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Of Goblins, Trolls and Much-Needed Illumination

According to the Greek folk legend the ‘kalikantzaroi’ – little goblins – roam freely from Christmas Day until the Feast of Theophany, creating mischief. During the rest of the year, they live underground, where they saw away at the tree holding up the earth. When they are forced to retreat back underground on the day of Epiphany, when creation is blessed by the Baptism of Christ, they discover that the tree’s trunk has been restored, and must start over again.

While these tales are told in good fun and contain elements dating all the way back to antiquity, it appears that contemporary Greece – and particularly the world of politics – is not without its own actual goblins… or trolls.

The circumstances that have befallen Greece over the past decade have been extraordinary, and in many ways unprecedented, however, Greek political leaders have done themselves few favors by the self-destructive obstinance they display in supporting those who insist on provoking the citizenry and adding to insult to injury. Worst of all, these leaders – former and current Prime Ministers in most instances – refuse to display any repentance and acknowledge mistakes of the past.

This, of all their flaws, is likely the greatest obstacle to the country’s progress. The ancient poet Menander was right on the mark when he wrote his famous axiom that “the wise man does not make the same mistake twice,” and it is appears to be poetic justice that the political undoing of Greece’s leaders comes precisely from this regrettable trait.

The list politically fatal PR errors is far too long to be covered in this column, so we will focus on the most current example. Right before Christmas, Mr. Ilias Mosialos, a London School of Economics faculty member and Greece’s representative to international organizations for health issues – appointed to the latter post by the current government – made a very inappropriate and highly offensive post on Facebook comparing those who doubt the efficacy of masks with hundreds of millions of Orthodox faithful (as well as other Christians) who believe in the virgin birth of Jesus by the Theotokos, as detailed in Holy Scripture and empirically upheld by the Church for two millennia.

Naturally, the remark triggered a furor of protests, both from the Church of Greece, as well as many Greek citizens and social media users around the world, who viewed the post as not only an affront to their religious beliefs, but also an attack on the Christian faith itself, on the eve of one of its major feasts – as is the regrettable habit of those who oppose Christ.

The matter was further exacerbated when Mr. Mosialos appeared on television to address the issue and attempted to justify his behavior as an attempt to preserve human life and encourage citizens to follow prescribed health protocols.

Nowhere in his statements was there any sign of remorse for any offense he may have caused to the overwhelming majority of the citizenry in the country he represents, his students at LSE, or other social media users who don’t deserve to see the tenets of their faith trampled upon by some blowhard with a complex. Needless to say, he lacked the sensitivity or emotional intelligence to issue a retraction.

Mr. Mosialos’ advocates – including members of the left and center-left (Mosialos served as a non-elected MP and minister in George Papandreou’s Administration, where he supported the memorandum and admonished the Greeks for “building homes with German loans” and saying it was not possible for Greeks “to have more privately-owned first homes than the Germans”) – claim that he is entitled to post anything he wishes on his social media accounts, citing freedom of speech. The government followed suit, pronouncing that Mr. Mosialos was expressing personal views and refusing to comment on the controversial post, essentially giving him a fee pass and covering for his folly.

Obviously, they’re out of touch with reality, as a growing number of private and public-sector employers now have regulations governing their employees’ social media usage. Moreover, it is highly unlikely that any of them, including the current Prime Minister, would tolerate Mr. Mosialos publicly trolling them or their parties in such a classless manner.

However, even if we set aside religious sentiment, considering Christ and the Theotokos don’t need anyone to come to their aid, Mr. Mosialos’ thoughtlessness is troubling on so many other levels – and this reflects negatively on the current government.

For starters, this post only creates greater discord in the fight against the pandemic. Someone who claims to value the sanctity of human life and work toward its preservation doesn’t try to politicize science, create linguistic binds to serve their bias, and impose their view by insulting others.

Pandemic policies and experts are already being called into scrutiny. Why exacerbate the situation by attacking institutions and people’s faith? This is something plainly obvious to even a first-year university student, let alone a professor and policy expert.

It seems like the erudite professor could use some lessons in manners and sensibility. This alone is ample cause for the Prime Minister to remove him from his post and appoint someone with greater emotional intelligence, less pompousness, and some common sense.

This is not the first time Prime Minister Mitsotakis has angered public opinion by supporting individuals whose complexes or ideological ankyloses antagonize the citizenry and longstanding institutions.

His predecessor Mr. Tsipras did the same thing with the ‘Mistake by the Lake’ (AKA Prespa Agreement) and his choice of haughty ministers, and paid for it politically. Mr. Mitsotakis will share the same fate if he insists on this ill-advised course. So will his party’s Parliament members, if they don’t actively speak up for their constituents and apply pressure on their leader.

The people have been through enough. Insults and jabs have a funny way of being returned at the polls.

Hopefully the feast of Theophany will provide the Mr. Mitsotakis with an ‘epiphany’ of his own, to rid himself of the actual trolls undercutting his Government.

 

Follow me on Twitter @CTripoulas

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