The yuletide spirit

One would expect that such carefully constructed yuletide spirit would overshadow petty squabbling and political skirmishes. Yet, at prime time, Greece watches itself break the law: illegal constructions that threaten or unseat ministers, tax officials taking hefty bribes, top politicians spouting lies. Greece also sniggers at the vulgarities exchanged by show-biz stars, feeding off the images of the freaks on daytime TV – like a farce staged by sardonic anti-media activists. But it all takes place in earnest. Media vulgarity coexists harmoniously, and explosively, with widespread illegality. Political analysis consumes itself in tracking bank accounts, infringements of building regulations and labor laws, dubious government appointments, thinly veiled cases of graft. No one trusts anyone. Entertainers jeer at politicians all the more savagely, scorning a weary political class and, with it, politics itself. Citizens applaud the humiliation, but at the same time they are merely denigrating themselves: They are no longer citizens, but an audience, a predictable reaction, Pavlov’s dog. At the same time, the holiday spirit is set aglow just a few days before Christmas. With credit lines, consumer loans, the Christmas bonus already half spent, with no care for balanced books and prudent housekeeping, the masses throng to glowing malls and fancy coffee shops. In this ersatz micro-copy of Milan, Paris and Fifth Avenue, Greeks, nouveaux pauvres and nouveau chic, seek their identities as consumers and buy well-being – just imagine! – in the most expensive European capital with the lowest standards of customer service. With politics scorned, public life corroded, illegality widespread and entrenched, the deriders and the self-derided, unbearable individualists, slaves of myths regarding the Modern Greek, we sail through the Christmas season.

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