OPINION

Intolerable tolerance

It’s clear that the country is not just in a phase of decline, it’s actually on the verge of a complete breakdown. The global economic crisis has exacerbated Greece’s structural shortcomings which themselves stem from an ailing political system. But although the fish rots from the head, society is not without blame. Greek politicians are engaged in give-and-take with the electorate. We are not just talking about political favors aimed at luring voters. Over time, the situation has nurtured a climate of mutual tolerance while parties, especially the mainstream ones, have been politically and morally discredited. They are indirectly trying to buy the tolerance of society in order to survive. This often means turning a blind eye not only to arbitrary acts committed by segments of society but also to widespread corruption committed by state officials. This two-way tolerance is putting the brakes on the country’s development. But not only that. It is also corroding Greece’s social values. These are, in fact, two sides of the same coin. If it wants to impose respect for the law, a political system must itself be credible. But this has long been lost. People pick parties but they don’t trust them, which is an unmistakable sign of a crisis in political representation. In this context, a parliamentary majority no longer suffices for a government to be able to claim substantial political legitimacy which is necessary in order to enforce legality. Societies, of course, are riven by contradictions and conflict that sometimes cannot be contained. So law and order is not always the right formula. But Greece’s problem is not a lack of flexibility. We have reached the other extreme. The fact that arbitrary behavior is often rewarded has fostered an aversion to social responsibility, which is undermining efforts to overcome the crisis. What we need are credible politicians, politicians who will be bold enough to call a spade a spade.