This week as we celebrate a subdued Greek Independence Day, Greece once again finds itself at war, this time with an invisible enemy, COVID-19. it's an asymmetrical war, much like the Greek War of Independence was with klephtes and amartoloi instead of uniformed, disciplined field armies. Furthermore, Greece is facing a second front to this war, in the form of the Evros border unrest with neighboring Turkey and the refugees that they are sending Greece’s way.
Usually, in recent times, Greece has been held up as an example for seemingly all the wrong reasons. Now however, Greece is being held up as an example of what swift social distancing and enforced quarantine can do to flatten the curve of COVID-19 and save lives. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has handled both situations with an unusual level of competence not commonly associated with occupants of the Maximos Mansion. It is certainly amazing to see a historically undisciplined people take such massive collective action led by a democratically elected leader of theirs.
The Prime Minister has been very frank about the fact that things will likely get more difficult and that there will be serious economic ramifications for having businesses shut for an extended period of time, certainly unwelcome news for a country that was just getting out of a 10-year economic depression. That is leadership though, delivering news as unwelcome as it may be because it's in the public’s interest and politics must be set aside in a moment of national crisis.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis understands this is a critical moment for Greece, and citizens are relieved that he is leaning on proven professionals in their fields such as Sotiris Tsiodras, who gives daily, televised briefings on the progress of the coronavirus – accomplished technocrats in these positions instead of clueless politicians trying to score cheap political points in times of crisis, who don’t hesitate to blame other parties and who would have surely helped to sow panic in the public sphere.
The struggle for Greek Independence showed what the Greek people, united, can do against a common foe. In 2020, the determination and concerted efforts of the people echo, in a different way, our ancestors of 1821. In short, when the Greeks have their backs against the wall, we always find a way. The invisible enemy so too will be vanquished.