The key question that political analysts and historians will have to answer about this Sunday’s elections in Greece is this: Did the ‘gift’ that Mr. Tsipras gave to pensioners a few days before the elections work or not?
From the answer to this question, many conclusions will be drawn about contemporary Greek society.
This gift was deposited with pensioners' bank accounts on Friday. Surprisingly, however, the beneficiaries found it to be less than advertised.
So who else should I consult with, what ‘expert’ should I ask, other than the friendly taxi driver I encountered today in Athens?
As our conversation progressed and we had already become ‘friends’ I asked him this question: “What do you think about the 13th pension payment, as the Prime Minister calls it, this gift to pensioners?” He did not disappoint.
“I am 65 years old,” he replied, “and I don’t remember something like this ever happening in the past. Yes, the politicians made promises to the voters. Of course, they did, but they never tried so blatantly to bribe them, to buy their votes. What Tsipras did is an insult to the people…it isn’t only that he is using us in the worst way, and repeatedly. It’s that he considers us so cheap, so stupid, trying morning, noon, and night, to buy votes.”
Like the omnipresent lottery salesmen.
“Will it pay off for him?” I asked. "Will it persuade some retired people?”
“Some, yes," he replied. “Some will be encouraged. They will say, after giving us this now, later he will give us more. But for most people, it just makes them angry. He is slapping us, insulting us.”
I did not want to stop him, but we were approaching my destination and I wanted to hear more from his point of view, so I said to him, “but for Tsipras to do that, it means that their polls are showing that society is vulnerable, and that they did not draw the right conclusions from the crisis.”
"Yes, what you say is true," he told me. “Our mentality has not changed. We did not learn anything from the crisis. Tsipras exploits and cultivates the old mentalities more. He gives the impression that we can still live with government handouts and state appointments. He is devaluing work. See what he says about the so-called 7-day work week – he takes the words of Mitsotakis and distorts them."
"He is cultivating the old and morbid mentality that we have had for a long time, that we should be dependent on the clientelist state. That's why I think he will lose by a greater margin than what the polls say.”
We had reached my destination.
One final question. I ask him: “Where did you learn all of this?”
“I am a graduate of the University,” he replied, “and finding no jobs, I became a taxi driver to make a living for my family. Once upon a time I supported SYRIZA, but then I realized…”