OPINION

The terrible price of our apathy

The worst thing is that we will probably not learn anything from this disaster. We will continue to search for arsonists or for anarchists as more fires burn forests and more people die. We will condemn arsonists, the system, our «criminal society» in order to shirk our responsibilities. But there is one thing we will certainly not be doing, and that is to assess the situation with level-headedness, to ascertain where there were mistakes and omissions and to correct them. And tomorrow should we – God forbid – face an even greater disaster, we will take the same shortcuts and adopt the same temporary solutions. A country that does not learn from its mistakes will simply progress from disaster to disaster. It will mock the meticulousness of our fellow citizens in Western Europe, who scrupulously analyze every incident and implement measures that we – in our Eastern-style apathy – feel are unnecessary. «Get real, what can possibly happen?» is our constant refrain every time there are calls for preventive measures, whether these relate to safety belts in cars or fire-safety zones in forests. Besides, do we – the chosen and most knowledgeable of all peoples – have any need of procedures developed in the West? Greeks will not be dictated to by anyone, as the saying goes. We brag about our 3,000-year-old history while others study catastrophes and correct their procedures accordingly. We are the cleverest race in the world, certainly more so than the Americans – that’s why 75 percent of them read at least one book every year, compared to 35 percent of Greeks. They are no doubt reading in order to catch up with us though. After all, we are the most politicized nation in the world, certainly more so than the Scandinavians, 50 percent of whom read a daily newspaper, compared to just 5 percent of Greeks. The crisis in which our country has found itself is multi-faceted, and each successive disaster simply reminds us of this. What we are experiencing this summer is merely the symptom of a serious illness: apathy. Why should we try any harder? Why should we imitate those whom we enlightened 2,000 years ago? We are determined not to be seen following in the footsteps of the Germans or – God forbid – the Americans. Everything must change in this country. The most recent disaster is merely a harbinger of those that will follow. If we don’t change the way we think, if we don’t learn from the experience of other countries there will be much worse to come. We staged the Athens 2004 Olympics with a system imported from abroad. It worked. For three years we did not have disasters, at least not of this type. But the deaths of so many people cannot be attributed to the will of God or to chance. They were the result of our apathy, our bad habit of wanting everything on a plate.