List of forbidden words

List of forbidden words

Anyone who has read the history of this country can sometimes get uneasy with the words that fall from the lips of modern-day politicians. “Relentless” (Editor’s note: a reference to Georgios Papandreou’s “Relentless Struggle” declared in 1961 against right-wing ERE), “[constitutional] derailment,” and “coup” are some of these words. 

Most important, you must have no sense of history in order to compare the present to the past – a past that the Hellenic Republic has irreversibly broken with. Serious as some of the more recent institutional failures may be, they cannot be compared with the extremities of the 1960s. Everything has changed since then, everything is politically more mature: the political system, the institutions, society – all of us. Sure, we have seen a lot of violent confrontation, division and tarnishing of the institutions since 1974. But although we may have flirted with the abyss, we did not slide into it.

Furthermore, such references to the past are doomed to reverberate with a shrinking audience, for they do not mean much to younger voters. Nostalgic cliches won’t do the trick any more. 

Too bad our politicians have a soft spot for over-the-top rhetoric. It’s been decades since Greece joined the European Union, but political confrontation often feels uncomfortably Balkan in style. Moreover, politicians and political parties are caught up in a vicious circle; a bad opposition will drag the government into a thicket of hyperbole and half-truths. The excuse is always the same: “This is Greece; this is how you do politics here.”

Indulging in historical comparisons and borrowing slogans from the past can be very dangerous for our democracy. When very loaded phraseology becomes banal, citizens get frustrated. Some of them lose their trust in democracy. They start to believe that the country has indeed entered a state of political anomaly and migrate to the fringes of the political system.

It would be great if the country’s mainstream political parties could agree on a list of words that would be left out of political conflicts. Words such as “traitor,” “betrayal,” “derailment,” “coup,” or “relentless” should not be part of the political vocabulary when parties clash over the issue of the wiretapping scandal or the Prespes name deal. Words like these carry within them the demons of yesteryear, the demons which led to big divisions and, in some cases, very real constitutional derailments. 

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