The scale of the majority surprised everyone I have spoken to here in Athens as it bust the polls. Its definite, unarguable nature is a relief. This was no close-run majority that the other side could claim is illegitimate. Nor was it a mere party vote as many more supported NO than have backed Syriza.
The spine of the NO vote was the young, not pensioners. This is very important as the young are the most naturally pro-European, the most fluent in foreign languages, the most travelled, of the Greeks. If European leaders want the new generation to believe in them this is a huge wake up alert; an expression of generational sentiment that crosses the continent and is not confined to dependents or pensioners of a small state. Europe’s precariat has said NO.
Why did the Greeks do it? I was surprised by the taxi driver who took me into Athens from the Airport yesterday evening. He is not doing badly, tourists provide business, he is paid in cash (I got an electronic receipt). He found the decision difficult, “My head said YES, my heart said NO”. How did he finally vote, I asked. “I went with my heart”. Why? Because, he said, he wanted Greece to pay its debts but he wanted to know for how long, for ten years, for twenty, for a hundred even but he wanted to know when it would end. His English was faltering, he did not speak of debt restructuring, but he had got the point that the now no longer Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis made so clearly (see my article) that a sustainable – a believable – way out of the crisis had to be found.
Courage. This is what I felt most of all. What the European elite see as foolhardiness and the anti-Europeans see as a desire to leave the Euro, is a simple but intelligent judgement: to stand up and pay whatever the price.