The Pain of the Greek People Creates a Political Tipping Point
The pain of the people of Greece now is a reminder of what may come for many of us in weeks and months to come. It is reality, the truth behind the bland words of world leaders.
For most of us in the developed world the continuing attempts by world leaders and central bankers to resolve what is known as "the Eurozone crisis" is a mere backdrop to everyday life, like the hum of the fridge in the kitchen. For some there is the assumption that the problem will be sorted somehow and normality will return, for others there is the acceptance that it is serious and may be impossible to resolve easily; more generally there is a perception that if the Greek debts and potential for default, seen as the core of the issue, are managed cleverly the likelihood of serious repercussions will be avoided.
There are major flaws in all these assumptions which I have considered elsewhere in other articles. Today, and indeed every day, my concern is for the brave people of Greece - not the politicians there but the men and women who have been bearing the brunt of a crisis largely created by short-termist and often subjectively motivated European leaders over many years.
Imagine how you would feel if you bought a paper or watched the news and saw your name and identity denounced day after day and in excoriating terms for laziness, ineptitude and even corruption? Accused as being the cause of an international crisis? Talked about condescendingly as if you were a child? The humiliation for a noble and ancient race must have been immense, but the suffering has been compounded by draconian measures imposed by a government the responsibility of which is to care for its people; instead, the Greek economy is at a standstill, job losses are immense, and for most people the huge tax impositions and salary cuts are unsupportable and unsurvivable.
There is great poverty and suffering in Greece, and until now the man on the street has been given no say in what is being imposed upon his country and himself. The people of Greece, in their pain and courage, deserved our compassion not our judgment, our respect not our accusations, and my heart goes out to them fully. They will recover and be stronger for the experience and what they decide to do in the new era they create may be an example for the rest of the world, as has happened before.
As they move forward while seeing other countries crumble after them, as they will, I wonder how much compassion they will feel for those who, painfully and cruelly, helped them see the light? It was inevitable that a tipping point for Greece would manifest eventually through the debacle which characterises the Eurozone now.
This time is a tipping point for Prime Minister Papandreou who seems exhausted by the incessant need to appease the EU and also his own political party, and by the resistance over many months of the Greek people to the harsh requirements being imposed upon them. The latest demands for further severe austerity measures are the tipping point for a restive population which is suffering greatly, and it has been clear for some time that the constantly increasing pressures on Greece for more debt reduction plans would become uncontainable let alone unachievable.
While political considerations play a part in Mr Papandreou's recent decision to hold a referendum to let the people decide their future, the strategy is high risk: if it is a clear choice about Greece's future in the EU, the result is likely to be in favour of withdrawal; if attempts are made to dilute its terms so as to be meaningless, there will be huge anger; and, on the wider world stage, the prospect of a Greek referendum will create great uncertainty and may, indeed, bring down the house of cards before even it takes place.
By letting the people of Greece decide their future, the game of global monetary chance in which the man on the street is the pawn has changed forever. The leaders of France and Germany and indirectly the US and China are no longer in control of events. The power base is shifting from the elite to the community, and the tipping point for transformation has arrived. At last.