OPINION

Consensus is the next goal

Every nation’s people, especially when those people are high-strung and can boast a long history, need a vision to unite and mobilize them. When a nation feels the confidence and strength that comes from a more global presence, the vision comes in the form of a specific goal. For Greeks, it was once the Great Idea, followed by World War II and the reconstruction from the ruins of war. Then there was the civil war, the fall of the military dictatorship, Greece’s entry into the European Union and the eurozone, hosting the 2004 Olympic Games and then… we ran out of national goals. Our democracy is solid and we belong to the elite clubs of Europe. Yet we are not happy, but neither can we say what needs to change. I wonder whether this has to do with the fact that there is no one else to blame and no one else to whom to turn to fix the country’s ills. We are alone and now must decide whether we have the courage to change. Neither the USA nor Turkey can be blamed for the dismal state of our universities, rampant corruption, inadequacy of our politicians, poor quality of our television, slow and incompetent public sector or our shattered police force. This is all our own doing and for a long time it was okay to leave it that way. Now, however, the international credit crisis and the unraveling of our basic institutions have brought to the fore all the ills we have been sweeping under the carpet since 1974. We are staring at an insurmountable obstacle that is not just comprised of the many different things that need to be dealt with, but is also part of a deeply ingrained mentality. More importantly, to go forward as a country we need the two big parties to reach consensus. It is a matter of sink or swim. We need consensus on issues that will have a huge political cost and on changes that will deal a blow to powerful interests and well-organized labor groups. For this to happen, however, either the two big parties need to see that neither of them can handle this situation alone or the Greek voters need to force them to cooperate.