Stavros T. wasn’t “born on November 17” but represented what that day symbolized. Under the 1967-74 dictatorship, he was tortured like few others. He never spoke about it. He was excellent at his job. He defended the powerless, the downtrodden and battled for a state ruled by law. Without party political blinders. He died a few years ago but left a solid legacy.
George P. also wasn’t “born on November 17,” but he was there. He had set up the medical station that treated the injured from the clashes in those troubled days. Today he is a well-known figure on our TV screens because he has distinguished himself, fair and square, in his specialty, on a global level. He also never speaks about “then.”
I admire these people for their humility and their maturity. They distinguished themselves professionally, without betraying their principles and their ideals. They still carry within themselves those experiences without being stuck in the past. They did not put on their uniforms to join the annual parade. They did not make a career out of their indisputable heroism. Not that they were indifferent to politics. Anything but. They always were deeply political. Mavericks with guts. But they never used past acts to justify present cynicism.
There are many like them among us. They make a difference in their chosen fields. Their shared trait is fearlessness. They were not afraid of the thug who interrupted the lecture to make a partisan announcement. They weren’t even scared when posters with their photos denouncing them were put up because they dared say or do something that some people didn’t like.
They had gone underground for months when doing so was meaningful. They knew what a police state and torture meant. They didn’t call mommy when things went south. They thought the pseudo-revolutionary games of the professional rioters, based on the tolerance of frightened and corrupt officials, were just silly.
Unfortunately, very few such people rose to positions of power in academia or politics. They often said that political party-charmed circles, intrigues and compromises were not to their taste. They contributed, discretely, where they thought they could make a difference. And I am sure they would have liked to sit down and have a discussion with some of the kids that have been convinced they were “born on November 17.” And talk to them about the real thing.