OPINION

Dangerous weakness

It is a dangerous state of affairs when a government displays weakness, either because it is preparing for elections or because it simply can’t take the pressure. And this is what is happening with this government. The farmers blocked the roads for two days and, from the very first day, government officials sent out the message that «the farmers are right.» Irrespective of whether the farmers are in the right or wrong, this is no way to negotiate, especially when you don’t have any money to spare. The government considered the demand for 300 million euros «logical» but, in the end and without coming under too much pressure, it promised 500 million euros – and still the blockades remained in place. The message this sends to every group that has a just or unjust claim is that with a little pressure, it can achieve the maximum gain. It was this message of weakness that had such catastrophic results during the December crisis, after a policeman killed teenager Alexis Grigoropoulos. Top government officials delivered the message that it was more or less all right if some people caused a little damage, declaring that the police would be on the defensive. In other words, the state and the government let it be known that they would tolerate actions that no state in the world would tolerate, even in a real uprising. When the state proclaims its absence and the country has no political leadership, the consequences are predictable – from the burning of Athens to children throwing stones at police stations as if this were some fun park activity. When the state pulled itself together after a long delay and the government got back on its feet, life in the cities returned to normal, because the Greeks have a highly developed sense of self-preservation. The problem is that those who employ violence or other extreme methods always do so to defend the status quo – the farm union leaders, who want the farmers to remain trapped in a vicious cycle, turning them into civil servants without any motive to do anything different; the professional «troublemakers» who want universities to remain in the thrall of violence and not be centers of learning. The people who earn their daily bread sweating and toiling have never considered setting up roadblocks or smashing up the center of Athens. And if anyone were justified to do so, it would be them, who have to rely on hospitals that are falling apart, who have to wage a battle against bureaucracy and the tax department. Every euro that is lost in the black hole of cotton subsidies could go toward something more useful. But our politicians negotiate with organized interests and give in to pressure, indifferent to the consequences this has on everyone else. It is time for the government to decide which road it will follow. If it wants to get to 2010, it cannot cave in before every protest, especially at a time of worsening economic crisis. If it does this, it is almost certain to bankrupt the country. There is, of course, the choice of early elections – which the government might already have decided, either by design or through the force of events. The fact is that the country is in urgent need of a strong government that will display self-assurance before all kinds of roadblocks.