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Will Greece Be Ruled by the Bankers or Its People?
Posted on Mar 3, 2012
By Peter Bratsis, Truthout
Democracy in Greece (and beyond) is thus under attack on two fundamental fronts. On the one hand, and most visibly, external and internal forces are attempting to eliminate the views and demands of the Greek people from the policymaking process. In this way, experts and their technocratic ways would come to displace popular agency. Here, “democracy” would be reduced to some procedural shell, respecting the rule of law rather than the rule of the people (two years of protests, strikes and collapsing support for all of the major political parties has resulted in no modification to the austerity policies).
On the other hand, and on a much deeper level, the attack on democracy - indeed, on politics itself - is being waged through the perceived impossibility of human beings as those who actually decide questions of just and unjust, good and bad. As already noted, it is markets that are seen as the inescapable judges of which policies are necessary and proper. No political considerations can overcome them. Thus, for example, Ed Miliband, head of the Labour Party in Britain, acknowledges that if he were prime minister, he also would cut spending to decrease public debt because the “markets” demand it. It is the same in Spain: neither of the two main political parties present any alternative to following the demands of the markets. The examples of this thinking are too numerous to list. Here, the democratic principle that we as a community are autonomous (self-governing) gives way to the belief that we are governed by something other than ourselves (heteronomy). All questions about what kind of education is best, how much to tax corporations and so on down the line are now understood as decided by markets. For example, a good policy on education is one that produces individuals with the skills and capacities “demanded” by the labor market.
The people of Greece find themselves in this double bind, increasingly isolated from state power and caught within the trap of heteronymous thinking. The democratic call to be active in political life and to understand society as self-created and autonomous is in serious jeopardy. Pushed into a position of passivity, they can do little more than beg and demand pity. Blinded by the perceived omnipotence of “markets,” rather than political communities, they see no viable alternative to its dictates.
However, there are many in Greece who still can recall the democratic impulse. They recall the refusal to accept some perceived historical necessity, and they remember being the first people to successfully repel an invasion by an Axis power. They recall the courageous group of students who stood up against the guns and tanks of the Greek Junta. They recall the words of many of Greece’s great poets, who expressed love for freedom and truth. They see the bravery of some public intellectuals, such as 86-year-old Mikis Theodorakis, once again facing off against riot police and giving voice to a fight against authoritarian rule.
The possibilities are there for the citizens of Greece to recognize their superiority to both Greek political elites and the troika technocrats. Rather than demanding pity, they need to remember that they are the authors of society. Recall that in James Cain’s famous novel “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” it took two attempts to kill “the Greek”; the first failed but impaired his memory. With his memory damaged, the second attempt proved successful. Greeks need to remember their power, their capacity to rule themselves and create their society according to principles of their own choosing. Otherwise, the heteronomy in their head will doom them to a nasty, brutish and long future of being managed by specialists and ruled by “markets.”
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