Greeks, a Nation Hating Itself

In a few days, my flight is scheduled to return to Greece. It’ll be a short trip for a couple of weeks to see my relatives and friends there that I haven’t seen since last November. It was then that I decided to leave my homeland in Athens for a second time in my recent life and to relocate back to the US. This was not an easy decision for me. Mainly because I had that feeling reminding me of a thought that I was trying to hide deep in the back of my mind. That it was probably the last chance I would get to escape from a painful reality that was hurting me every day during my life in Athens.

An American friend of mine recently asked me what I think is the major trouble Greece is going through right now. He expected me to give him an answer referring to the worsening economic situation there with slashing of pensions and salaries for the ordinary people. I considered that such an answer wouldn’t represent an accurate picture of the real problem damaging the heart and soul of the Greek society. “The hatred among the people. Maliciousness is the number one characteristic of many Greeks at this time. Their suffering causes them not only to be angry with the imposing policies but also to hate each other”, I responded, while my friend was staring at me with surprise.

One of the classic phrases about Greeks is that “they are a people who dislike each other”. In practical terms, this means that they are neither able nor willing to work together to achieve a collective goal. Under the current harsh economic conditions in the country, that attitude tends to be even more apparent affecting any sort of interpersonal relations. And this is painful for anybody who doesn’t want to adapt to this nasty reality. “How does this behavior of contemporary Greeks who have suffered through such a crisis reflect on their actions to each other on a daily basis?” my friend questioned me. It didn’t take much for me to give him an example: “Let’s say there are two Greeks working together on two different projects. To complete their job successfully, they have to interact with each other in such a way that their cooperation is the key for these projects to be done fast and efficiently. In the American culture, the most likely scenario would be for these two employees to do their best, cooperating harmonically together because they know that it’s in both of their interests to success on their tasks. Now, let’s go consider the same example, except that instead of two Americans you have the two Greeks. The story won’t have such a happy end. The most likely outcome is that they won’t be honest with each other. Each one will attempt to take from the other as much as he can, while offering as little as he can. They won’t be sincere to each other about how they can combine their talents and competence to come up with the greatest outcome for both of their assignments. But don’t misunderstand me. Their reaction is not a result of the human tendency to compete but a deep and subconscious motive to harm each other”. While hearing my words, a sentiment of anger was pictured on my friend’s face. “How is that possible?” he insisted. I tried to give him an explanation by evoking a phrase commonly used to describe the Greek disunity. “In Greece we said someone wants to see the goat of his next-door-neighbor die rather than to see his own goat live well and be healthy.”

Since 2010, the shock of the economic disaster in Greece has made that situation even worse. As each person struggles to survive under the unprecedentedly severe conditions of a humanitarian crisis, resentment among people intensifies. “Why does my neighbour, friend or colleague appear to be happier than me? Why does he seem to live a better life than me?” are only a few questions generated in most of the people’s consciousness, poisoning their personal relations with others. The economic downfall in Greece has been associated with an even more damaging social destruction depicted in all aspects of societal interaction, diminishing the possibility for the country to recover quickly.

Greece is a much-divided society and the recent referendum left Greece at the edge of an unprecedented division. That was easily visible on social media, and especially on Twitter. Each person had a different view and anyone daring to express it publicly in favor of one side was verbally attacked by the dissenters. Hate and anger is bubbling up even today among most of the Greek Twitter users, reflecting something deeper as described above. The society’s innate tendency to clash destroys any sort of unity necessary for a nation to remain afloat under the stern circumstances of the current Greek version of the “Great Depression”.

I’m quite pessimistic about whether Greece will exit the current crisis soon. The last five years we’ve experienced failure in attempting to implement policies in the country to restructure the state, balance the budget, and create businesses and jobs for growth. I foresee that what comes will be more dramatic and catastrophic. And it’s not all about Greece leaving or staying the euro, regarding which my view is that the country won’t be able to make it and will get forced to return to its own currency. For the millions of people in my country, the great challenge thy have to face today is not about what currency they will have in their pocket. But whether they can offer a helping hand to each other and rebuild the country from the ground up together.

I’m traveling back to my country dominated by a feeling of sadness. There is no more depressing thing for someone than to see his nation be stagnated in misery and depression caused by the high unemployment rates and lack of any light of hope for a better future. And also to know that the men and women of his country are loath to help each other unify their forces to get out of the crisis as a nation and not just as individuals.

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