A national syndrome

A group of friends who had gathered together for Easter were trying to explain to their guest, a foreign diplomat, how Greece ended up celebrating two May days: one on Wednesday, due to a union strike, and a second one yesterday, following a government decree. The reasonable though contradictory arguments invoked by the unionists, store-owners, and ministers left the diplomat unmoved. With a good knowledge of Greek reality, he refused to accept that the double celebration was an accidental, rare, or unique incident. At the recent student elections, the diplomat said, each party once again announced its own electoral results. In all parliamentary debates concerning scandals, two conclusions are invariably drawn from a single set of evidence: The first, drawn by the ruling party, acquitted the government and the other, by the opposition, incriminated it. Every year we have two separate celebrations for the Gorgopotamos and Kileler anniversaries, depending on our politics. Even late Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou’s memorial was held twice; once by his first wife and then by his second. The diplomat’s account of Greece’s particularities took the rest of us by surprise. We seem to have got so used to our division syndrome that even absurd incidents or circumstances merely pass us by. The group tried to delve deeper into the phenomenon. Over the last century, Greece experienced two national fractures and suffered a bloody civil war. In our electoral battles, adversaries portray themselves as saviors and the others as catastrophes. Could it be, then, that it is not insidious foreigners and our intolerant politicians who are the main culprits for our misfortune? Are they are merely exploiting our inherent division syndrome? Luckily, this question was not raised. It would certainly cause deep disagreement.