Feeble democracy

Skepticism, disappointment, pessimism: These are the main findings of a recent Public Issue survey about the predominant feelings of modern Greeks. A stunning eight in 10 Greeks said they felt disappointed with the way in which our democracy operates. People are, of course, worried about the economic crisis that has beset the country. The majority can already feel the consequences of recession and it is understandable that they would express such pessimism about the future. More alarmingly, however, people believe that Greece’s democracy is not up to standard. The skepticism comes with a rejection of politics: One in two Greeks say they have no interest in politics. Disappointment in our democratic system and rejection of politics are growing against the backdrop of the deepest crisis witnessed in postwar Greece. Faced with the specter of poverty, the well-fed, educated and, yes, often spoiled Greeks of 2010, the children of democracy – with all its weaknesses – have concluded that democracy is not working as it should. Could it be that they identify economic poverty with political poverty, with a poverty of democracy? Perhaps. In any case, what we are seeing now is a multifaceted crisis in all its intensity – a crisis that exceeds fiscal and economic boundaries. People’s disappointment in our democracy sends a dark message about constitutional order and social peace. It means that people do not believe that they live in a democracy that safeguards equality before the law, that protects the weak, that cares about social cohesion and fairness. It means that people no longer recognize a collective self within the contours of democracy. But there are no other forms of collectivity left that can forge a sense of «we,» a sense of belonging. The existing political formations are sorry excuses for collectivity. They are Facebook parties or wasteful NGOs with the usual manifestations of bribery, mediocracy and nepotism. They are mere corner shops built after the image of their leaders. No one, nothing can inspire and unite the disappointed crowd that is turning their gaze away from democracy: This is the real meaning of crisis.

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