The problem with ‘ticking boxes’

The problem with ‘ticking boxes’

We always had and always will have wildfires in Greece. We will also have big fires that can’t be extinguished for days and cause massive destruction – and not only us. Even countries with inexhaustible means and vast firefighting experience, such as the United States and Canada, have experienced wildfires that could not be put out out for days and caused unimaginable damage. It is always good to look at things with moderation and logic, however bleak and depressing they may be.

This does not mean that we should lose the sense of urgency, the sense that we are faced with an unprecedented situation. Neither we the citizens, nor, even more so, the politicians running the country.

I often wonder what the heck we are thinking, for example, when we vote in municipal elections. There are cases where the inadequacy and incompetence of some municipal officials are so obvious, they are literally glaring. During snowstorms and big wildfires, we see regional governors and vice governors completely lost. Their responsibility is great, both in terms of prevention and operational response to any crisis. And yet, we continue to vote for them as if we care whether they organize and go to celebrations and fairs. Does it not occur to us that their mistakes and omissions can cause our homes to burn or flood? Don’t we realize that in this age of extremes and climate change it is just as critical to have competent and operationally efficient people in these positions as having a good head of the armed forces, or navy commander? Security is no longer just about our borders. The dangers and challenges now also lie within our “walls.”

The same certainly applies to politicians who take on key positions. I always remember the surprise of those in the know, when a prime minister appointed to such a key position a politician who was clearly not qualified for it. Asked why he did it, he replied, “Because it was the only way to tick all the boxes,” meaning that it was the product of party balances and backroom deals. A few months later, disaster struck and the minister in charge explained it using a primitive poetic expression.

We cannot afford to play games and “tick boxes” with anything that affects the vital core of the state and the security of the country. Playing games in other, more painless, areas is permissible because politics requires them; but not in areas that affect everyone’s lives. It would be good for us to remember this when we go to the polls, as well as for those who make the decisions about who is appointed where. Time’s up. We have to face the fact that we will be in a perpetual crisis without end.

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