I feel very uncomfortable, I must confess, whenever someone I know confides in me that they would like to get involved in politics or public life in general. On one hand, the country urgently needs new blood in public life, especially people who have worked for a living, who have lived with the fear of being fired, to push aside the products of political party laboratories who have taken up all the posts… On the other, my first response is “Why do you want to get involved in that?” With all that we have experienced in this country, it’s not a strange reaction.
There are many examples of worthy people who entered public life and either found themselves on the front pages of newspapers or facing prosecutors. It takes a lot of guts and very thick skin for someone to survive in the furnace of Greek public life. Especially these days, when social media and the anti-systemic tsunami have turned up the temperature significantly, around the world. Even the most experienced have a hard time surviving, when things can be blown out of proportion in a moment and become known everywhere at once. The advice “don’t get involved” may be easy to say but may not be the most responsible advice if a foolhardy soul who wants to try his or her luck. Of course, the system is gamed to make difficult the life of any “boy scouts” who really do want to offer their services. Even salaries are ridiculously low – another result of left-right populism.
But those who do know the tricks of the game survive and enjoy a kind of immunity. Seldom do we see shadowy operators from different parts of the political spectrum fighting. On the contrary, they very easily team up against someone who just wants to get the job done.
I once asked a friend who has lived abroad for years but follows public life in Greece very closely what had made the greatest impression on him. “The fear that good people have of getting involved in public affairs,” he replied. I come to the conclusion that a future government will have to change the rules so as to attract capable people. We all have a duty to protect such people, from whichever part of the political spectrum they come.
So, the next time that someone asks me whether they should get involved in public life I think I will spell out the risks but tell him, “My friend, go ahead, because if all serious and capable people are frightened into staying at home, then we will be in worse trouble.” That, after all, is what the tricksters and wise guys from across the political spectrum would want: that they set up so many obstacles that they scare off anyone who wants to share the spoils of power with them.