What we did not hear

Sure, it may be because we live in a globalized world, but many of the problems US President Barack Obama referred to in his inauguration address are common to Greece. The new US president said «that we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood… Our economy is badly weakened… Our healthcare is too costly; our schools fail too many.» Worse, Obama mentioned Americans’ fear of the future, «a nagging fear that America’s decline is inevitable, that the next generation must lower its sights.» If the problems are common, then the solutions may also be common too. Except that Greeks seem to have selective hearing. The solutions proposed by Obama have less to do with what the state can do for the citizens and more about what the citizens can do for their state. The first thing the president asked for was hard work. He said, for example, that the economic crisis is a consequence of greed on the part of some. We Greeks heard that, perhaps because it fits our overall world-view. What we chose not to hear was what came next: that the crisis is also a consequence of «our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age.» Obama also said that the question «is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works.» And no one seemed to miss that. More important, however, was his way of evaluating state interference: «whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is ‘yes,’ we intend to move forward. Where the answer is ‘no,’ programs will end.» Obama said many things, and we’d better listen to all of them. He never promised the American people that he will save them, rather he promised that he will not stop their effort to save themselves. There was no pledge for handouts, only a safety net for those who really need it and hard work for everyone else. And that last thing is the first thing we should listen to.