July 7, by Salem Samhoud
While writing this text, Greece is on the verge of bankruptcy. The banks are closed and a Grexit is pending. Talks between leaders are stagnating, and almost grinded to a complete halt. The population of Greece just voted no on the referendum, rejecting new cutbacks. What to think of the situation? Who should you feel solidarity for? Who to support?
It is very hard to have a clear opinion on the extremely complicated situation of Greece. On the one hand, the EU, represented by Junker, demanding that the Greek government complies with the deals that are made: Financial support in return for necessary reforms and cut backs. On the other hand the Greek people, who are truly suffering from this crisis and of which the majority have absolutely no responsibility for the mess they are currently in.
As a man who believes in honesty and trust, my initial reaction to this dilemma is to reply with “a deal is a deal”. Promises are not to be broken and the Greek government has to honor the rules they agreed to. The political game they are currently playing with the European authorities is not only irresponsible; it also appears to be played dirty. Where European leaders are desperately trying to find a rational solution to keep everything together, the Greek government keeps approaching the political arena as a street fight.
At the same time, I realize that the majority of Greece is deeply hurt by everything that happened to them the last couple of years. I have Greek friends and colleagues that I visit regularly and, from them, I experience the tragedy that is happening first hand. They are convinced that the middleclass is being systematically destroyed and that Tsipras is not aiming for a solution but forcing a Grexit.
Whatever may be the precise truth, the country is deeply divided not only in pro EU versus contra but also in a thinking half of the people and an emotional half; where the first try to make up their minds based on reason, the latter is guided by their gut. Meanwhile, the Greek youth is leaving the country en masse, trying to build a brighter future in another country.
The core of the problem of Greece is not grounded in the polarization between reason and emotion, but in the enormous gap between rich and poor. Where the rich have taken the risks and decisions the last decennia, they have made sure that their money is save elsewhere, leaving the poor to deal with the damage. The gap between rich and poor leads to great social unrest, which spread from Greece to the rest of Europe with great speed.
Thinking further on this, I am convinced this gap between rich and poor is not a result of wrong decisions made only by the Greek, but of a much larger problem. A global problem that shows a trend of growing polarization in all kinds of areas: A gap between rich and poor, between religions, between young and old, educated and non-educated people, etc. etc.
The main problem that arises with the increase of polarization is that our political leaders use it to increase their popularity. They present the people with clear black-and-white choices; we win or we lose. Obviously, these kinds of leaders only add to the problem of polarization by forcing people to take a side. By seducing people to make sure they are on the winning side, leaving the losing side to fend for itself.
What we need –Greece, the Netherlands, the EU, the World – is a generation of leaders who are capable of addressing the problems we are all facing with the power of connection. With the ability to design win-win solutions instead of trying to explore the growing contrasts between people.
So, returning to my initial question, I don’t think it is wise to pick a side in the Greek crisis. Solidarity means that the whole takes responsibility for the few, not to make a choice between the whole and the few.
It is vital that we choose capable leaders and demand win/win solutions from them. For Greece, I can only hope that – even at this late hour – people will stand up who are capable of creating this connection. My hope lies in the young generation; the leaders of tomorrow.