OPINION

Safety networks

Maybe our customs will save us. We all know that Greece is at a dead end. All that remains is to see what solutions the government will propose, what reactions they will provoke and what result they will have. Perhaps more important, though, is how we will behave as individuals and as a society: Will we persist with mentalities and systems that we know to be unsuccessful or will we move quickly to chart a new course in a new world? That is why the New-Year season is more important this year than in previous ones. Last year, we were in mourning for a teenager shot by police and for our inexplicable tolerance of all that had gone wrong in our society. We saw the center of our capital handed over to a mob and we wondered if the future had arrived, if we were now going to live perpetually among flames, looting and tear gas. It seems, though, that what we are now experiencing is likely to cause much deeper wounds. We are witnessing the collapse of expectations, the admission that not only is our society not going to give us everything we want but that it will struggle to ensure even the basics. According to the most pessimistic scenario, the rise in unemployment, along with a general sense of thwarted expectations and injustice, will lead to greater rage and helplessness, opening a chasm between the helpless and those who have good jobs and money. This will result in the black economy growing even stronger, with increasing numbers of people working without the protection of the law and social security funds. The rich will get richer and the rest will just survive – nullifying 100 years of social advancement. The social divide will lead to political extremism that will damage the country for many years. But there is also an optimistic scenario – one that believes Greek society still has reserves, that it has an historical depth and mechanisms that will function as buffers to soften the worst impacts of the forced landing in a world where the economy is subject to the rules of gravity. In this instance, the black economy is not a field only of harsh exploitation but also of the informal economy made up of honest people who want to work without expecting handouts from others and without resorting to crime. In addition, the bonds of family and friendship are still very strong, despite the damage they have suffered in the maelstrom of consumerism and selfishness. Parents, aunts, uncles and cousins are still prepared to help out, just as children stand by their elders when the need arises. These primal bonds serve as a substitute for (and, in cases of nepotism, undermine) the modern society which has still not developed in Greece. This «interdependence» leads not only to the comical 30-year-olds who refuse to leave the sanctuary of the family nest but also constitutes an effective defense against the difficulties that an individual could not otherwise withstand. Social networks – such as Facebook – which developed thanks to the Internet, brought about a global revolution. But this was most evident in Western societies with their greater individuality. Suddenly relatives, friends, schoolmates, former lovers and so on, were finding each other again. The neophyte users of these networks rushed straight into excessive confessions and intricate networks – a phenomenon not unlike the relationship between Greeks and their mobile phones for the past 15 years. We did not have to wait for Facebook, we already had our networks – our extended families, our friends, our schoolmates and university pals, fellow fanatics of soccer teams and political parties, people from the same town or village. During the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, relatives and friends from every corner of the land and from abroad meet again or for the first time. They exchange stories and information, opinions, tales of failure and success. Among the good wishes, the shared memories and desires, they analyze the present and recalibrate their course in a changed world. They renew themselves through customary, comfortable ritual. Let’s hope that this year’s holidays in the midst of crisis will have been fruitful – that they will strengthen our society, making it more creative and optimistic.