Setting a good example

Setting a good example

During the period of the great economic crisis in Greece, there were many foreign academics and journalists who visited our country to understand exactly what was happening. Some of them had experience from other countries with a long tradition of bankruptcies, mainly in Latin America.

One of them had made an observation that is etched in my memory: “You need to be careful now because the generalized impoverishment can lead a part of government employees, mainly in sensitive services, to ‘cross over’ to the other side. Because they will think that this is the only way they can survive. If this happens, you will have a hard time fixing it. It happened in Argentina and other countries and it was the main reason why they couldn’t get back on their feet.” The truth is that it had seemed a bit extreme to me. I didn’t pay attention because the same man had made other predictions about how crime would spike and turn the most affluent areas of Athens into small “crime zones.” His dramatic prophecies were not verified but by reading and hearing the recent reports about the Hellenic Police one wonders if he was partly right.

The crisis and the three bailouts led to spectacular and horizontal cuts in wages. Neither the troika nor the Greek political elite took care to protect the vital core of the state. The heads of very sensitive state bodies reached the point where they were struggling to make ends meet. The temptation of a “gift,” a “friendly bonus” started to become very tempting. Working two jobs became the norm. Does it justify breach of duty and their oath? Obviously not and under no circumstance. But it makes it incredibly difficult for people to survive and it lowers their resistance levels. Even more so when there is a lot of money around and there are many examples of people who compromised and solved their economic problems.

Just consider the example of Mykonos, which has turned into a different “universe,” where the laws of the country apply for a few days and hours. The police and other officials who go there to enforce the law need to be superhuman. Fortunately, there are such Greeks who love their job and their country and are willing to undertake dangerous missions. They should be paid better, have their basic problems solved and feel that the rest of us are grateful for it. But even that is not enough. What will make a big difference is feeling that the political leadership has their backs, sets a good example and has the will to turn the page. 

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