For years now, the Greek political scene has been monopolized by political mediocrities, who overbearingly rule over the nation thanks largely to their impertinence and lack of scruples, reaffirming Thucydides’ words of wisdom that describe political life – particularly during periods of dissention and crisis: “men of lesser judgement usually win out.” (3.83.3). According to the timeless historian, in most instances, people of lesser wits prevail in the public arena because the have no qualms about following through with acts of violence. Their apprehension over their own deficiencies and the abilities of their opponents, which they could not match in a contest of words, fuels their ruthlessness.
A little earlier in his historical account, he explains that “reckless audacity came to be considered courage and dedication to one’s party, while personal hesitation was considered cowardice cloaked behind justifiable excuses, and prudence the disguise of timidity. The one who was most ferocious was trusted, while whoever objected was deemed suspicious. Whoever contrived a plot and succeeded was hailed as masterful, while those who could suspect their opponents in timely fashion and uncover their plots were considered even more masterful. Meanwhile, those who adequately prepared so as not to have to resort to such means were thought to be breaking up their party and fearful of the opposing side. In a word, whoever could manage to cause harm to his opponents before they to him was commendable, as was he who encouraged others, who had not contemplated such deeds, to undertake similar action…the bond of kinship was considered weaker than that of party ties, because like-minded partisans were ready to dare anything without the slightest hesitation, inasmuch as parties were not formed to seek the public good through legal means and legitimate institutions, but on the contrary, to serve their insatiable greed through lawlessness. Solidarity among party members was based more on mutual complicity than on religious oaths.” (3.82.4-6).
It is truly incredible how a text written over 2500 years ago can so faithfully describe the present-day political affairs taking place in Greece – and elsewhere! Thucydides succeeds in describing to the tee the malaise that plagues us until this very day. In that same section, he notes that “the meaning of words had no longer the same relation to things, but was changed by them [party cadres] as they saw fit.”
In other words, political culprits change the meaning of words to justify their deeds. And this likely explains the new low to which the current Greek Government has sunk, making dangerous and unprecedented concessions regarding the identity of Macedonia, unhistorically recognizing pseudo-Macedonian citizens north of the border, as well as a falsely billed “Macedonian” language.
This is hardly surprising, considering that this very same government, which rose to power solely on the pledge of tearing up the hated usurious memorandums plaguing Greece since 2010, ended up signing a new, even more terrible one, and dubbed the resounding “no” vote in the referendum of 2015 rejecting that memorandum as a “yes!”
At the same time, this same malignant political neoplasm has embarked on an unprecedented smear campaign against everyday moderate citizens of all ages and classes, who are opposed to its ideological ankyloses, slandering them domestically and internationally as “fascists” and “right-wing extremists.”
To add injury to insult, since the moral assault it launched against its own people hasn’t broken their spirit, it has now proceeded to acts of violence, breaking up the monumental “Macedonia is Greece” demonstrations with tear gas and police batons, and arresting everyday citizens (sometimes pre-emptively), such as a 19-year-old university student who interrupted a speech by the government spokesperson, the moderator of the Facebook page “Ptolemeans-Macedonians,” or students who were holding sit-ins (sic! Despite the fact that the current ruling party is composed primarily of cadres whose main claim to fame came as student protestors, and which has historically championed student sit-ins and even riots, such as in 2008) to protest over the undemocratic Prespes agreement (aka The Mistake by the Lake).
Longsuffering viewers of Greek news programming and related political talk shows bear witness daily to the awful spectacle of indigenous politicians who try to outdo one another in a contest of insolence, vulgarity, misuse of the language, and a general lack of ethos. With the quality of public life having sunk so low, the sole argument left to frontrunning parties is that they represent the lesser of two evils.
As the current government rides out the final months of its political shelf life, with Hellenism worldwide holding its breath for fear of the remaining havoc it may still wreak before it leaves office, the day after remains unsure. The leader of the main opposition made it clear from day one that, although he disagrees with it, he will recognize the Prespes agreement when he comes to power – even though it was not passed with an enhanced majority in Parliament, may actually be null and void due to constitutional violations, and appears to be overwhelmingly opposed by the citizenry, who have repeatedly called for a referendum (the simplest and fairest of solutions).
This is something that voters should not forget if they want the clear mandate sent by the Greek people to finally be respected, and may end up having to force the main opposition’s hand when it comes to power by electing a coalition government with partners amenable to a referendum. Pressure on the main opposition to adjust its position must be increased, together with public shaming of the 153 perfidious parliamentarians who tried to drown Greece’s longstanding policy on the use of the Macedonian name in Lake Prespes.
After all, as Thucydides explains, the onus ultimately lies on the people to bring about a solution to unchecked partisan self-interest. Together with a sterling description of the timeless ills befalling our political life, Thucydides also bears a powerful message regarding the culpability of the citizenry (4.61.5): “I blame not those who wish to rule, but those who are willing to serve them. The same human nature which is always ready to domineer over the subservient, bids us defend ourselves against the aggressor.”
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