In the span of a few months, Greece’s national conversation has changed completely. Introspection has given way to anger, and whatever reform momentum existed has subsided in favor of a search for scapegoats. The relevant questions are no longer: “how can Greece be productive and competitive” or “how can we address the ailments that most of us recognize exist?” Instead, today’s questions are, “what does the victory of François Hollande mean for Greece,” and “is Angela Merkel bluffing or will she kick Greece out of the Eurozone?” Greece’s new motto is: ask not what you can do for your country; ask what Europe can do for you.
This is a subtle change: after all, there has always been a keen interest in the international environment and how it affects Greece. But for a few months now, Greece has abandoned the internal debate. We have become obsessed over the “memorandum” and whether we will repeal it, abrogate it, cancel it, amend it, renegotiate it or change it. We are no longer discussing privatizations, salaries, taxes, closed professions, and so on. We have turned our eyes on Europe and make our every move with our eyes fixated on the hands of the other side, trying to gauge the next move. We have turned this into a chess game. Except that it’s a chess game on a sinking ship – we might win the game but what good is that if we drown in the end?
In the process of going so, we are abdicating our responsibilities. We say, “This is all Europe’s fault, we are but a victim. Help us.” In the beginning of the crisis, we understood that this crisis, while certainly influenced by international events, had certain Greek characteristics. It exposed flaws in the way that Greek society and the Greek economy have been organized. To deal with the crisis, Greece had to cut spending, reform the public and private sector and upgrade the functionality of the state. All this is gone now. In a sense, we have disowned this crisis. There is nothing we can do anymore, we are powerless.
This lack of ownership risks becoming the greatest casualty of this crisis. Greece has changed from being a fat kid that was going on a diet to a fat kid that wants to sue the candy company. In the end, the fat kid may get a check – but will he get any thinner?