The year 2021, the 200th anniversary of the modern Greek state, is not that far away. Milestones of such magnitude inspire reflection. We need to examine how much ground we have covered, where we succeeded and where we failed. Once we have done this, we can set goals for the future.
Both are urgent priorities. The Greek crisis, which is more than just economic in nature, is now in its 10th year. We have lost confidence in ourselves and faith in the country’s potential. We are weary. Unless we take action to change things, the mess we are in will only get worse.
Looking back, we haven’t fared that badly. From the poor Balkan country it was in 1821, Greece grew in strength at an impressive rate. The country survived wars, occupations, civil conflicts and economic disasters, getting back on its feet every time. The economy grew at a spectacular rate after World War II and Greece joined one of the western world’s most exclusive clubs. There were certainly setbacks along the way, but it always managed to overcome them. Since its establishment, the country has made all the right geopolitical decisions. It was never on the wrong side of history and it was able to use this fact to its advantage. This was neither inevitable nor happenstance. Aside from the big powers’ obvious, long-standing interest in Greece due to its key geographical position, it was also important that the Greek people mostly chose to be led by solid, prudent leaders who steered clear of populism and stewarded the country in the right direction. Many were scorned, some were exiled and even murdered, but their vision was realized. In any case, historians tend to treat them with more respect than the average voter of their time.
Whenever the country lost its way, it was because the people were swayed by words. This was often the case, as the Greeks, being a profoundly Mediterranean people, have a soft spot for pie-in-the-sky rhetoric. Division also put the country at risk. We experienced this several times at very crucial moments. Damage was also caused when we failed to properly gauge our strengths, the enemy’s intentions and the geopolitical circumstances. The disasters of 1897, 1922 and 1974 were a consequence of these flaws.
Today we are looking at the future divided and with a clear leadership deficit. The asymmetry with Turkey, notwithstanding its internal problems, is a cause for concern. It’s time we hammered out a plan that will help the country restore its strengths and play a leading role in the region, taking advantage of untapped potential. Looking back at the big picture, it may not appear that bad, but if we want to halt the decline we need to set goals for Greece and the diaspora, which has also played a key part.