It would be a mistake to file away the “Artemis Sorras phenomenon” in the annals of history as just another huge scam that is now in the process of being broken up thanks to a major judicial investigation and a separate court conviction that has led to a warrant being issued for the arrest of the self-proclaimed trillionaire.
But what explanation is there for the 12,000-plus people who believed Sorras’s false promises and tried to get out of paying their debts by “authorizing” tax offices and social security funds to claim the money from the enormous fund the scammer claimed to manage? And what about the 184 offices that his ultranationalist movement, Convention of Greeks, is said to have around the country? Are the tens of thousands who joined the organization therefore connected to its criminal activities?
There are a lot of possible answers to these questions, but they feel somehow inadequate. Selfishness, cunning, a chronic addiction to the quick-buck pipe dream, ignorance, desperation, madness, debasement... whatever the explanation, it doesn’t justify the cold numbers. Thousands of Greeks gave their willing (and paid) support to Sorras and today many of them are even expressing their opposition to his conviction.
What this case may be showing us is that the exodus of so many fine people, thousands of young scientists and entrepreneurs, because of the crisis has created a vacuum that is being filled by the cranks and the con artists. Imagine a balding head with just a few tufts of hair here and there. It is a disheartening notion, particularly when coupled with the image of someone trying to fix the vacuum by combing over the existing tufts.
Meanwhile, this prevailing sense of futility and failure is simply exacerbated by the vacuum in public administration, by people with no knowledge about their jobs or any sense of responsibility being assigned to important posts by ridiculous choices in the makeup of boards running state institutions. The collapse of the state machine is another part of the problem.
Greece’s young scientists did not leave the country just because of skyrocketing unemployment; the absence of meritocracy was the leading factor that scared them off, according to numerous studies.
In summary, the “Sorras phenomenon” has simply exposed in all its nudity the loss of trust in what is left of the state and the absence of capable officials in crucial and decisive sectors of the public administration. What can possibly reverse the tide of the crisis as long as ideological rigidity, a lack of proportion and depth, and a growing need for delusions continue to feed such phenomena?