OPINION

A ‘left-wing’ country

Lately I keep hearing the refrain «Such things don’t happen in Greece because we are essentially a left-wing country.» I used to think it was an excuse used by our politicians, either out of a lack of political courage or an inability to plan, for not wanting to proceed with «reforms.» But I gradually realized that this is a deeply rooted perception among a large segment of the ruling party. The fear of a dead protester or of a mass demonstration causes its cadres to shudder. The truth is that after the dictatorship, left-wing views have prevailed. Anything liberal, conservative or different has been identified with reactionary behavior. That is why we are witnesses to phenomena such as politicians advertising pseudo left-wing books, or absolving right-wing sins of the past by singing left-wing ballads on the November 17 anniversary of the Polytechnic uprising. This perception is used to excuse a multitude of sins, from unionists covering up for an incompetent employee in the name of «justice,» to an employee stealing «because my superiors do it,» or lifelong students being passed in exams in the name of the «democratic» party. This deep confusion of values has resulted in the prototype of a Greek who has two sides to his brain which apparently do not communicate with each other. One nurtures left-wing dreams of a country where most people sit behind desks drinking coffee and getting paid the same as everyone else. The other has right-wing aspirations of acquiring an SUV, profitable shares and a house on Paros. In other words, we dream of an upgraded Soviet model, but with a BMW instead of a Lada and a maisonette instead of a dacha. The prevailing logic, from what I understand, is that its hard to «break eggs» in this country. So what do we do? We allow state universities to decline and reputable private universities to open. You gradually change the business environment with tax incentives, inter alia, and pray that one day the true Greek spirit will swing into action. You make small adjustments to the social security system and keep your fingers crossed that all hell doesn’t break loose.You leave the major issues for later. In other words, you call a halt to reforms and take things slowly in the hope that the automatic pilot will eventually get you somewhere. All very well if you accept that we are not «left-wing» but complacent, and, secondly, that when the system grinds to a halt (quite likely), there will be no other reliable alternative and naturally, a large segment will want to move further «left,» that is, nowhere.