People in Europe and across the world are mobilizing to show solidarity to the Greeks who have been hardly hit by the greatest economic depression in the history of their country. Being a Greek myself I can only express my gratitude to those who understand the difficult position the Greek people find their selves in. As such solidarity, either practical or rhetorical is more than welcome as it is noble and humane. However being above all a cynic who wants to see real change in Greece and the EU, I may say that solidarity alone is not what we are in need of.
Greece is in desperate need of deep reforms in the structure of the public administration, the economy, the education system, the health system, regional policy, social policy and the political system itself. In short Greece needs a new beginning; one that will put aside the profligate, irrational, unfair and counter-productive past; one that will abolish and condemn all these malpractices and ill attitudes that brought the country to its knees and caused untold suffering to its people.
This will be done by the Greek people themselves who must finally realize that the root of the problem is their apathy and their guilty tolerance of the parasitocracy that was established ever since the fall of the dictatorship of the military junta in 1974. The Metapolitefsi (the democratic era after the dictatorship) gave birth to a political system that specialized in charlatanry, corruption and deceit.
A political establishment which once promised the lofty ideals of “bread-education-liberty”, appeared as corrupt as its predecessors, effectively eating in the foundations of the Greek society. The practices that were exercised all these decades – these corrupt policies – are what led to the destruction of the productive capacities of the country, the creation of perverse incentives, the distortion of the capital structure, the formation of a highly unproductive and costly bureaucracy and in the end the magnification of inequality and the rule of injustice.
For Greece to be part of the modern world; a country that will make its citizens proud; all these policies that destroyed the country must be abolished. This will start from the individual citizen. The Greeks need to realize two things if they are to move forward:
- Freedom is not free. You fight for it on an everyday basis and you win it by remaining vigilant and by demanding a better life (the Aristotelian eudaimonia),
- In a democracy the responsibility is always collective. Thus they should stop pretending being innocent, since they were well aware of the corrupt practices of the political elite, since they too benefited from them. Also they should stop cultivating “foreign enemies” and other “ghosts of the past”, since the problem starts and ends internally – it is a matter of political culture.
When the Greek people realize that, they will then be better equipped to demand change in the roots not the leaves; in the institutions not the figures. In other words they will ask for stable rules, transparent public administration, lesser government intervention in their everyday life (thus fewer government failures), a fair tax regime, a truly secular state and above all, meritocracy.
What we now see as problems of the Greek society, namely the growing numbers of the homeless and the people in need; is only a fraction of the deeply political, cultural and existential crisis that the Greeks face.
Having said that, I am more than happy to see our friends across Europe and the world, showing their support. Philhellenism (“the love of Greek culture“) has always been important for the Greek people across their history and as such it is more than welcome. However we must never forget that the Greek people themselves have the responsibility and the duty to demand and push for real change and deep reforms in virtually everything that is Greek. Progress comes from the actions of the individuals, from the subjects of history, the individual citizens. This is what we ultimately need to ask for.