OPINION

Pointless acrimony

For four weeks in a row, the country’s teachers have been striking, demanding salary rises which the government has dismissed as unreasonable and repeatedly refused to satisfy. A few days ago, the president of the Federation of Greeks Industries, Dimitris Daskalopoulos, condemned the government for tolerating the operation of a «state cartel» which allegedly has been influencing competition and the smooth operation of the Greek market. One could quite easily conclude that the country’s social groups in general are unsatisfied by the policies being followed by the government, but then again this would not be something new. Some may insist that the country is heading toward radical change but this is rather unrealistic as an eventuality. Greece, much like the rest of Europe, cannot be described as being in a state of pre-revolutionary fervor. What is actually happening is what generally happens when creative forces are sapped – a desire for acrimony and conflict is prevailing in public life, and particularly in the sphere of politics. But it is imperative that we curb this worrying trend now that it is still limited to verbal skirmishes and the occasional farcical outbursts, otherwise the situation will spiral out of control and there will not be much that we can do. Very little used to differentiate the representatives of the «old regime» which regarded the communist left as the chief threat to public life. Nevertheless, these representatives of the same regime clashed in the most violent way in the early 1960s and brought about the collapse of the country’s political system. Today, there is little difference between the ruling conservative New Democracy and the main socialist opposition party PASOK and so it is difficult to justify the intensity of the current clashes. In any case, these clashes have not caused the political system to collapse but they have succeeded in discrediting the country’s two main political parties. When Greece joined the European Union, and particularly after it entered the eurozone, its ability to take autonomous decisions relating to its economy and many other areas of government activity were seriously restricted. Other EU member states willingly gave up these rights to join the Union and subjected themselves to the bloc’s strict monitoring mechanisms, regarding these sacrifices as worth making in exchange for the benefits of membership. But Greek party leaders cannot bring themselves to admit to their public that they agreed to this major change and so they act as if they are undergoing an internal crisis rather than facing the constant supervision by the EU. The reason for this behavior is not only the fear Greek politicians have of being regarded by voters as mere yes-men to Brussels lawmakers. The deeper fear is that of sowing anti-European sentiment among the Greek public. And it is the fear of this eventuality that has stopped our politicians from criticizing the European Union in their public speeches. As a result, and because no political party is planning a radical change of outlook or tactics, the attempt of each party to differentiate itself is being carried out exclusively with the use of provocative rhetoric, something which has succeeded in making politics rather distasteful to the public.