“Greece has a strong claim to being the worst country in the European Union to be a child,” UNICEF’s Greek Office chief Luciano Calestini said in a recent interview with Kathimerini’s Iliana Magra, in a comment that stirred a whole lot of controversy. “This is what the data tell us,” he said, mentioning obesity, child poverty and mental health, among other pointers.
“We are risking an act of national self-harm by continuing to not prioritize our children,” Calestini said in the same interview. This rather complicated phrase – not your typical media sound bite – was also the most crucial. Because, as the UNICEF official explained, today’s children will in 10 years from now be called to deal with climate change, inequality, the refugee crisis and, as the population shrinks, will be required to economically sustain an aging population.
This of course applies to those children who will have survived the rising cases of abuse, which is not always evident or fatal, and which rarely grabs the hearts and minds of an entire nation. The invisible “murders,” whose ravages are deep-seated and often lifelong, are the ones that co-shape the core of society.
Calestini got to the meat of the matter, and what he said was based on evidence. Nevertheless, a few days later he issued a clarification as his original statements obviously raised some eyebrows.
Protecting the carefully constructed image comes before substance. The image mandates that everything is in order in the country (regardless of what political party is in power) and that no mistakes or oversights are made. Pointing a finger at the omissions and the shortcomings and emphasizing the hard work that needs to be put in to fix them seems completely out of the ordinary.
But no one can hide from reality for long. To be sure, reality does not always stay quiet. Bombs will occasionally fall, and some of these bombs will cause deep wounds which take a very long time to heal. And that’s when we are faced with the ostensibly never-before-seen tragedies involving matricides and patricides.
Perhaps it would be preferable if we could agree on Calestini’s statement that “the situation for kids in Greece is not great” as a starting point. That is unless we, as a society and as a state, have decided that murders are preferable to “national self-harm.”