I am sure that former Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides, who died at 94 and received a funeral fitting for a sitting leader, is smiling as hears the posthumous praise heaped on him, knowing as well as he did the frailties of human nature.
I will go ahead and add a few words myself – not only because I revered him, but also because this is an opportune time about the state of mind which possesses people and compels them to vilify leaders when they are alive, only to deify them after death.
What does this say about human nature, and particularly of our people?
I got to know Clerides quite well in the 1980s, when the leaders of the Cypriot parties lived for long periods in New York negotiating a solution to the problem with the United Nations.
Those years were difficult for Clerides. He was accused him of being anti – Makarios when the Archbishop, the Cypriot President, was treated as god- like. Clerides was pretty much accused of being a traitor because he supported certain realistic positions regarding the Cyprus problem.
This did not bend his will. He knew he was doing what was right for his country, not minding that he was paying a personal price.
So, why today, is he mourned in Cyprus and throughout the Hellenic world? Because, today, in retrospect, we recognize him as a true leader and we know that much of what he said, the solutions advocated, although unpleasant, were realistic – correct and the best we could have had because they were workable and within the capabilities of the people of Cyprus and the Greek nation.
All of us want to press a button and go back to the time before the 1974 illegal Turkish invasion, but this is no longer possible. At least, not through negotiations.
But is it not the role of a real leader to lead rather than follow? To weigh objectively his country’s power and possibilities, the internal situation and the external environment, and to base a policy on these and not on fantasies promoted by demagogues to secure for his country the best possible result? (Case-in-point: Eleftherios Venizelos).
The people, however, usually do not want to hear the truth, the realistic and pragmatic solutions to a problem. They want to avoid the risk of being seen as less of a patriot.
They are afraid to confront issues. They prefer to kick the can down the road, to leave them for another time, for another generation. But time and events will not wait.
And so, in the end, what seemed doable but unpleasant at the time, today is seen as a missed opportunity. And the people, since they understand this over time, reward those who told them the truth, who respected them, who paid a personal price for serving the interest of his country.
So they honor him. When he is gone. Eternal be his memory.