Correspondence from Symtagma Square- II
Direction ? Crowds keep gathering, in central squares in many Greek cities
Crowds keep gathering, in central squares in many Greek cities. Merge with the crowd gathered in Syntagma, observe the people, hear their talk . There is an atmosphere of quiet happiness that permeates the interaction of the people and the people are a truly representative sample of Greek Society, young, old, laborers, scientists et al, et al. So many Greeks and so few contradictions in talk and behavior. The gathering is a genuine protest, however of a unique character. Absent the political identity, the hooded “militia”, no violence of any kind and yet there is anger, but it is the anger of law abiding citizens. The crowd has already set up an on site legal office. It portrays the fact the crowd is “Joe Doe” energized by anger and encouraged by the spontaneity of the gathering to get up and go to Syntagma to show his “fatigue” and “disgust” with the system and the politicians and that makes him happy. The People want a civil, peaceful protest. Of course this does not preclude loud expressions of anguish and damnation for the politicians with hands stretched out towards the Parliament in the typical Greek “damn you” gesture.
The talk one hears is about the wasteful practices of Governments, the incompetence of the Public sector, which is big and useless. There is even talk about the Trade Unions and how they block progress and efficiency. What is apparent is that people are disillusioned and disappointed. They attribute the downhill skid of the country to Andreas Papandreou and his successors, including those of the New Democracy party and they end up wandering who can get the country up on its feet again, certainly not those who brought us here, they say and point at the Parliament. These people, meaning those in Parliament, are out of touch with reality, self centered and totally incompetent. They are liars, thieves and traitors. The entire system is not to be trusted, they say. When asked what they mean by “system” they include, together with the political parties, judges, journalists and academics. When asked how they envision good Governance they answer in terms that can be summarized as a nimble public sector made up of competent, well qualified carefully selected people, mostly technocrats, who know what to do and how best to do what they are assigned to do and who genuinely work for the benefit of their fellow citizens, but this is not where they stop. There seems to be a consensus that the entire mode of Government, the polity itself should change. There are people who talk about a more participatory mode of Government. They say Parliament should be smaller and in touch with the people on every mater of importance, by means of “plebiscites”. A Computer geek claims that, nowadays, it is entirely possible to have the country’s answer to a question, even National elections, without resorting to the usual system but simply through information systems that can be made available nationally. This means in a day, with no fuss, Parliament can have an answer from the Nation about a question of great importance and act accordingly. Governments should be representative of the people, composed of people who represent the various fields of activity and therefore know the sector they are put in charge of serving. They point out that Minister means servant, one who serves the people. When a lawyer heads the Ministry of Health what does he know about the intricacies of the sector, they ask.
It seems that people are not just angry, but they also have, many of them, ideas about what to change and how. Even those with no specific idea of any kind concede that times have changed and that unless we change the way we did things until now there can be no progress.
As for what pains them most the summary is: Unemployment, lack of prospects and the troika, meaning the austerity measures that hurt them. In addition they want the politicians to have no special privileges and all citizens to be equal in the eyes of the law, no immunity for MPs. Some of the protesters carry tiny gallows, others carry signs with slogans like Jail for the thieves, to stress their anger for the deeds, the omissions and the immunity of the politicians. Clearly it is a movement of protest, desirous of change.
A few hundred yards from Syntagma another protest took place, with about 2000 people listening and cheering luminaries of Greek academia and culture who expressed their anger against the measures the Government takes, but who, sadly, offered no propositions for the curtailment of the National Debt.
The movement of the protesters, the so called indignant, has no leadership, it is genuinely a movement, but what can it achieve? How will it evolve? No doubt the system will endeavor to discredit it, indeed as a collection of signatures has begun to create a new political party, the party of the indignant citizens. Others have started collecting signatures, rumored to be already more than 20000, to petition the President of the Republic to annul the Memorandum by means of a plebiscite. They believe the plebiscite will be overwhelmingly against the Memorandum and binding, so that the Troika goes home and leaves Greece alone.
It is clear that in Syntagma square a movement is underway. What is also clear is that the people are intentionally uninformed. They are angry and anger does not produce clear thinking. This is why they are susceptible to demagoguery. Those who can enlighten them refrain from doing it for reasons of their own, but the movement keeps swelling and it may result in a nationwide refusal to go along with the course of events. The crowd is not informed about how the country got in to this mess. The crowd believes the Memorandum is a disaster, the Government never explained it to the Nation and the Government itself treats it like evil. The movement wants the Papandreou Government out. Assuming their wish is granted, then what? Who, or what, will succeed it? Nothing is certain. What the people want is change and some have ideas about how to bring about change, but they offer no clear definition of what exactly constitutes change.
The country needs to go forward. The Government is incapable of doing what it has agreed, with the Eurozone saviors and has, consequently, brought the country to a worse position than it was a year ago. If the movement goes to the direction of refusal to honor the country’s obligations it is catastrophy, but who has the respect and credibility to advise the crowds? The crowds are uninformed, angry, they want change, they have ideas about what to change and how, but with no clear constructive ideas about how best to solve the problem of debt. Even the academic and cultural leaders who asked that patriotism prevails had no proposals to offer. Who can therefore enlighten the crowds, turn their thinking to a positive direction? Who can turn their refusal to continue the present state of affairs to consent for …?
The movement is potentially good and potentially bad, for the country. It has the potential to bring about change, force the system to act responsibly (or to react badly). It has the potential to give birth to a new, effective, “ system”, or to multifarious political activities that will lead to catastrophy. It is a movement of anger and as such it needs direction. Unfortunately, so far, there is no one to provide it. The crowd has turned its back to the country’s leadership. Who can advise the movement? Who can lead it? Who can guide the crowds to a positive change? What direction will the movement take? God help.