Person of the Year: The Average Greek

It has been five years since the people of Greece began their climb to the Golgotha they are experiencing on all levels of their lives. The discovery of huge public sector financial gaps in late 2009 led to the visit to Athens by the Troika a few months later, followed by the memoranda that have imposed a harsh austerity and have caused unprecedented upheaval in postwar Greece.

With the country in a deep recession for the sixth consecutive year and unemployment flirting dangerously with 30 percent (a level previously inconceivable for a state that had not been at war and is part of the West) one may need go back to the days before the dictatorship (1967-1974), to the tragic events of the 1940s, to find parallel situations.

However, as grim as the macroeconomic indicators may be, behind the numbers are real people with lives and souls and feelings.

The drama that affects the core of the Hellenic population is not anonymous. It involves the average Greek. He (she) who in previous years knew deep down that he and the state were living beyond their means.

Who had experienced the unspeakable joy and pride of the Olympic Games in 2004 and the feeling of power that accompanied entry into the Eurozone, with its currency that was among the strongest in the world.

Who was shown by official statistical in previous years to have had the highest rates of property ownership in Europe, and who smugly joked that the whole world envied him because he happened to be born in “The most blessed country in the world, surrounded by the crystal clear sea, enjoying the sunshine nine months a year.”

This same Greek saw his (her) world overthrown in an instant. For months his country was the subject of brutal headlines in the largest newspapers in the world, derided as few others. He was turned abruptly into the black sheep of the European family, the “lazy” one who did not work.

What was worse, he saw his standard of living decline continuously, causing serious deterioration in the conditions of everyday life, with dim prospects for tomorrow. This, indeed, has made him seek refuge (as he did in the past during difficult times) in migration, as is shown by statistics.

In the beginning, the Greek reacted strongly to the brutality of the fiscal measures, participating in thunderous protests of all kinds in the center of Athens and other major cities. He reacted, taking his revenge on the political establishment he held responsible for the current situation.

His pain, the widespread disdain for political life, and his confusion are responsible for the rise of forces that are antithetical to the historical mainstream of Greece.

However, almost five years after the outbreak of the crisis, the average Greek, despite the problems still facing him (her) and despite the fact that he has seen his standard of living to decline, has left behind him the uncontrollable anger and extreme reactions. He has demonstrated patience approaching stoicism, and unprecedented maturity.

That is the reason, this year The National Herald has chosen the Average Greek to be its Person of the Year, the one who endures all the suffering the economic crisis in the homeland has brought upon him, and who should receive at least moral support from all of us in order to triumph in his difficult battle. It is the battle for the survival of the nation.