For faith and country

By Pantelis Boukalas

Testifying to an Athens prosecutor will not suffice for Panayiotis Baltakos, now a regular citizen, to settle all of his scores. Provided, that is, that a leading party official such as himself can be relegated to the ranks of a regular citizen from one minute to the next, losing the prestige of his name and position that had so far opened plenty of doors for him and those close to him.

It goes without saying that if anyone else – a true regular citizen and son of yet another regular citizen, not to mention armed forces professional – had entered Parliament (hallowed ground and so on) and proceeded to insult and beat people up they would have already paid the price for their macho antics. They would certainly not have had the backing of ministers who suddenly discovered new sensibilities and an understanding for the filial sentiment, essentially vindicating their behavior. Nor would the fact that their thuggery was aimed at other thugs act as an alibi.

The former cabinet secretary, a “familiar, old problem,” as deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos belatedly acknowledged (the persuasiveness of the latter’s statements are inversely proportional to his increasingly narcissistic compulsiveness), and his heart-to-heart chat with defendant Ilias Kasidiaris, left him seriously exposed. He exposed himself to regular people, to saints, to God himself, if one considers as he himself insisted, that he was telling one lie after the next on purpose – sitting beneath his private collection of religious icons. According to Baltakos he overstepped the boundaries of religion in his effort to defend the homeland. Given a voice, those icons could tell a lot of stories.

Of course how much and how well this fan of Spartan Crypteia, who allegedly acted in full secrecy, believes is strictly his own business. Ditto for his choice of icons to cover the wall of his parliamentary office, as well as whether this was dictated by his image-making strategy. This is strictly a matter between him and his confessor. Ultimately it concerns God and the day of judgement when it finally comes. What concerns society is what he believed in politically and how well. On the one hand he identifies the party with the country, for no particular reason, while acting outside of democracy and its institutions on the other.

Baltakos’s religious beliefs are of interest when they become part of the game of politics, when used as a weapon for the exercise of secular power. Which is what happened in this case. In this way, belief in country, religion and family led Baltakos to commit a sin, primarily exposing him to his party’s leader and premier, who had chosen him for a crucial position based on the faith (not the religious one) he had known shown him over the years.