July 5, 2011

My own, personal Greece...

After spending a few weeks in Greece, i came back to my realities feeling a bit uneasy about the direction that my country is heading. Perhaps, I am realizing that my sense of place has shifted over the years, and that the place I used to call home for my childhood and a significant part of my adult life looks and feels not only a different place, but almost a different planet. While being in the country one gets the impression of a deep schism among, across and between social, economic and political groups and realities. Greece has transformed from a country striving towards (new) social contracts in a country where the few suppress the many. A country where the social realities of the haves overshadow the needs and rights of the have-nots. And, most importantly that the discourse has lost any sense of rationality, as it is far from being grounded in social, economic, cultural and political realities. What becomes apparent to people with basic common sense and with fundamental critical thinking skills, unfortunately eludes the masses, and even more frustratingly, it eludes completely any sense of polity, as the political elites and privileged groups seem to operate on a totally different reality than the rest of the society.

Beyond the unmistakably flawed approach to "enlightened" governance, and beyond the strive for easy media recognition, Greece's political elites have created a monstrous system of governance that more often than not harasses and frustrates the citizen, has little if any respect to social norms and institutions, both formal and informal, and corrodes away any shred of social cohesion and the social, political and governance capital which is nominally is supposingly serving. In a nutshell, Greek governance exists solely for the sake of governance, as in all fronts no other roles are served. From my perspective, a semi-outsider, I cannot but keep wondering what would be different if one day the citizens would wake up in a country without governance. Would that make a difference in their quality of lifes? Of course, let's assume for the sake of the argument that somehow the government and public employees would get their salaries, the retired would get their pensions. But, what about beyond the obvious? How exactly the governance structure in Greece help the citizen maintain, and, inconceivable improve his/her quality of life? What is the role of the government in meeting its stated role, ie, protecting its weakest citizens, providing social webs for keeping people out of poverty, ensuring equal rights and liberties, and establishing a safe social, economic, financial, natural and cultural environment where citizens can pursue their livelihoods and enjoy the fruits of their labor? I am afraid the answers to all these questions are quite dissapointing.

Another important point that I would like to raise, is the complete lack of public discourse in any meaningful shape and form. Yes, public commenting is something that the government structure seems to be adjusting to, but is it really a social discourse? What control do citizens, societies and social groups have on the decision making process, especially in the policy making process? How do citizens evaluate and check-in for actions (or inactions) by their governance and its agents, beyond judicial processes? How does the governance incorporate social, economic, environmental and cultural justice and equality? What monitoring and evaluation schemes are in place to ensure them? And how involved are the citizens, local or regional societies and social groups in structured discourses? Does participation mean participation in this country? And how the presence of power plays, imbalances and social inequalities contribute to the discourse? Once more, the potential answers to these questions, when they exist, they are extremely dissapointing.

I came back from my visit to Greece with an aftertaste of bitterness. While striving to overcome it by inducing old happy memories of a country that does not exist anymore, of a Greece with few means but with abundand social capital and a strong sense of place and community. I miss that Greece. I really do. I hope future generations would have the opportunity to experience My Greece!...

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