Greece, democracy and a referendum: why I dislike being German and never want to live in Greece.

My studies focus on social media and how this new technology influences documentary film-making. Greece's recent referendum gave me the opportunity for a small experiment. How does social media help the democratic process online?

So I created a poll where people can vote on this question:
Should the EU give Greece a third bail-out?
The poll was not meant to be representative, but what I learned from the poll can be considered indicative. And at the time of writing this 55% had voted Yes to a third bail-out and 45% No.

Imagine two neighbours. Both live in the same community. One of the houses is well maintained and looks pretty. The other needs constant repair. The neighbor in the nice house keeps supporting the neighbor in the other house to fund repairs.  Until eventually he says, enough is enough, you need to start taking care of your house yourself. The other neighbour’s perspective is one of entitlement. He says that it is his neighbor who keeps destroying his house, so he should pay for the repairs. Both are valid perspectives – it is how people feel right now.

What bothers me in this ongoing debate is that facts no longer matter. It does not matter anymore if the house really was destroyed by the neighbor, or if the house simply fell into disrepair. What matters is that people experience it this way. Germany is always at fault for some, no matter what it does. And for the others Greece is at fault for not bringing its affairs in order.

Passions run high. And I feel bad reading all this German bashing on the one side and blaming Greece on the other. Germany is perceived by many as dominating conspiring to keep weaker countries down. Greece on the other hand is perceived as a debtor unwilling to make changes, demanding more and more money.

It does not matter that Germany or Greece are just two voices in the Eurozone made up of 19 countries. It does not matter that EU-finance ministers discuss and work out deals as best as they know. It does not matter that the ECB is actually independent. It does not matter that the IMF is not run by Germany.

And instead of working on that problem, political gain is made by exploiting these sentiments on all sides. Facts are ignored, misinterpreted and selectively used by everyone to deceive the electorate.

And this is when it gets dangerous. If Europe, if we as Europeans, do not solve this problem of how we perceive each other first, then the likelihood of Europe fragmenting even further grows significantly. Possible scenarios could be Greece or even Germany becoming so disillusioned with the EU that they eventually leave the Euro zone. Or that northern European countries form a closer union, increasingly leaving weaker member states to themselves. This however is not in the best interest of any one. It is not the idea of Europe based on solidarity. But it is a possibility appearing on the horizon; all the warning signs are here on the social media wall for all to see.

Personally I don’t want to be German any more if German’s are perceived in this way. World war two is not my fault. I did not kill any one or rob them of their culture. And if anyone thinks I did – well, we can talk about it. Rationally.

Nor do I want to go on a holiday in Greece or live there. Though as a teenager I had a great time there. But what is happening in Greece is really putting me off. I do not agree with Tsipras, I do not accept him as a bringer of democracy to Europe. He is just another politician exploiting sentiments instead of solving the problem.

But I do want to be European. And I want to live in a federal Europe capable of examining a problem and solving it. A federal Europe with a better administration, affordable education, a single social security and health care system for all. A Europe with a stronger voice in the world, promoting values such as solidarity.

Belgian politican Guy Verhofstadt has some great ideas on this. But right now the Europe I dream of is less likely than the nightmare scenario of a fragmented continent with its citizens bickering , complaining and being resentful towards each other.  That really depresses me.

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