I assume that Antonis Samaras’ advisers have realised by now that it is impossible to build up a success story at a national level out of thin air.
The rhetoric suggesting the replacement of ‘Grexit’ with ‘Grecovery’ is nice, albeit lacking political and – most importantly – real life substance.
Truly, psychology is a great part of economic progress and an essential ingredient of a success story not only in national politics, but at individual level too. However, the critical question, whose answer could dictate the strategic target, is: whose psychology needs improvement? Foreign investors’, local politicians or the people’s?
Greeks are usually extrovert and communicative. Even in the last three years, during which they have lost a great deal of their income and almost 3 out of 10 are out of a job, there’s a lot of talk amongst citizens regarding their problems and limitations, incomes lost; they cite even specific figures to illustrate their point; they are not even embarrassed to mention restrictions they have placed upon their lives in order to cope: less vacation, less dining out, even less consumables.
These are some of the talks they prefer to have face-to-face. Online, they prefer to curse politicians.
Since 2010, Greek Facebook has been transformed from a social platform of triviality into a forum for the exchange of serious, bitter and primarily personal views on the crisis.
Government and politicians’ behaviour rarely escape scrutiny and criticism in the social networks’ realm. These days, common sense and the wisdom of the masses seem to be the Prime Minister’s staffers primary adversary.
Amongst the most cursed statement online is former PASOK minister Theodore Pangalos’ saying that all Greeks are responsible for the deficits and the national debt. “We ate the money together,” he said, causing a media frenzy, attracting all sorts of negative comments (and the occasional yogurt attacks) from people seeing their salaries and pensions trimmed.
If Pangalos’ statement has an iota of truth, then what could follow this perspective may get more consensus amongst weary Greeks; namely, a phrase like: “we need to recover all together”. What does this mean? It does not mean, of course, returning pensions and salaries at their original levels; even Alexis Tsipras knows that this case is cold. Neither that problems would vanish over night.
It simply means that improvements in psychology should be recorded across the board, horizontally, in the same manner income cuts were introduced by recurring austerity measures. Either this means street safety, elimination of red tape, grassroots entrepreneurship or favorable personal debt settlements for those in need or even a real boost of pubic sentiment through credible information via an efficient and honest governmental communication strategy, citizens really need something solid to continue.
It should be noted here, that one of the biggest omissions and eventually strategic mistakes of Samaras’ government is that, even today, after a year in power, the Greek West Wing continues to lack a modern government website that could set the agenda straight and really explain the crisis to citizens. Unfortunately, this is something Maximos Mansion staffers fail to acknowledge for a series of reasons. One reason is a superiority complex that characterises those who believe they can control people through old style manipulative techniques. Another is the lack of strategic thinking and knowledge as regards the digital economy, and most importantly, its significance for social capital, namely people and their connections, on Facebook and elsewhere.
The quite recent draft bill for the interim Public TV organisation verifies the strategic choices that keep an unexplained distance from the digital realm and quite evidently, from the Greek youth.
To be fair, however, to those guys who took over the task of keeping the Greek boat afloat in the middle of an unprecedented social and economic storm, I should note that thinking – and of course acting – politically in the context of the crisis is an unbearable task; especially when you are an old dog refusing to learn new tricks. At the same time, the fact that political personnel wishes to maintain the perks of clientelism and the patronage system makes the whole effort a quite messy process.
Citizens are not asleep anymore. The great sleep occurred during the last 30 years, in what Greeks call ‘Metapolitefsi’ to indicate the post-Junta period of calmness and peace. Nowadays, old style partisan behaviour is laughed at on social networks and the awareness effect backfires on the face of the communicator.
The creation of a success story that could expand across the country and eventually persuade foreign decision makers is not one that will start from the top, despite the increase of foreign direct investments. The national success story will be the result of a series of smaller ones, which will emerge from all over the country in different fields Greece holds a competitive advantage. These stories could cover any field that requires innovative decision-making and intellectual breakthroughs. These success stories will be the result of citizens taking things in their own hand; in cooperatives or individually.
Greece is characterized by an abundance of resources, what economists call ‘external economies’, which (even excluding the hydrocarbon saga) constitute a vast amount of unexplored GDP on land, in the air and at sea.
What is missing is an honest way to put all things together in a coherent and inspiring saga, away from the misery of partisan priorities and corporatist interests.
Dr. Demetris Kamaras is the Editor of Alyunaniya.com