Monday 12 October 2009

Living in a Parallel Reality

All last week, I had a powerful sense of living in some form of parallel universe. The dislocation began sharply on Sunday evening, when the election results in Greece rolled in: PASOK won by a landslide. In this universe, it did not matter that PASOK has no economic platform to speak of: it was elected by a margin of 10.5%.

It did not matter that in the week before the election, PASOK shadow Minister of Economy Louka Katselli made repeated references to the state re-nationalising “strategic enterprises”, such as Olympic Airways or the Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation, or the ports of Athens and Thessaloniki.

In this parallel reality, it was not impossible that a bankrupt government would conjure money for this like candy-cane. Nor was it a problem to believe that a government role in these organisations was beneficial. The disastrous result of previous government ownership would be miraculously annulled; a new era of Socialist efficiency would flourish.

In this utopia, it was possible to believe that a efficient government was possible, when Socialist dinosaurs like Theodoros Pangalos, perhaps best known for his role in the Ocalan case, or Evangelos Venizelos, who’s capers in the Ministry of Culture are still celebrated, hold key positions.

It was a parallel universe where speaker after speaker representing the defeated New Democracy would claim on television that self-reflection was needed, and ignore what so many voters know: that New Democracy failed to deliver most if not all of its election promises, and leaves a mess behind it.

No, of course it can’t all be blamed on ND. But enough can: two disastrous fires; the Siemens bribery scandal; the Vatopedi scandal; the structured bonds scandal; the Zahopoulos “revelations” on public finance in the Ministry of Culture. Each of these dossiers today is either closed or unresolved, and something tells me PASOK will not be in a hurry to re-open them.

It was a parallel reality where the hapless leader of the Coalition of the Left (SYRIZA) got up and proclaimed victory because “we are in Parliament,” despite having lost nearly ½ his electoral strength. As if the electoral result was not enough, we heard renewed promises of some kind of “real” socialist revolution in the years to come.

And, I’m afraid it was a parallel universe where on Friday morning, the Nobel Committee awarded the Peace Prize to Barack Obama, “for achievements already made.” I was almost sure this was a hoax, but no, it was true. Somehow, his meager diplomatic triumphs—including paying some destitute South Pacific island to resettle Uigher “terrorists” from Guantanamo, or convincing Turkey to drop its veto of Anders Fogh Rasmussen as Secretary General of NATO—were sufficient for the prize. Certainly, there have been no other achievements in the international realm that I can think of.

And here I was thinking that Mother Theresa or Woodrow Wilson had actually achieved something. Not any more, not judging by this standard.

We are asked by politicians across the world to suspend our disbelief, to turn off our historical memory, to cease any form of independent or objective analysis. And instead of this, to slavishly accept election slogans as a substitute for reality. It’s really no surprise to me that our countries or our societies are in such a mess. What is unfortunate is that I see almost no serious signs that we are prepared to do something about it.

It was with great relief that Friday evening arrived, the weekend started, and I resolutely logged off my news accounts and turned off the TV. Forty-eight hours of peace, calm and sanity returned to our little neighbourhood of Geraka. I’m really dreading what this week will bring.

1 comment:

  1. You know, having no economic platform is probably preferable to the previous guys, who seemed to practice the "Steal Everything That Isn't Nailed Down" form of capitalism.

    Not saying these guys haven't done the same in the past. Just saying.