The im­por­tance of silent ma­jori­ties

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY NIKOS VATOPOULOS

Dur­ing the era of

PA­SOK’s om­nipo­tence, which was 30 years or more ago, the main op­po­si­tion at the time, New Democ­racy, tended to re­fer to the silent ma­jor­ity in its po­lit­i­cal rhetoric. It based this on the be­lief that the broad mid­dle class did not join street protests or ral­lies, did not shout and did not pro­voke. In other words, it just minded its own busi­ness. Of course, the elec­tions of 1980, which PA­SOK won, showed that the idea of a silent ma­jor­ity was com­pletely rel­a­tive. De­vel­op­ments since then, across the world, have led to more com­plex and cau­tious as­sess­ments and in­ter­pre­ta­tions of the elec­torate. How­ever, the term “silent ma­jor­ity” (which en- joyed a his­toric mo­ment when Charles de Gaulle tri­umphed af­ter the May up­ris­ings in 1968) made a re­turn re­cently when it was used in re­la­tion to the mass demon­stra­tion in Barcelona in fa­vor of Span­ish unity. Some wanted to sug­gest that this was a mo­ment mark­ing the grad­ual ral­ly­ing of a Europe driven by com­mon sense. How­ever, even those who high­light this trend (if it is ac­tu­ally ac­cu­rate) are re­main­ing low-key. Those who are pin­ing for old Europe are also nos­tal­gic for those clear so­cial co­or­di­nates that, to a large ex­tent, sup­ported the Union’s con­struc­tion. There can be no doubt that the Euro­pean trend of re­spond­ing to pop­ulism, dis­obe­di­ence and apos­tasy from rep­re­sen­ta­tive democ­racy is grad­u­ally be­com­ing vis­i­ble. There is a clear sense that a new vi­sion is nec­es­sary and ev­ery­thing that French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron is try­ing to do, as a fer­vent sup­porter of a new Euro­pean ar­chi­tec­ture, is re­lated to th­ese needs and con­cerns. How­ever, the ex­pe­ri­ence in all Euro­pean coun­tries, from Greece to the United King­don and from Spain to Poland, proves that each ef­fort to dis­sect so­ci­ety and to pre­dict peo­ple’s po­lit­i­cal move­ments is un­likely to be ac­cu­rate, or at least runs the se­ri­ous risk of be­ing mis­lead­ing. On the other hand, democ­ra­cies also op­er­ate with cru­cial rel­a­tive ma­jori­ties, as the re-elec­tion of Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel proved. Nev­er­the­less, Euro­pean so­ci­eties are still go­ing through a tran­si­tion pro­cess and the un­rest in Cat­alo­nia, the cri­sis in the UK un­der­line this. We are await­ing the re­sult of the elec­tions in Aus­tria. It re­mains to be seen if Greece will be able to jus­tify the the­ory of the silent ma­jor­ity at the next elec­tions. Af­ter many years dur­ing which con­spir­acy the­o­ries and the cul­ture of vic­tim­hood dom­i­nated, it may be that Greek so­ci­ety will show that this rel­a­tive ma­jor­ity, this crit­i­cal mass to keep the coun­try from go­ing un­der, ac­tu­ally ex­ists.

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