Politics needs to get real

Politics needs to get real

It’s not easy; people don’t change as soon as the circumstances demand it, overnight. It takes time, and sometimes even that isn’t enough. What happens, though, when we’re talking about public roles? Can the administration of a village, a city, a region or a country be allowed to settle for a performance similar to how we rate an individual – good, bad, mediocre? Can it muddle along without a program, without oversight, without accountability?

From the news these days we have seen that river embankments, for example, appear to be strengthened or demolished according to the vagaries of political and clientelist pressures. Thessaly was buried in the mud not just because storm Daniel’s destructive force could not have been predicted, but also because the state mechanism was slow and unprepared to deal with the crisis – at the most elementary level, not in terms of what was unavoidable. Hindsight is always 20-20, you may say. The assessment of the true magnitude of the problem is still under way, of course, along with a judicial investigation into any possible oversights or actions that contributed to the loss of life and the massive destruction. The storm’s impact on the economy, public health, the food supply chain, the area’s geomorphology and human geography is unfolding gradually – and alarmingly.

Political roles are proving increasingly inadequate in dealing with the emerging climatic dystopia and new social dynamics, like immigration waves. And the human factor is becoming as futile as it is critical to these developments. Therefore, the only safety net we have during this rapid succession of major changes is the so-called institutional operating framework: from the long-term management of crucial infrastructure and crisis management, to a basic manual on what the residents of any given area need to do in an emergency. The 112 civil protection hotline is effective, but putting people on the alert or ordering them to evacuate is not enough. The state’s failings are not just exposed by the panicked response of local government, at every level, which is trying to pass the buck onto others, even to farmers and families trying to dispose of the rotting carcasses of dead animals or clean their homes of filthy standing water, without help, without basic equipment to protect themselves from disease.

The times when politicians made an impression by cutting ribbons and inaugurating projects are long gone. If politics is not exercised on the ground, in an organized and effective way, it opens the way for sundry self-proclaimed saviors – and chaos will soon come on top of disaster. 

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