is happening and they need to hold on to something. A little more respect and encouragement would be more appropriate.
The day after will be hard because conditions will play into the hands of history’s demons. Populism, conspiracy theories, anti-Europeanism, madness. As I mentioned earlier, it will be a huge battle. We will need a determined, resolute government that will have what it takes to bring the country back to its feet; to say “no” when the pressure is strong. Meanwhile, looking outside Greece’s borders, we cannot stress enough that the US elections in November will be historic. And they will affect all of us.