OPINION

Spoiling for a fight

The farmers’ stranglehold on Greece, and all the problems that this causes everyone else, is indicative of how over the top such labor action is. Now that the country is sinking in the quicksand of debt, each headline-grabbing labor action causes damage far greater than any group’s gains. Greece appears to lack the cohesion needed for it to overcome its problems. First we had the stevedores of Piraeus blocking the port, now the farmers on the roads, tomorrow we will face action from tax office employees, and so on. Why is it that every demand by a group leads immediately to the most radical steps – strikes and blockades – without any effort at problem solving? Why are we so eager to grab the next person by the throat? Maybe this strange tolerance of extremism stems from many years of antisocial behavior by all of us. When the system is based on helping friends and harming enemies, then we continually reproduce mediocrity and conflict. With no sense of fairness, with client-patron relations paramount, we know that we will only get our way if we kick up such a fuss that officials will give in to us. When we tolerate illegal activity and even reward it, we encourage everyone to become an outlaw. That’s why we don’t condemn behavior that harms us – we have become immune to it. In a way, we have adopted it. The result is a pandemic of anger, where everyone is ready for a fight. Even dialogue no longer acts as a safety valve. Its meaning has been degraded by endless unresolved conflicts. It has become just one more form of conflict. The government appears to understand that this is a critical time, but it continually finds itself fighting a rearguard action against groups and types of behavior that have become entrenched over the past decades. At a time when Greece is in serious trouble, not only the government but the entire political elite must show the way by working for unity and making sacrifices. And that looks most unlikely.