At the weekend I went to Xylocastro in Corinthia where my friend Maria went to vote. In warming sunshine we walked with the family dog Erikos to the polling station at the local school that Maria attended. Without wanting to romanticise it all, there was a strong sense that this was a community event – people were milling around outside the school, greeting people as they arrived, stopping to chat before setting off for home.
In the bakery we dropped in on to meet Maria’s father, we said hello to the group who were sitting, smoking and talking. There was a feeling of excitement, an awareness that something big was happening. I was also struck by the sense of family, of connectedness, of the fact that people were together taking part in something that was bigger than any one of them. I wonder how much this sense of the collective shapes people’s perspective as opposed to the “hard working family” narrative constantly of politicians in England that serves only to emphasise the atomisation within our culture.
Afterwards, we went for a walk on the beach, enjoying the sun and soaking up the sights of the clear water and magnificent mountains. There was a lone, elderly man swimming in the sea, who was saying loudly, cheerfully and repeatedly: “They’re Coming! Who is coming? Tsipras is coming!”
I didn’t attend the street parties that greeted Alexis Tsipras’ ‘arrival’ but they were said to be among the biggest Greece has experienced, at least since 1974 when the Junta fell. Like the lead up to the election, the coverage of the elections passed in a whirl of strange suited men, some of them whom I’d nicknamed ‘thug’ ‘psycho’ and a range of journalists and commentators who could barely hide their despair.
I don’t know anyone who didn’t vote Syriza and I don’t know anyone who wasn’t full of excitement and anticipation after Tsipras was sworn in on Monday. There was a young man from Germany in the Formaika cafe where i met Dora on Friday, who had come to Athens to experience the election of a left wing government in Europe. The Greeks know the world has been watching them – the news programmes ran regular round ups of the word media’s coverage. Most of the Greeks I’ve spoke to have a strong sense that history is being made. And the thousands who voted Syriza, and the Greeks living overseas who couldn’t vote, like first voters excluded , plus the guy from Germany weren’t disappointed.
But there’s fear too – not as some think, about the impact of a left government, but not so much fear of economic catastrophe – but fear that if Syriza can’t deliver what will happen then? What is there left? People are optimistic, but occasionally they wonder if they are being naive to be hopeful, and they are aware, as one friend said, that if they fall, it will be a very long way down.