Should people who live outside of Greece express strong opinions on whether Greece should stay or exit the eurozone? I, for one, feel that I am not entitled to express such strong opinions. Having a strong opinion, of course, is one thing. Expressing it, is another. I object to the second, and this is why in all my encounters and discussions about Greece, I apologetically provide caveats of my privileged position in this debate.
Outsider opinions tend to take two formats. They are either opinions expressed by experts who live and work outside of the country, or opinions expressed by laypersons. Both kinds of opinions are useful; the expert helps structure and crystallise a debate, and the layperson provides an outsider’s perspective.
The picture is far from rosy, of course. Experts are not abstract beings. They are part of a system, and their position within that system generates authority, which asserts their privilege. It is thus not unlikely to encounter experts who reinforce the institutional structures that generate their privilege, often at the expense of the truth. Likewise, the opinions of outsider laypersons can be driven and shaped by media with private interests, or by the aforementioned experts. Given that no issue is purely domestic, the influence that outsider laypersons have on their elites can, in turn, affect the internal discussion in Greece.
That being said, having an opinion and expressing it should never be discouraged. The question is how strongly should an outsider express such an opinion? Let me give you my qualified opinion on the Greek question to illustrate what I mean.
I want Greece to exit the eurozone. I think the Greek issue is primarily a matter of intergenerational injustice. The Greeks should stop irresponsibly forwarding debt on future generations. Also, I happen to believe that a grexit is the most painful but also the only way for Greece to recover in less than three generations.
In this debate I am not an uninterested bystander, and neither are the rest of the outsiders who comment on Greece. If Greece pursues a grexit and succeeds, it would provide a much-sought alternative to the destructive austerity politics pursued by western governments, which will support my argument. If Greece exits the eurozone and fails to recover I have next to nothing to lose. Worst case scenario, many Greek economic migrants will move to my home country, Cyprus.
If Greece becomes a failed state by pursuing my advice, then the Greek people will have everything to lose. This asymmetry of power, where I can express an opinion that has little to no impact on me but massive impact on others, makes me uneasy.
We need to listen to the Greek people. To stop deciding about them, without them — at a technocratic level, locked behind closed doors, with privileged white people negotiating their fate in marathon meetings with impaired mental faculties due to lack of sleep.
All of us who write and express opinions, either expert or personal, we need, firstly to acknowledge our privilege and modify our interventions and our tone accordingly. Secondly, we need to listen to the people whose lives are going to change by the decisions we support or condemn, factoring in our analysis their fears and concerns. Thirdly, we need to address them, to talk to their hopes and worries, rather than to exchange articles about them. Finally, we need to give them space and information, to enable them to form a judgement based on satisfactory knowledge of the competing options and their respective costs.