The cream of the crop

The cream of the crop

I’ve heard people discuss or dream of “a cream of the crop government,” meaning a government above and beyond politics that would come up with magical solutions to Greece’s problems. I do not know whether I should laugh or cry. Such reasoning is deployed as escapism from the harsh reality; it is a naive fantasy at best.

The world is littered with forgotten prophets. They consider themselves perfectly capable of ruling the country, but they’d rather take cover until they are called upon to do so by the people. The prospect of getting exposed to politics and the ruthless spotlight of publicity terrifies them. They nevertheless remain blind to what government leaders have to deal with in reality.

We would all like everything to change overnight. We wish that the dysfunctional Greek state could be dismantled and have a more effective and smart alternative in its place. However, this cannot happen without political support and without the citizens, the state officials, ministers and so on taking ownership of the reforms. The forced modernization of the memorandum agreements was a failure because it did not have the necessary political support. No one took ownership of the reforms.

Governing this country is a Sisyphean task. It requires people with skills that can withstand the heat of politics and who are interested in pulling the country forward every day, even if it is just one step. Today, there are a few such politicians who will leave a significant legacy and leave their mark on the administration’s reformist agenda. All that is happening amid a climate of extreme political toxicity, amid a succession of crises and catastrophes.

Some naturally dream that they could do better. Others are meanwhile constantly looking out for the top-qualified dream team that will transform Greece into the Denmark of the south overnight.

For some reason, they always remind me of a story told by the ex-king Constantine. A few days before the military coup of April 21, 1967, he summoned all political leaders to consult with them on how to pull the country out of its impasse. Among them was future prime minister Spyros Markezinis, who had, along with his party, repeatedly failed to enter Parliament. Markezinis suggested that they go to Parliament so that Constantine could swear him in as prime minister. “All problems will be solved immediately,” he said.

The former king said, “But Mr President, you did not even manage to get elected,” to which Markezinis famously responded: “Can’t you see? I am the cream of the crop.” History is full of very qualified individuals who remain on the sidelines. It is however written by those who fight, every day, step by step.

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