One of the many byproducts of the protracted economic crisis in Greece is a general sense of misery and pessimism, at least as far as official institutions and the state is concerned. This is evident from the results of the latest Eurobarometer “Fairness Report,” which finds Greece to be in last place in the European Union regarding citizen perceptions of fairness in everyday life.
In total, just 18 percent of Greeks stated their belief that “life is fair,” compared to an EU-wide average of 58 percent, with a high of 81 percent in Denmark.
In further signs of pessimism and low trust in national institutions, only 19 percent of Greeks expressed confidence that justice always prevails over injustice (compared to 39 percent in the EU), while only 9 percent of Greeks agreed that political decisions are consistently applied to all citizens (as compared to 32 percent across the EU). Less than a quarter of Greeks surveyed believed that opportunities to get ahead have become “more equal” versus 30 years ago, compared to an EU-wide average of 46 percent.
While these results are indeed a negative sign for Greek society, there is another way to interpret them which is likely closer to reality: being that the Eurobarometer survey measures perceptions of fairness, it could well be the case that Greeks, who have long been accustomed to the ineffectiveness of official institutions, are more “tuned in” to injustice and unfairness in their society. While similar or sometimes even more egregious examples of unfairness or injustice may well exist in other European countries, the perception of their existence and the perception that society is more or less “fair” in these countries may prevail, while Greeks — cynical by nature — view things differently.
Nevertheless, these results may also indicate a tacit acceptance that “life is unfair” — and this would be the most unfortunate and dangerous result of all for the Greek people. It may well be the case that Greeks have accepted a “justice” system that is moribund and corrupt, a state apparatus which barely conceals its corruption even while paying lip service to “fighting corruption,” a system of taxation which can simply be described as regressive, if not insane, and many other ills and pathologies of the “official” system of Greece. Acceptance, in turn, breeds complacency and apathy — and this may explain the inaction of Greeks in the face of ever-worsening economic conditions, a continued “brain drain,” and perpetual cuts and austerity measures despite years of promises that economic growth was “just around the corner.”
This author has personally noted numerous instances of unfairness, from the mundane and petty to the egregious, from “open and shut” court cases which drag on for a decade or more, to preferential treatment at public services for foreigners (whether they are tourists or migrants) while Greek taxpaying citizens are treated as second-class individuals by fellow Greeks, to openly hostile public transportation officials who will not hesitate to harass or even manhandle a passenger whose ticket may have expired a minute or two prior, to police officers who gleefully take the side of wrongdoers because they seemingly relate to them on a personal level, to a system of taxation which presumes that citizens are tax evaders even if proven innocent and assumes that if a citizen owns a property (even if inherited) and a car (which may have purchased a decade or more ago, under different economic circumstances), that there is some source of hidden income that must therefore be taxed.
A deeply-rooted acceptance that “this is how things are in Greece” and “this is who we are as a people” may well be the most dangerous and unfortunate outcome of all of Greece’s economic crisis, even if such mentalities were also prevalent, albeit less visible and overt, prior to the crisis. Such a mentality is debilitating mentally and psychologically, and precludes individuals from taking action to change something that is widely viewed as a “fact of life.”
One can only hope, for the sake of Greece and its people, that this will not turn out to be the case.