No safe distance in real politics

By Alexis Papachelas

Irrespective of whether I agree or disagree with a person’s opinion, I will take my hat off to them if and when they decide to jump into the arena of politics without trepidation, whoever they are and whatever they may stand for. However, I will not take my hat off to someone who flirts with the idea of playing at politics but prefers to stay close to the warmth of the home fires instead of venturing into the battlefield. You can’t exercise politics from a safe distance. Safety is for lofty societies that address literary concerns and reading clubs.

Why such admiration for those who dare to become embroiled in politics? Because it is a harder, more soul-wrenching and much, much dirtier game than anyone on the outside can possibly imagine. Anyone who decides to enter the fray needs to give up all thoughts of a private life and be prepared to suffer fire from all fronts, at all times.

Back in the 1960s, Constantine Karamanlis was known to have said that fascism as a political system has a rationale, as does communism. But in Greece, he added, the political system is like one giant coffee house where nobody takes anything seriously.

Politics in Greece today is still very much a giant coffee house, but it is also a boxing ring where there are no rules and the gloves have been taken off. It takes guts and a very, very strong stomach to jump into that ring today. This is the age of social networking and fast information. No one, and especially not a politician, can hide from well-meant and ill-meant criticism, mudslinging, backstabbing, rumor and sheer madness, as well, of course, as from that healthy part of public opinion that wants to be in the loop.

Just as I see those who boldly enter the ring of politics, so I see politicians like Adonis Georgiadis, Petros Tatsopoulos and even economist Yanis Varoufakis, because they aren’t afraid to get dirty from the mud being thrown at them in order to defend their opinions. In a country known for developing deep fixations, where everyone and everything can be mocked and stereotyped at the drop of a hat, we need people who are ready to break the taboos and stand up for their beliefs. As for those who want to look at the fight without getting dirty, I have nothing to say, other than that they remind me of a long-departed relative of mine, who thought about entering politics but only if he got the support of discerning voters.

Sure, countries need an elite, pioneering think-tanks and innovative thinkers. What they do not need is politicians who make big promises and then back away from the fight when they see that it is not going to be pretty and they may very well end up getting hurt in the process.