Choices and opportunities

Democracies will always find themselves at dead ends, in tight spots and negotiating tricky bends. These situations may not be eternal or definite but they can linger for a long time, spreading confusion and pain while they last. Today Greek society and democracy is finding itself in such dire straits of trial and hardships. Local elections last Sunday and again tomorrow reflected and are expected to reflect a landscape that is fragmented and in flux, with unpredictable political behavior, unheard-of political alliances and a deep neglect of politics, at least, the manner in which politics is understood these days. Casting a ballot in tomorrow’s runoff election is not an easy task. Voters no longer have the luxury of choosing from a large range of candidates. They are faced with an unenviable choice, as they have to pick from among politicians they may not have supported in the first round. They must pick the lesser of two evils, the one least distant from their preferences. This conundrum often leads to abstention – as happened last Sunday. Tomorrow, however, in many cities, including Athens, the dilemma must be answered not in terms of ideological similarities but in terms of survival: the survival of the city, of the neighborhood and the apartment block. Athens, to take the capital as an example, has never been in such sorry shape. No one ever thought that the city, or at least parts of it, would one day come to resemble a miserable ghetto or slum. The disillusioned and frustrated residents of the capital have a duty to assume their share of the responsibility. They must make demands on their municipal authorities as well as help them. They must cooperate, recommend, inspire and be inspired. And they must also punish: penalize the municipal leaders who ignored and scorned them. They must punish those who have left the city filthy and defenseless. They must punish those who have made Athens an unfriendly city. Perhaps the time has come to try something different, a new authority; not a very promising one, perhaps even one that is opportunistic, but at least a different authority. The citizens must leave open a window of opportunity, of possibility. And see what happens.