A wall somewhere in Athens reads…

If elections were capable of changing anything, they would be illegal!

Despite the time distance I remember quite clearly how did I react when I came across the aforementioned saying for the first time. In the beginning I halted, a bit later I laughed and in the end I speeded up without thinking it any more. And this because I wanted to catch this bus which, according to my friends, would lead me to downtown Athens. You see, it was my first trip to the capital without parental escort, an achievement based on my then recent passover to adulthood. As you may correctly suspect, the current incident occurred in a distant environment and in a very different country where a bus ticket to Athens was paid in drachmas. In this context, it was logical not to think a lot over an idea which, at first glance, did not seem at all rational.

In the meantime a lot changed in our country and our lives. One of the changes is related to my understanding of the discussed quotation. The more memories I was adding, the more I was thinking over the sentence under scrutiny. In the beginning I believed that this motto was nothing but a witticism. Hence, some guys not only did believe in it, but they were also keen on spreading it through wall graffiti. And that, I have to say, astonished me. Soon, I found the antidote; at least I thought I did. If elections were really incapable of change, then why so much blood was shed for their institutionalization. Moreover, I reassured my conscience, the elections of 1920 had showed, albeit in a catastrophic way, that history can be written through ballots.* This mentality was there with me in the spring of 2004 when I witnessed first-hand an election battle which finally resulted in a government handover.

For the next two years the saying, which never ceased to occupy my mind, kept its original stupid looks. However, things begun to change a bit later; to be more specific, this occurred in the immediate aftermath of my first deep impact with the so called “Labour Market”. It was 2007; another general election was held in the country and at this particular event the two major political parties of Greece lost the support of some half million voters. By no means was that a decisive blow, yet it was a sign of the distrust and discontent. One great university teacher of mine, whose expertise and knowledge I sadly did not respect back in the day, used to say the reading of the message is always linked with the environment of the reader. Stefanos* was right and as I was witnessing the unprecedented wildfires of 2007 from my balcony in Kalamata I started believing that Greece under Karamanlis (Greek prime minister 2004-2009) was more or less a natural continuity  of the political reality I had felt under the Germany educated Simitis (Greek prime minister 1996-2004). Moreover, even the case of 1920 elections was then eventually seen under a more analytical prism.

The true story goes like that. Venizelos kept refusing elections on the grounds that Greece was a state at war. He finally accepted to go to the ballots only after he felt confident enough. History showed that he was wrong, yet his faith in winning was not utterly baseless since his landslide defeat was mostly a result of the plurality voting system. It is also worth noting that he got a larger number of the popular vote than his foes. But the worst part of the story is that the victors not only continued his irredentist policy, but they also came up with the brightest of the ideas; to chase Kemal in his bases deep in Anatolia. This resulted in a decisive military defeat which was followed with the uprooting of the Greek populations of the Minor Asia coast which stood there for more than 3 millennia. This development is known in the Greek folk tradition as the Minor Asia Catastrophe. Yet, although there is a link between 1920 elections and the collapse of the Minor Asia front, it is very difficult to attribute what happened to the Greek voters, simply because they had voted in favour of freezing and not continuing the campaign.

Since 2009 and thereafter my doubts were strengthened and the rationale of the saying’s spiritual father was becoming clearer and clearer. Today, in the light of the developments of the two last months, I reached the point where I fully embraced the wisdom of the wise wall.  The situation in my country has already led to the actual bankruptcy of Greece’s present political system. Everybody is aware of the fact that the next elections will not be simply crucial, they would rather mark the end of an era and the inauguration of a new one. In this context and whilst our Constitution is being treated like a filthy cloth elections, through their illegitimate postponement, have been effectively declared illegal. It would be naive for them to admit it that officially but sadly this is the case. Those in power have been successfully trying to gain time. However, their agony is not related to the people’s future; it is rather linked with their plans and whereabouts. In other words, they are trying to save those who brought the Greek people in this humble state of affairs. And they are doing that by exploiting the genius political blackmail of Papandreou which says “Euro or Drachma”. The prospect of the unknown terrifies us and as a famous Greek saying claims “fear guarantees the safekeeping of the unguarded”.

Some support that the Left (which does not participate in the current illegitimate government) is an abettor in crime. Maybe; sometimes I wonder myself why left wing parties MPs have not yet resigned and launched a campaign demanding elections. So far no serious initiative in this direction has been taken. Why? Have they deliberately sold the cause? Honestly I guess not. The answer rests on the uncomfortable fact that the Greek Left is a part of us. In other words, it is a part of the same people which is afraid of the tomorrow, which seeks answers in vain, which is reluctant to trust anybody, which refuses to strike back in the absence of a convincing plan and instead prefers to fatalistically pray in the Markets for the sake of his euro-based bank deposits.

PS: When the Future is knocking our door, it is quite futile to lock ourselves in the Past.

Best Wishes for the forthcoming Year…

*   The elections  of 1920 in Greece resulted in the victory of the forces which were loyal to the then exiled King and opposed to the prime minister Eleftherios Venizelos who enjoyed the favour of the victors of the Great War. In two yeas time Greece saw one of the biggest disasters of its history; the Minor Asia Catastrophe.

** The given name of this particular professor of Philosophy, his full name is Stefanos Rozanis.

See you soon

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