Low expectations

Greeks have two characteristics that are difficult to reconcile. They are fond of a national quest, a vision, an ambitious goal to guide them onward. This was evident during the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. That was when the most extrovert and professional aspects of our Mediterranean DNA became manifest, taking everyone – Greeks included – by surprise. It was as if Greeks were staring at the mirror thinking to themselves: «Is this really us? Can we really pull this off?» It was a peak moment because we proved ourselves to possess a mixture of vision and system. At the same time however, we appear to possess a remarkable capacity to hit out at visions, institutions and prominent personalities. «Come on, there is no way he could ever combat corruption. We have no state,» a taxi driver was telling me the other day. So we yearn for a vision but are too cynical, too skeptical to attempt any change. We are a country of low expectations. We even get all excited whenever our children manage to attend a week’s classes at university. There is a sick atmosphere these days that does not spring from daily affairs. It’s easy to see why we are so cynical and indifferent. We think corruption is structural and say, «It’s OK if they steal a little, as long as they are effective at their jobs.» We tend to see the petrol bomb attacks on police stations as a routine occurrence. Mired in insecurity, rational individuals are seeking more moral values to lean on. And all they discover are the fundamental problems dogging the judiciary and the Church. People still care about those small things in life, which are not that small after all. But they lack the conviction that things can really change. It seems to them that no matter how tough the premier may be, there’s little he can do to change things. But this only feeds idleness and misery.