One year after a thousand people gathered in Athens’ Mavili Square for an SNF DIALOGUES discussion, the DIALOGUES met again, under very different circumstances. On the evening of Wednesday, August 26, the six participants bade farewell to this strange summer of social distancing on an Athenian rooftop, with the Lycabettus Hill illuminated in the background.
The pandemic has continued to produce unparalleled, unexpected, and alarming results, with discernible impact on countless lives. Yet, our sense of what is going on around us is often limited to impersonal statistics and abstract metrics. The latest SNF DIALOGUES dug down into the many layers of consequence to bring to light the human consequnces of those statistics. How is the pandemic changing the world? Will the end of the crisis find societies stronger in some ways or dramatically worse off? What have we lost already, and what might humanity gain from this historic period?
Participating in the discussion were journalist and filmmaker Yorgos Avgeropoulos, SNF Co-President Andreas Dracopoulos, film director Vasilis Kekatos, journalist and writer Lina Rokou, and actor, radio host, and writer Konstantinos Tzoumas.
On the opening of the country’s borders, SNF Co-President Andreas Dracopoulos commented, “Greece was fortunate enough to have undergone a very calm first wave. I understand why it had to ‘open up’ to tourism, but I think we should have been a little ‘stricter.’” With regard to leadership in the crisis, he said, “to be fair, people saying that there is no strategy on the part of the political leadership does not only apply to Greece, but to all countries worldwide, without exception. For me, trust in institutions has been lost, and this is one of the few things we’ll be left with. It is a constant feeling—not knowing whom to listen to, whom to believe. And obviously this is not helped by the lack of leadership on a global level.” In conclusion, the SNF Co-President asserted once again the need for cooperation between the public and private sectors, stressing that “it is not one or the other. There must be meaningful cooperation between the two sectors for the benefit of society as a whole. What is also needed is social justice.”
“An invisible virus has managed to expose the weaknesses of a system that has organized our societies for the last forty years. It came to show us the deficit of ‘us’ in relation to ‘I.’ What’s more, it came to tell us about the way we perceive and affect the environment, about the imprint we leave. We cannot be vandals,” said journalist and filmmaker Yorgos Avgeropoulos. Having documented Greece’s sociopolitical life for a number of years, he added, “Greece is a country that could be used as a case study. Having experienced 10 years of economic crisis, with a slew of social problems and a crisis of values, the pandemic came along to amplify the ills of recent years. Now we are expected to suffer one of the biggest crises in the entire Eurozone.”
Film director Vasilis Kekatos remarked that “we younger people bear a little more responsibility because we are aware of the problem.” As for Greece’s economy, he said, “As a European country, it is terrible that financially we rely exclusively on the ‘feet’ of tourism, which this year proved to be made of clay. There are other industries on which we do not rely, and one sees that in the end tourism is the only thing that is not certain.”
“It would be wise to avoid statements to the effect that tourism bears little responsibility for the rise in cases we have now, and that responsibility lies exclusively with those who do not respect containment measures,” said journalist Lina Rokou, noting that “we must set a pace. There is a constant barrage of information about the coronavirus. Is all of it useful? How much can we process? Things have become chaotic.”
Actor, radio host and writer Konstantinos Tzoumas commented, “I worked a little from home but I didn’t like it at all. I can’t imagine being at home and doing what I do in front of the microphone, even when I improvise and risk opening myself up to criticism.” Finally, regarding the new norm of social distancing, he observed, “You learn to walk through the wilderness with grace.”
The SNF DIALOGUES, which foster exchange of ideas in order to encourage and elevate public discourse, are now a part of iMEdD’s “Inside the Box” pillar. The incubator for Media Education and Development, iMEdD, seeks to promote excellence in journalism with exclusive support from SNF, and the organization’s journalistic focus and expertise will enrich the SNF DIALOGUES discussions.
The next SNF DIALOGUES will take place live at snfdialogues.org in late September.
The DIALOGUES are curated and moderated by Anna-Kynthia Bousdoukou.
*The opinions expressed by DIALOGUES participants are solely their own and do not necessarily represent the views of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) or iMEdD. Speakers’ remarks are made freely, without prior guidance or intervention from the team.