Thursday, 20 October 2011
GREECE: TWILIGHT OF DEMOCRACY
Greece, the country in which I currently reside seems surreal these dark autumn days; the country is more or less like a cemetery that has grave sites opening up by the day to swallow more people by the thousands. It is a strange feeling living in a country where the worst is yet to come, a country that has no hope for its youth now seeking to make a new life in distant lands. It is macabre to watch news reports and see nothing but perfidious, thieving, criminal politicians and businessmen responsible for the current crisis arguing about 'the best solution' fopr the country, a solution that would make sure to have them at the helm, one that would ensure their cut of whatever privileges are left when public assets are sold for a song to domestic and foreign buyers looking to make a killing, exactly as they did in Egypt under former dictator Mubarak; all in the name of neo-liberal policies intended to promote growth.
In the past two years, Greece has been suffering social unrest at unprecedented levels. This is largely because of the IMF-EU austerity measures that have resulted in 'official unemployment' at around 17% with projections that it will reach 25% in six months to a year; to say nothing of wages going down to 1980s levels at a time that cost of living is rising, thus impoverishing about one-third of the country. More significant, the absence of light at the end of the tunnel for the financial and economic contraction of Greece, combined with the ominous prospect that EU officials are now running policy and Greece has lost whatever national sovereignty it enjoyed from 1974 (end of the military dictatorship) until 2009, has meant that the level of cynicism is so high few people expect return to normalcy within the decade.
That the current so-called "Socialist" (PASOK) regime will not survive for very long is a certainty, but that is not important, for what awaits is even worse fate than the present. What awaits is lack of any political consensus, given that most people believe politicians are more or less the same and their only goal is to use the political office for private profit and exercise of power for atomistic reasons rather than public service. That the fiscal, economic and labor policies have resulted in the downward socioeconomic mobility is the only reality, at least as far as the average person is concerned, as far as the shopkeeper is concerned, as far as the parent trying to figure out a futre for his children is concerned.
That similar experiences are endured across much of Europe and even the US accounts for even deeper sense of pessimism for the middle class and workers across the Western World. The crisis of confidence in the political economy has reached levels similar to those that existed during the military junta of 1967-1974, a period during which Greece, Portugal and Spain experienced sociopolitical mobilization and managed to return to parliamentary regimes by mid-1970s. Today, there is less optimism than there was during the era of the waning days of the southern European dictatorships, a time when people realized the worst was behind them and 'happy days' were ahead. The reason for ubiquitous pessimism is that the parliamentary system, as it currently operates intended to serve a tiny percentage of the population, is now the enemy of the people who placed their faith in that social contract.
Twilight of democracy is imminent in Greece, but also across Europe, especially in Spain, Italy, and Portugal; a situation that has contagion seeds within it and will spread rapidly to the entire Western World unless it is contained. Not that mass demonstrations and strikes can bring about systemic change, but a large segment of the population is sufficiently disillusioned to the degree that they support radical approaches they would otherwise not have supported before austerity.
Twilight of democracy is here, it is embedded in the actions of people not just in Greece, but of people across many European countries as well as the US. If not twilight of democracy, then a very deep crisis of democracy is an undeniable reality. What is the solution? I have repeatedly made it very clear through many postings that the answer rests in what kind of society one wishes to see develop. If the choice is socioeconomic polarization with all its considerable consequences of social instability, then nothing needs to change.