Jus­tice, equal­ity and a re­boot

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY NIKOS XYDAKIS

There is lit­tle doubt that the Mem­o­ran­dum, as ap­plied by the Greek gov­ern­ment so far, can­not pull the coun­try out of the quag­mire. In­stead, it ap­pears to be sink­ing Greece deeper into re­ces­sion and des­per­a­tion. Mean­while, Ge­orge Pa­pan­dreou’s gov­ern­ment not only ap­pears ex­hausted, but con­fused, frag­mented and bar­ren, as though it has no strat­egy, not just for 2012, but not even for the rest of 2011. This in­abil­ity to man­age the cri­sis is the most wor­ry­ing symp­tom of all be­cause it il­lus­trates that the po­lit­i­cal body can­not cre­ate the mo­ti­va­tion or gen­er­ate the mo­men­tum needed to pull the coun­try out of its free fall. The po­lit­i­cal sys­tem is un­able to ne­go­ti­ate the terms of the coun­try’s sur­vival, to gen­er­ate rev­enue, to im­pose a just and ef­fec­tive tax col­lec­tion mech­a­nism, to im­bue the peo­ple with a sense of jus­tice and, of course, to give rise to new ideas. Never be­fore in the his­tory of the mod­ern Greek state has this sense of in­ef­fec­tu­al­ity and bank­ruptcy been so strong, and es­pe­cially when cou­pled with the feel- ing that as a nation we are at a his­tor­i­cal junc­ture. The trans­for­ma­tion of the global divi­sion, im­mi­gra­tion, the global eco­nomic cri­sis, the fi­nan­cial and po­lit­i­cal cri­sis be­ing ex­pe­ri­ence by the Euro­pean Union and the re­volts in the Arab world, are events that fur­ther in­ten­sify the struc­tural cri­sis in Greece. Greeks, mean­while, are be­ing forced to take a long, hard look at them­selves and to change stance vis-avis the in­ter­na­tional en­vi­ron­ment. But, first of all, they need to re­assess their po­si­tion within their own coun­try: they need to imag­ine them­selves as cit­i­zens of a dif­fer­ent coun­try. Af­ter all, Greeks have re­de­fined them­selves time and again through­out the 20th cen­tury: through the Balkan Wars, the Asia Mi­nor Catas­tro­phe in 1922, World War II, the Civil War, in the af­ter­math of the junta and in re­sponse to the tragic events on Cyprus. On ev­ery one of those oc­ca­sions, Greeks con­structed an ideal for the fu­ture that was more or less con­sen­sual. Af­ter ev­ery de­feat or his­tor­i­cal up­heaval they have had to deal with a change of stance from and to­ward the for­eign el­e­ment and in­ter­nal dis­putes. Un­for­tu­nately, this wealth of ex­pe­ri­ence is no guar­an­tee the the same mis­takes will not be re­peated; quite the op­po­site in fact. We may learn all there is to know about his­tory, but this does not nec­es­sar­ily make us any wiser. How­ever, the hind­sight with which a peo­ple with such a long his­tory of strug­gle and strife is in­evitably en­dowed with may help us view the cur­rent dif­fi­cul­ties within a broader frame­work. It may al­low us to step out of the eddy long enough to lay down some plans for the medium-and long-term fu­ture. Re­struc­tur­ing the debt is the first step. The re­cent and bit­ter ex­pe­ri­ence of the Mem­o­ran­dum has taught us that we need to move fast if we are to gain any ben­e­fits from a re­struc­tur­ing and that we need to play hard­ball in ne­go­ti­a­tions. The next pri­or­ity should be jus­tice and so­cial equal­ity so that a real dent can be made in tax eva­sion and cap­i­tal flight, so that the most vul­ner­a­ble mem­bers of so­ci­ety get the pro­tec­tion they need and so that a sus­pi­cious and dis­heart­ened so­ci­ety is given some hope. Only if they be­gin to feel that ev­ery­one is be­ing treated equally will the state earn back some of its shat­tered cred­i­bil­ity. The cru­cial ques­tion, how­ever, is: which po­lit­i­cal party is in a po­si­tion to con­vince the crushed, fright­ened and en­raged peo­ple that they need to knuckle down and work to­ward a com­mon goal? Which of our politi­cians can con­vince us that they have ethos, that they are will­ing to fight and that they will do so in­de­pen­dent of all ties? Right now, there is only a hand­ful of politi­cians up to this task who will be able to sur­vive the times to come. We will also see new faces and new par­ties emerg­ing over the com­ing years, though there are no guar­an­tees that they will be good or at least any bet­ter. The fact, though, is that the clock is tick­ing fast and Greece needs change; Greece needs a re­boot.

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