Falling prey to the beast of populism

By Alexis Papachelas

We have been caught up in a vicious circle and I don’t know if or how we can get out of it. While we constantly complain about the quality of those governing and representing Greece, we go on to elect the worst the country has to offer to the European Parliament.

We spend our days swearing at local TV programs before blessing with our vote all those politicians that parade across our television screens and yell their way through breakfast shows. We are all trapped in this grand vicious cycle: politicians, journalists, citizens, absolutely everyone. Think of it as a black box producing mediocrities and depravity, while throwing away anything modest, professional or serious.

Take Monday’s reshuffle, for instance: Some bright partisan brain suggested the government should have in its ranks a troupe that could easily perform in variety shows at open-air theaters across the country. And you can hardly argue with any of this as the answer is rather disarming: Given the current parliamentary group, we could hardly have come up with anything better. When you have tomatoes and cucumbers you can make a Greek salad, but you can’t come up with a bacon omelet, no matter how hard you try.

Speaking of eggs, it’s creepy to think of how we invariably discard any politician who dares to crack a few. Tassos Giannitsis, Marietta Giannakou, Anna Diamantopoulou and Adonis Georgiadis, among others, are all part of a glorious tradition which still lives on today. What is extraordinary in this case is that once we exterminate them politically, we start singing their praises. You hear various people now mumbling things like: “That Stournaras fellow was actually quite good. What a shame he’s out.” This is uttered by the same people who just a month ago were saying the exact opposite. The other day I heard a leading proponent of telepopulism praising Giannitsis and describing how the former minister was “eaten up by the system” when he attempted to make brave reforms to the social security system, when we all recall who brought him and his noble efforts down in the first place.

I wonder if those of us who think in a particular way are desperately few. A good friend has reached the conclusion that the only thing anyone can hope at this point is for someone to maintain the balance as a counterweight against populism in order to hold things together. I suppose this is one way to go even though our middle-class decorum does not allow us to roll in the mud of Greek public dialogue. That’s why we often allow serious people who adhere to various ideologies to become prey to the beasts of populism that protect their own and tear down anything which is out of sync with their own stereotypes. All that angers us has an explanation and is not a momentary product, for it took several decades for the hungry beast of populism to rear its ugly head.