By Silvia Ferara
Letter to G700
In 2008, during Obama’s campaign for the Presidency, the number of Americans who took to the polling stations to cast their votes rose by nearly 20% (56% versus 37% who voted in 2006). This was hardly a surprise: Obama’s message was almost evangelical in a sort of equal-rights, make-your-voice-count sort of way. It was a time to be inspired, to dare, and to believe in a new, and at the same time very old, message: fight for what is right. I remember thinking that young Europeans like me felt the contagion of that message and got carried away in the thought that a pacific revolution was imminent and profound.
In the span of four years things have changed to such a degree that high hopes, positivity, belief in the possibilities of a collective influence for the better seem elusive at best, forlorn and dismal at worst. Whatever happened to the economy has not only made us Europeans poorer, it has coloured and shaped the spirit of this time by creating a zeitgeist of darkness, whereby change can only mean ‘change for the worse’. But change is neither good nor bad, it just is. It’s up to us to make it positive in difficult times. Though every economist will tell you that the individual statistically has a near-to-zero impact on the result, voting is one such act that shapes the process. Loss of hope and discouragement can be, paradoxically, the best incentives to strengthen it, and a near-to-zero chance to make it count makes it count even more.
Whatever the Greeks do on the 17th June, they should not do it with their disheartened hearts, because the goal that they would reach would be that of voicing outrage rather than determining the possibilities for positive change. As far as protests go, abstention from voting is the most pernicious form of disillusionment and is as useless as being allured by the garish colours of the extremists’ flags. Ideologies of extreme action and, at the other end of the spectrum, total inaction are faces of the same hopeless coin, tossed by despair and panic rather than judgment.
In fact, if this is no time to hope, it is at least time to think. So, if I were Greek, I know what I would do in ten days: I would rush to the polling station, jumping off of the high horse of deceitful ideology and shunning the appeal of populism and I would use my humble vote, strong in the belief that it is but a small, invisible, and yet all-too-powerful neuron in the collective brain of Greece.
*Silvia Ferrara is University Professor in Rome