Management instead of change

New Democracy’s rise to power last year was basically a regime change, as Greece had been governed by PASOK for some 20 years under Andreas Papandreou and then Costas Simitis (with a brief parenthetical interruption by ND’s Constantinos Mitsotakis). With this in mind, Greeks’ expectations were particularly high and they anticipated nothing less than a fundamental shift in the established political outlook, not just a change in management policy. However, it seems there is a serious absence of any broad political ideas as well as a tendency to follow a policy of management with no scope for change. Essentially, this means perpetuating a situation established many years ago, except for a few skirmishes with corruption and entangled interests and some so-called economic reforms. There has been no radical change in outlook and no dynamic response from citizens, who helplessly stand by as their standard of life is compromised again and again, to the extent that many eventually wonder whether there is any way out of the deadlock. Greece has experienced horrific trials – including World War II and then a tragic civil war – but as soon as the suffering ended it was replaced by creativity and optimism and the bad times were forgotten. The most recent example of self-deception was under Simitis’s government, following the bursting of the Athens Stock Exchange bubble in 1999 and the false notion of a «strong Greece» entering the eurozone. But this fragile optimism was easily shattered and ND inherited a very problematic situation. The point is that reforms are not enough to energize a society and drag it out of its rut and into a more creative phase. The extension of store hours was not a particularly inspiring initiative, especially since it was implemented during the tourist season, when it was necessary anyway. As for reforms to bank employees’ pensions, they may have been approved in Parliament earlier this year but they had yet to come into effect. But even if a whole raft of additional reforms were to be added to the existing ones – the effectiveness of which remain to be seen – the final outcome is unlikely to be very different. The conviction that quantitative changes eventually lead to a major qualitative improvement is only viable in the case of a government that has been in power for at least half a century; such a philosophy was tested by the former Soviet Union – and failed miserably. The secret behind the art of politics, which can be neither taught nor understood from countless books on the subject, is that it expresses the fundamental demands of a society at a given time. This serves to release creative forces which have a positive influence for a certain period until they are part of an established situation which, in turn, awaits the moment of its reversal. The tragedy is not just that ND is going through a period of pathetic bewilderment but also that the post-1974 system – whose management was handled by the descendants of the only two political families in Greece – appears to have finally come full circle. PM Costas Karamanlis perhaps found it difficult to achieve very much on the practical level, even though certain social groups could have provided him with solutions – ones serving their own interests or corresponding to the general outlook of the public. But he made the crackdown on corruption and re-establishment of the state his key goals. If he had set about achieving these goals decisively, then we would already be seeing clear results and he would have clinched widespread social backing. Instead, everyone is wondering what eventually happened to a certain turkey on the islet of Oinouses.