The robber who escaped after spending 14 hours in a cupboard – even defecating inside it – as police officers from six departments searched for him in the apartment, the block and the neighborhood, could serve as a parable for many of our society’s problems. But it also signals something much deeper, the dark place where we do not dare look – in case we find what we fear, whether it be a monster or our own shortcomings.
The “operational malfunction of the Services involved,” as the Police Directorate described the Palaio Faliro fiasco was not a momentary lapse, the result of sudden bad luck or carelessness. It is a mist that covers everything, which hides mistakes, sloth or corruption, which leads to failures without culprits, both in the public sector and in our personal behavior. When things are not clear and simple, no one knows what must be done, what they can demand, who is responsible for whatever happens or does not happen. Tax department circulars contradict each other, allowing room for different interpretations, demanding “specialists” to divine their meaning, providing cover for all sorts of criminality. A confusion of laws encourages crimes with impunity, contributes to a lack of a sense of justice.
In this climate, we cannot expect the state to function properly, nor, of course, can the country attract investment (from Greeks or foreigners), which would be the only way to stop economic decline. It is not just the fog of tax regulations and laws that contribute to our failures, but also the mentality that it is easier to allow problems to fester rather than take difficult decisions. We believe that inertia is an alibi, that we will escape the consequences of doing nothing. Knowing our peers, we fear that even good decisions will be weighed according to their short-term cost rather than their long-term benefits.
Whether this concerns the social security system, waste management or international relations, the “therapy of choice” is very often no therapy at all. Even when the EU forces us to toe the line, we prefer to allow problems to worsen rather than show responsibility, taking care of what we inherited, passing on as much good as we can to coming generations. This may sound harsh, but we need only look at what happens to politicians who try to fix things and those who make irresponsible promises for a return to the unsustainable economic model of the past. Who is in power? Where are they leading us?
Children are scared of cupboards and the darkness under their beds, lest they hide surprises. It is difficult to imagine the police in Palaio Faliro being too scared to open the cupboard. They must have thought that someone else had already checked, or they cast a cursory look. In any case, the door remained shut. Unlike Pandora’s box, which was left with hope after everything had flown out, when the robber opened the cupboard, hope had already flown, and all that was left was a pile of shit.