COMMENT

Two worlds in one day

By Alexis Papachelas

I had the oddest experience last Sunday, witnessing two different worlds in one day. In the early afternoon I attended a conference for young entrepreneurs. There is nothing more hopeful than seeing young people with great ideas and a thirst for work looking for a way to get a foot into the door. There are plenty of mentors for these young people and they in turn look up to businessmen and women who succeeded on their own mettle. This is what the country needs to get ahead: a new generation of entrepreneurs who are not relying on a public service appointment right out of university, aren’t happy with sitting around doing nothing and living off their parents, and who are ready to take risks.

Later that same day I watched the debate about the multi-bill of reforms in Parliament. Even with the volume on the television turned down I knew something was wrong. Call me old-fashioned, but the truth is that I am old-fashioned when it comes to how our institutions work. What I saw on my television screen was a House with no self-respect. Hysterical arguments, a lax dress code that is supposed to express some kind of disdain for the system, staid rhetoric and the complete absence of institutional leaders painted a picture of decadence. How did our Parliament end up filled with such people? What message does this enraged group of MPs, ostensibly elected by the people to change things for the better, send? Have we realized how far standards have dropped, how much we tolerate that would have been inconceivable a few years ago and how seriously our institutions have been undercut?

I’m not saying that if all the deputies wore ties and spoke politely everything would be better. No. The scene on my screen was simply a sign of the deeper decline of standards and ethics. But there is a lot to be concerned about in the decline of the quality of public dialogue. It’s a miracle that the country has survived from a fall into the abyss.

The problem is that our politicians are either trapped in the past or have embraced a phony anti-systemic attitude. The people who are making a difference are working hard, fighting a state that is fighting them and hoping that politicians don’t mess it all up. This is nowhere near enough. If we leave politics to the merchants of despair and paranoia, the country will not survive for long.

That said, who in their right mind would want an under-paid job in a hostile environment where they have to be looking constantly over their shoulder? Party deadbeats and climbers.

In the early part of last Sunday I saw a new generation that can take Greece forward and beyond where it is today. Later, I couldn’t find even a small group of people who could steer the country to success through politics and governance. Greece, like any other struggling country, needs a private sector with vision and gumption, as well as an able political establishment that respects institutions and its role within them.

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