The silence and the lambs
The day that the beast of populism grows savage in Greece, its politicians, academics and journalists will be looking for somewhere to hide. It’s not the first time that a crisis situation has given rise to such a response – only this time the price will be greater. For weeks now, all sorts of pundits have been parading on Greece’s television channels, making absurd assertions such as that “we could cancel our entire debt overnight, if we wanted to, and nothing bad would happen,” or “we could get cheap loans from China or Russia,” or, “even if we did not sign a new memorandum, our lenders would not allow Greece to declare bankruptcy because they would be worried about the consequences of doing so.” It’s the same people who have been making a fuss about the visits here by foreign inspectors (who are trying to help the debt-ridden country sort out its messy finances) with cries against the “foreign occupation” and the “loss of national sovereignty.” Sadly, there are no sober critics out there who are capable or willing to take on the nonsensical and self-destructive menace. PASOK politi- cians are ducking the hard stuff; their conservative counterparts are afraid they will be accused of being quislings; the wise-minded intellectuals keep mum in the face of the coming disaster. All that makes sense in a way. Amid an orgy of populism, they will be accused of being “neoliberal” or “sellouts.” It takes guts to stand your ground. But no one will be spared should disaster strike. The country’s pseudo-elite is partly responsible for the current mess, because they never took the time to take on the bankrupt politicians who occupy the airwaves. Sadly, we happen to be in critical times without guidance from a political or intellectual elite. If Eleftherios Venizelos were around today, he would most likely speak along the following lines: “People have every right to be frustrated about certain issues; but the interest of the nation dictates that we do this or that.” People have no respect for politicians who mumble excuses and hesitate to make a decision. The other day, a friend gave me a sticker that said: “What do you call a cock that is afraid of the rain? A chicken.” It should be on every politician’s desk.