He died a while ago and at his funeral was sent off by a good many people, the way he deserved. I am referring to the late Stavros Tsakyrakis, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Athens.
I have often wondered how different the era after the collapse of the military dictatorship in 1974 would have been for Greece if the “example of Tsakyrakis” had prevailed among the generation of the anti-junta struggle, in terms of matters both small and big.
Those who were well informed about the history of that period spoke about Tsakyrakis with admiration, noting that he was among those who suffered the worst torture at the hands of the regime. However, he never wore that as a badge of honor and his modesty meant he never talked about it.
Tsakyrakis did not build his career on his anti-dictatorial past, although he could easily have done just that. He was well educated and went on to educate young people, and made constant efforts to improve himself. He never succumbed to the “civil servant” mentality so prevalent in the university community, like many of his generation who entered academia on the back of their anti-dictatorship history and then reverently followed the expected path of promotion without a trace of creativity.
Another major difference was that Tsakyrakis was not stuck in the past; rather, he matured with the passage of time without ever losing the element of bold criticism and restlessness. He was constantly searching for answers and was passionately and wilfully involved in political issues. He loved it when someone challenged him and he also enjoyed being in the company of and holding discussions with young people.
Tsakyrakis held on to something very important from his years as an active leftist: He could not stand injustice. It angered him, it drove him mad.
Anything that violated the institutions or justice spurred him into action.
In one sense, he was the best of a generation that matured after the dictatorship. There are many more like Tsakyrakis who went through a lot but moved on with their lives, accomplished things and escaped the dangerous trap of constant engagement with the past or professional bureaucratic unionism.
We would be much better off if we had been fortunate enough to have more people like Tsakyrakis, and less of the others.