Beyond politics, listen to the people

The message from the elections: domestic issues, a general political swing, a «powerful» Greece, the ruling party’s «establishment» mentality, modern-minded reforms and more social concerns. The danger from the extreme right – this is what we have been hearing from the parties and what we have been watching and reading in the media. It all sounds very distant and foreign in some parts of Greece, as foreign as these parts of the country seem to the powers that be. We are not only talking about the farming regions, but some areas of the capital itself, which is planning for a brilliant Olympiad. One only needs to go for a short drive to notice the difference, to realize what the term «crisis in shipping construction» means, not from reading about it in financial reports but by experiencing it as daily life that is non-existent. One only needs to listen to the people to feel their despair, in phrases such as «downgrading of the community,» «petty crime» and «de-industrialization.» One doesn’t need to take these comments at face value. The vote, which was seen as a protest against PASOK, might be even more to the detriment of the Communist Party, whose candidate lost out in the first round. Perhaps their accusations against the government could be due to broader and unavoidable causes from which Greece could not – and should not – exclude itself. Sometimes some of the government’s own responsibilities, whether to do with the unions or the individual, cannot be taken into consideration. That does not cancel out the fact that some local communities are dying out. For others, competitiveness, mobility and continuing education are empty concepts, euphemisms for the marginalization of their neighborhood and their lives. In that «other» Athens, that «other» Greece, people see the vote solely as an expression of discontent. The weight of their problems does not allow them to send any other message than that of rejection – first to the government and then to every political party. That is what the party analysts of the «message» should remember, just as they should not minimize the threat of total rejection inherent within it. There is a very short distance between the phrases «We don’t have racism yet» and «I wonder whether a junta wouldn’t be better.» The risks from such scorn for democracy are great indeed.