“The problem is not [SYRIZA MP Pavlos] Polakis, but polakism,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told main opposition leader Alexis Tsipras during a parliamentary debate in November 2020 about the number of ICU beds at Athens’ Sotiria Hospital, referring to the outspoken SYRIZA lawmaker and defining “polakism” as a “mixture of sarcasm, arrogance, bravado and lies.” A lot of time has passed since that incident.
It is interesting to look back to the recent past and observe, if nothing else, the dissolutive speed of political time. Not because political clashes did not exist and will not continue to exist, nor because the language becomes rougher, rawer and cheaper. The exceptional incidents of the past when threats, insults or name-calling were used in political debate are now becoming the rule. Is our annoyance a matter of aesthetics or modesty? Are we preoccupied with the dilemma of whether politicians should sound refined or resort to a coarser style of speech (which is obsolete anyway)? Should we prefer light beverages to heavy Cretan raki? Such questions do not help solve the problem.
“Polakism” today is way beyond a “mixture of sarcasm, arrogance, bravado and lies.” That was its light version. From its first appearance until today, this new “ism” has mutated, adding unbearable elements to its constant interaction with its audience.
This trend has many followers who are not always anonymous. They are also public figures from across the political spectrum who compete in creating impressions. Because, in order to cope with the savagery of the news and publicity, one has to pretend not to pay any attention to one’s talk because one feels a “fair rage” about what the opposing party is doing. So an unhindered mouth becomes popular – at the very least, people talk about it, whether by receiving more applause or more criticism.
But this is where arguments end – or the words, as we know them. It is the end of name-calling, not because we run out of words, but because there is no communication. Then come the roars, then we start smashing things, then we argue and then the darkness of the internet forms the new order of things, where there is no ideology, right or left. Only verbal fascism.