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17° Nicosia,
24 March, 2019
 
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Wrestling in the Colosseum

Everyone played a part in drenching Greek society in hatred. Some did it for the votes, others for the TV ratings, and others for the online clicks

Alexis Papachelas

Alexis Papachelas

How will the hatred that has spread around us in the years of the crisis be erased? The Greek people have been deeply divided. You have the supporters of the bailouts versus the critics, the haves versus the have-nots, the patriots versus the traitors and so on. Everyone played a part in drenching Greek society in hatred. Some did it for the votes, others for the TV ratings, and others for the online clicks.

However, stoking division and manipulating hatred during political confrontations always backfires. Only those who do not wish to govern and face no risk of having their image compromised can pull this game off. The others surf the wave of indignation to climb to power only to face off against what they themselves created. There is no way of breaking this vicious cycle.

Greece, like most Western societies, is undergoing a phase of abrupt adaptation and declining expectations. Let’s not fool ourselves. There will be some good intervals ahead but we will never relive the good old postwar days. The next prime minister will have to surpass himself, partisan passions and a culture which tends to see politics as a zero-sum game. It won’t be an easy task.

The incumbent leftists are doing all they can to undermine understanding and burn bridges. There is no such thing as a Petros Molyviatis, who served as an New Democracy foreign minister, or PASOK veteran Antonis Livanis, who used to maintain an open line of communication behind the scenes.

Greece will never be able to break the deadlocks unless its politicians come to an understanding and reach an agreement on some radical changes. When speaking behind closed doors, everyone agrees on what needs to be done to modernize the state, to correct the flaws of the justice system, and to tackle the problems dogging the armed forces. Naturally, there are disagreements. However, any reasonable and experienced observer will agree on the fundamentals, regardless of their political affiliation.

The risk is that a section of the population will be drawn to the political extremes. The polarization, the unchecked scandalmongering and the conspiratorial talk push desperate masses to desperate choices. Caution is needed.

There is no doubt that the hatred would be easier to douse if no Greek had any qualms about switching on the heating in winter. That is probably the most basic thing. Nevertheless, it would help if we could improve on our political culture, which under SYRIZA has come to befit the Colosseum rather than a European democracy.

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