Myths can’t save Greece now

Coat of arms of Greece since 7 June 1975.

Coat of arms of Greece since 7 June 1975. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The way in which certain myths took hold regarding Greece’s recourse to international assistance — essentially poisoning Greek public opinion before being debunked — is nothing short of impressive. Many believed, for instance, that Greece turning for help to Europe and the International Monetary Fund was the product of a large-scale conspiracy catering to American interests, the IMF’s involvement in Europe and so on. There were those who supported the view that Greece could have borrowed more, earlier on and at a cheaper rate, from Moscow, Beijing or even New Delhi. Some continue to believe that barging into a negotiation like a bully or renegotiating under the threat of a unilateral denunciation of the memorandum was an easy thing to do.

It’s becoming clear just how unfounded, ridiculous or plain ill-disposed these theories were and are.

Cyprus tried to borrow a lower sum of money outside the European Union and the IMF before realizing the obvious:
That absolutely no one is willing to risk their money without guarantees, and, above all, no one is willing to play outside the boundaries of the international community’s established game. Be it Moscow or Beijing, everyone has broader interests with regard to Europe and the euro, which they would never put at risk. As for a renegotiation of the bailout terms, we all realize that this is a complicated matter that can only come after major tangible changes and reforms in order to be persuasive.

I’m not at all sure that any of this has been understood by many of our fellow citizens, people who turned into faithful supporters of conspiracy theories systematically promoted by the drachma lobby, the left, a part of New Democracy, trade unions, die-hard PASOK supporters and some of the media. Unfortunately, even those who have made the mature and neccessary decision to support reforms and the memorandum, are still coming up against the fiery rhetoric and the propaganda of the past. It’s unfair to blame the victims of the crisis, the people who lost their properties and saw their salaries and pensions slashed.
Of course these people believe that those who signed the memorandum are traitors and that Greece can pull off an economic miracle on its own. And believing this is also much easier than sitting back calmly and analyzing how Greece became an affluent, corrupt country with no output.

Those who injected the anti-memorandum venom in the minds of the Greek people have a lot to answer for. Now that the time of realism and national collective responsibility has come, the extent of the damage done is obvious for all to see.

History has a way of making sure that there’s always some payback.

Greece was the first victim of an unprecedented debt crisis and former Prime Minister George Papandreou was clearly unfit to govern the country at such a crucial time. His biggest mistakes cannot be traced back as treason or conspiracy. They were about making a bad choice of advisers, cutting out experienced administrators, delaying the decision-making process in the first six months of his government and making a sly attempt to avoid unpopular structural changes.

Dealing with why and how Greece reached the point of having to ask for help at one point is vital. But consider this nightmarish scenario: SYRIZA accuses Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and the government of “treason” and of failing at the renegotiation of the memorandum’s terms, the government collapses, Tsipras rises to power and he, in turn, also crashes, paving the way for more hard-core anti-memorandum political forces.

Finding an antidote to the poisonous effect of the crazy accusations and far-fetched conspiracy theories that have dominated public discourse since 2009 when the country entered the fiscal adjustment program is of prime importance in order to move forward.

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