|BEWARE OF THE IDES OF MARCH|
|Sunday, 28 February 2010 19:18|
In recent weeks, many in Greece have come to experience a sense of foreboding not usually present in the otherwise little occupied Greek "national psyche."
Between apocalyptic remarks by the prime minister and his principal ministers, and dire headlines in an almost universally hostile international press, all revolving around the country's crippling budget crisis, Greeks nowadays spend most of their waking hours discussing various alternatives of collapse, especially since their procrastinating and bewildered government has all but announced formally that the game is lost and it is time for "every man for himself" (no mention of 'every woman for herself' though, if this carries any significance at all).Throughout its modern history, Greece has been always just a few inches short from sinking into a bone-crushing crisis, real or imagined.
Right now though the majority of those asked will tell you the crisis is real. And, since in politics "real" is usually the same as "perceived," words tend to lose their exact meaning as confusion increases; a sense of dread over government procrastination and obvious bewilderment settles in; and fear of one's own safety and security expands proportionally.
In short, right now, Greeks of today find themselves in a predicament they thought it was safely relegated to the forgotten pages of the history books.
Conditions have changed, of course, since the grim, gray 1950s.
There are thousands of pristine new automobiles in the streets happily burning thousands of tons of the Middle East's finest brew every 24-hour period; restaurants, cafes, and the ubiquitous tavernas are still packed with patrons, despite grim TV reportage about how the crisis has supposedly wiped out so many fine eateries; the coastal road is packed to exhaustion with throngs of cars and people on the brilliant days only an Athens "winter" knows how to deliver; and night life continues to offer the "kick" outgoing Greeks are famous for.
But is it all genuine or isn't?
Scratch just below the surface and you will discover the kind of biting anxiety present only on the eve of something that is both fearful and inevitable. Greeks are accused of many things -- and they do have their serious flaws -- but they do retain their sense of dread at impending disaster.
Perhaps for the first time since the present gorging on borrowed money began some thirty years ago, the product of demagogue politics by disastrous politicians obsessed with their own aggrandizement, the Greek voter feels the cold breath of the Sorrow Bearer on his neck.
For the first time, he has an overwhelming sense that something very deeply rooted is about to be yanked with the kind of force that has shuttered both iron and flimsy countries alike over the centuries.
And for the first time since the late 1940s, he fears that there is little left between him and as of yet undefined ugly surges that could bring the serendipity of a fabricated "strong Greece" to an abrupt and inglorious death.
This is not science fiction.
This is the sense of the downtown small businessman, who saw his business, just one short year ago, turn into ashes in the hands of rioters and plunderers, with his government standing on the sidelines, like a useless, limp marionette.
This is the sense of the homeowner, who, fearful of burgeoning violent crime, mainly imported, and the impact of the economic collapse, tries to barricade his home with more security doors and steel meshing of the windows.
This is the sense of the pensioner, who is viciously attacked in broad daylight by young thugs aiming for her purse and her meager monthly euros.
This is the sense of those who watch, helplessly, our public universities turned into heavens for criminals, drug addicts, street terrorists, and "militants," with the government, again, standing on the sidelines while all the while issuing "stern instructions" for the "defense" of the campus by terrorized, syncope-suffering academic authorities.
And this is the sense of young people, not bound or mesmerized by "progressive politics" and the vacuously foolish exponents of "modernization" via laptop, who see a future without a future and a present replete with the commodification of their very existence and the overwhelming pressure to turn themselves into corvee workers so that they may "advance" at some, essentially imaginary, future stage of their career lives.
Suddenly, people known for their distaste of police and policing are wondering who will actually man the defenses when the time comes.
Suddenly, the question of "home defense" -- as in repelling anyone who tries to invade your family home -- has acquired currency as if Greece has just graduated to the status of "Chicago," the mention of the American city serving as a favorite example Greeks use to derisively describe anarchic, chaotic circumstances with threats against one's well being both imminent and almost impossible to thwart.
Suddenly, large segments of the "natives" begin to fear that the collapse of the bankrupt Greek public sector, and all its many unserviceable "services," long the butt of cutting jokes by Greeks themselves, isn't a laughing matter anymore but, rather, the source of extreme worry and nervousness.
Meantime, in the background, there is a government panting uphill but not missing a bit in trumpeting in every direction, and over every foreign media, how corrupt, how failed, and how indeed lost we are.
In between breaks for water, though, there is always time to form another "coordinating" committee.
Robert Frost once famously said that, "The best way out is always through."
Who can argue with these wise words? -- provided there is leadership to carry them over the parapet.