Talk is cheap

By Pantelis Boukalas

Although the term «epicurean» has come to describe a person devoted to the pursuit of sensual pleasure, Epicurus was wise and moderate and condemned man's destructive passion for political climbing. He made a distinction between the discourse used in celebratory speeches and that used in the people's assembly and courtrooms. When people speak in the people's assembly, the ancient philosopher said, they put their reputation at stake. They know they have to make serious arguments about the well-being of the city, which will be put to public scrutiny. In contrast, celebratory speeches free orators from their inhibitions as they know that their goal is to charm audiences, not with the essence of their words but with their personal eloquence and rhetorical skill. It is crystal clear that modern-day politicians have a soft spot for celebratory speeches. Even in Parliament, they devote themselves to pure monologue with their eyes fixed on the camera, without engaging in real dialogue with their foes. Suddenly, in a bid to energize his flagging supporters, the premier has begun to indulge in celebratory speeches, although he has no particular reason to celebrate. Karamanlis addressed New Democracy's central committee, then the inner Cabinet and finally the ruling party's parliamentary group. He was the only speaker and he rehashed his original speech. Ministers, deputies, cadres and ambitious youths listened to him with modesty and humility and then gave warm applause with one eye fixed on the camera to make sure that their enthusiasm did not go to waste. A preacher can, of course, inspire the converted just by the sound of his words, even if they are the exact same words, again and again. The undecided however will need much more than that. Karamanlis likes speaking in the first person singular, except when he says «I admit we have made mistakes» - that «we» signifying not magnanimity but self-absolution. Saying «I admit I have made mistakes» would signify some progress.