Harm­ful pop­ulism

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY ALEXIS PAPACHELAS

Many Greeks are deeply frus­trated with the prime min­is­ter and the govern­ment. On the one hand, they are an­gry at the dam­age done dur­ing the ne­go­ti­a­tions of 2015 and the way that in­sti­tu­tional mat­ters were han­dled. On the other, they feel sapped by the taxes they are hav­ing to pay. I fully com­pre­hend this anger be­cause it is not base­less. On the con­trary. I also re­al­ize that it des­per­ately needs to be ex­pressed on a po­lit­i­cal level. When cit­i­zens who are worn out and mad feel that they don’t have a voice, they will re­volt. Nev­er­the­less, anger can be blind­ing and blur judg­ment. Those who voted in fa­vor of the bailout agree­ment in last year’s ref­er­en­dum do not need to adopt the tac­tics of bul­lies. They need to show strength and mod­er­a­tion. Such tac­tics from the Right are just as harm­ful to democ­racy and public di­a­logue as they are from the Left. Us­ing so­cial and other me­dia to tear into its ri­vals, to de­mo­nize and ex­er­cise ir­ra­tional op­po­si­tion is an easy trap to fall into but it doesn’t lead any­where. It’s dif­fi­cult to main­tain your cool and come across as a mod­er­ate when the arena’s on fire and the public is de­mand­ing blood. I do think, how­ever, that the ex­ag­ger­a­tion of in­ves­tiga­tive com­mit­tees and spe­cial courts, to­gether with ev­ery­thing that these en­tail, are ul­ti­mately dam­ag­ing. Of course, I un­der­stand that in the game of pol­i­tics, yard dogs are a nece­sary evil in pol­i­tics, to bite or de­fend ac­cord­ingly, es­pe­cially when the ad­ver­sary is so tough. How­ever, when they are al­lowed to set the po­lit­i­cal agenda and shape at­ti­tudes, dis­as­ter is near. Along with oth­ers who stood against the tsunami of pop­ulism and folly in the past year-and-a-half, op­po­si­tion leader Kyr­i­akos Mit­so­takis has shown po­lit­i­cal courage. He has no rea­son to be car­ried away by the fa­nati­cism. Be­sides, one would hope that Greek so­ci­ety has changed by now. We have al­ready paid a hefty price for Alexis Tsipras’s im­pru­dence and now he is im­ple­ment­ing poli­cies that a cen­ter-right ad­min­is­tra­tion would find hard to carry out. Above all, through his words and deeds, he is free­ing the next gov­ern­ments of taboos and decades-long en­tan­gle­ments. Iron­i­cally, it was Tsipras who had to teach Greeks that protest alone does not bring jobs. This is no small feat. One last thing. By say­ing we should re­frain from all kinds of im­mod­er­ate be­hav­ior I’m not sug­gest­ing un­con­di­tional con­sen­sus, let alone an op­por­tunist ap­proach that serves in­di­vid­ual or other in­ter­ests. How­ever, if the Right adopts left-wing fa­nati­cism and un­bri­dled pop­ulism, then the coun­try will hit a wall. This is the last thing that all those feel­ing anger and de­spair need, while oth­ers will sim­ply view a call for calm as just an­other tac­tic of pop­ulism. When it comes to the po­lit­i­cal game, how­ever, with­out bound­aries and some ba­sic na­tional con­sen­sus, we will keep tum­bling while the cries of the blood­thirsty crows con­tinue their game of se­duc­tion.

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