Proud Yes, Powerless No!

Collective responsibility in any democratic society is borne by all citizens. Citizens are obliged to be informed about the issues affecting their society, their country. Political leaders are voted into office by the citizenry, they are therefore “popular representatives”, and in any democracy, through the power of the vote, the people, and civil society, have the ability to send them home if they disagree with the way that they govern the country. It is difficult, therefore, for the people to evade the collective responsibility that they allowed the country to be governed by two political parties, which had the support of the vast majority of the electoral body, resulting in the economic and moral meltdown of today.  In fact, one can argue quite credibly that the moral bankruptcy preceded the economic bankruptcy in Greece.

We noted in our previous post (In search of a leader with reformist vision) that Greece today urgently needs the healthy reformist sectors of society to come to the forefront. Our concern is essentially that there still has not emerged the critical mass of citizens pushing for structural reform. Too many have been bought off/co-opted by having family members in/or dependent on the less productive segments of the public sector, so the whole issue of reform is forced ahead only by the Troika at each bail-out tranche review. The few Greeks and focused elements of civil society which support structural reform are such a minority that they cannot, it seems, even form a political party. So we will not let Greek society off the “collective” hook until the consciousness shifts, and those who defend “poor little Greece” in the Western media are actually doing more harm than good unless they forcefully support Greece’s small number of true reformers (not Papandreou style speech-writers). The wave of creative destruction we are seeing now across the country is inevitable — Greece’s considerable human and capital resources have to be reallocated to functions which allow them to generate something of value. Like it or not, the free market is doing it, since government here is unable/ unwilling to. This hurts some (weaker) elements of Greek society excessively and it may take a generation. Civil society/NGO’s could be helping more…

To this extent, we are, therefore, astonished by the way some authors who clearly should know better gloss over the true problems in Greece.  The article below is an example of a superficial feel-good effort to explain the problems without any real data. Whilst the author does state that the two main problems are corruption and incompetence, he then glosses over this telling us that most Greeks are upset with the Troika and their own politicians…forgetting to mention that corruption and incompetence are to be found at every social level and in almost every sector of society. Moreover he fails to even touch on what this all says about an entire society that was actively milking the system for decades, but had no idea that this would lead to economic and social collapse.

Totally unconvincing!  We live in Greece and know what is happening. The sad fact is that a critical mass of Greek people does not appear to want structural reform or modernization of the economy and especially Greek society; many still want a return to the good old days when handouts were readily available, especially to those connected to the power structure.  Reorganization of Greece from the ground up has been recommended by just about everybody, check our previous posts.  Those elements of civil society which have focused on the problems, like the newly independent media (bloggers) and groups like Transparency International, are still relatively ineffective, although gaining some ground.  Why don’t the authors of the article below even attempt to explain how or why Greece has delayed on Troika-mandated reforms for over 18 months now?  They can’t, so the whole point of this plea for mercy is wasted.  And Greece continues spiraling down……

This entry was posted in BFGPS, Ethics, Greek economy, Greek politics, Greek society, Reform, Troika and tagged , , by Solon. Bookmark the permalink.

About Solon

First coming to prominence for his patriotic exhortations when Athens was fighting a war against Megara for possession of Salamis, Solon, a lyric poet who came from an aristocratic family which traced its ancestry back 10 generations to Hercules was elected eponymous archon in 594/3 B.C. Solon faced the daunting task of improving the condition of debt-ridden farmers, laborers forced into bondage over debt, and the middle classes who were excluded from government, while not alienating the increasingly wealthy landowners and aristocracy. His eventual just reform measures pleased neither the revolutionaries who wanted the land redistributed nor the landowners who wanted to keep all their property intact. Instead, he instituted the seisachtheia by which he canceled all pledges where a man's freedom had been given as guarantee, freed all debtors from bondage, made it illegal to enslave debtors, and put a limit on the amount of land an individual could own. No less daunting are the reform challenges faced in Greece today.

5 thoughts on “Proud Yes, Powerless No!

  1. On collective responsibility: This works both ways … citizens can be responsible only if they have good and relevant information to hand. And who holds such information? The poltiical and social elite. In terms of Greece: if there are 10000 elite people saying “the spending party can continue for ever because we’re in the EU”, with what means can citizens dispute that? You can’t say the people have collective responsibility when they’ve been brainwashed and real facts have been hidden from them!

    • Very good point Nick. It is true, that collective responsibility is a two way street where the citizens are only as well informed as the information that they receive. In Greece this culture of transparency and responsible governance has been completely lacking and it can be argued that the people did not have the right information on which to base their decisions. But the real point is that today they do have the information, even at this desperately late stage, and even now, the collective will for reform is weak…

    • Agreed. Democracy is not that perfect. It cannot be assumed that the people of any democracy are “collectively responsible.” Many factors affect the degree to which the actions of government reflect the true will of the people. I think education, transparency, the number of political parties and the culture within government are all significant considerations. In the case of the Greek government rigging financial reports hardly empowered the people to make informed voting decisions with which to direct the nation.

  2. Ok so please tell us why Greece cant take heed of endless warnings of impending doom bellowed for the last 2 years because I don’t get it. The vicious cycle of disrespect for the waves of governing kleptocrats justifying wholesale tax avoidance and graft combined with the current era of cynical distrust of all forms of government may have effected an environment where Mr Jiannis Citizen feels cheated and robbed whichever economic structural reform is contemplated. He is frozen still in agony and frustration. And who can blame him. He is like a fawn dazzled in site of oncoming road train headlights signalling an ugly crash and a huge tragic loss of economic prestige. The truck drivers are the laughing thieving pigs who have immorally divested the land of it’s wealth and now intend to pillage riotously over the public property fire sales. How about every native entity tendering to privatise Greek public assets be subjected to a thorough retrospective decade of tax auditing? I’m sure corporate fronts could disguise investor identities adequately but some such measure might just give the impression of some effort to bring justice to the squeezed dry populace of this afflicted land.

    • The desire to reform has started to develop, timidly at first and stronger now, at the public level but not at the political level. Increasingly, public attitudes seem to favor reform but the country still lacks a broad consensus and driver concerning where the country is heading and what needs to be done to get there. People may agree that reforms are needed but they disagree on how Greece got into this mess and they also cannot see how these choices will get the country out of this crisis. Ultimately, it is a leadership problem. If a government were able to galvanize the support for reform that already exists, it could create a pro-reform electoral consistency that could trump over self-interested opposition. This remains to be seen.

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