OPINION

Perennial corruption

perennial-corruption

It is not the first time that a public survey has pointed at corruption as one of Greece’s biggest problems. According to a recent poll carried out by the National Transparency Authority (NTA), 97 percent of the respondents said that several sectors of the state apparatus and the local administration are exposed to corruption. A considerable share voiced similar concerns about the country’s media. 

In other words, an overwhelming majority of the Greek population understand, or think, or have witnessed, or have heard that under-the-table dealings, with state money being used for private benefit (kickbacks, political favors and so on), abound. 

The percentage is so high however that the question inevitably rises: Where exactly are all these bad people carrying out all these illegal acts if everyone seems to consider such means unlawful and the state of affairs a “significant problem”?

The respondents’ answers to the question “Why is corruption so widespread in Greece?” as recorded in the same poll, leave one even more perplexed. The most popular explanation given in the survey is the alleged impunity of wrongdoers (85 percent), followed by patron-client relations (73 percent) and the lack of transparency in state dealings (43 percent).

Few things are more tantalizing than the promise of easy money, even if it involves breaking the law. The survey exposes a split personality: Respondents come across as incorruptible citizens with a professed allergy to unlawful dealings. They claim that the absence of appropriate punishment for such actions will only accentuate the phenomenon. They are an example of a good citizen. On the other hand, the magnitude of the problem can only be justified if some of those who appear to criticize or lament the problem are to a greater or lesser extent in fact part of it. And if they are not actively involved, they dream that they will one day have the opportunity to be. The massive 97 percent rate suggests a profound longing: If everybody does it, why not me?

And here starts the choreography of the red lines that never stop shifting. At what point does bribery, a political favor or offer exactly change colors, its status changing from facilitation to improper dealing and law-breaking? The easy thing is to forgive one’s sins, to absolve oneself of responsibility. The hard thing is to see the burning desire that precedes the legal punishment. 

The patrons, the state and the political parties, need clients to conduct their dealings with. Blaming others is more than just evasion; it is hypocrisy.