Lessons from our elders

Whenever I come across senior citizens who have lived through landmark moments in this country?s history I?m always impressed by the way they express themselves. It?s not the patina of time that makes me feel this way. It?s simply that I feel how inadequate we, the ones who supposedly have an opinion or a role to play in public affairs, really are.

You know what I find truly impressive? The fear with which older, tortured leftists talk about the extremism and hyperbole in the political discourse of the representatives of today?s left. It?s not a case of good manners or age, as any youngster among today?s radical left would swiftly suggest. It?s the fact that these people once picked up bodies from the streets of Athens, witnessed the country forcibly sliding into an infernal civil strike and know firsthand the meaning of hunger and distress. It?s not only old leftists who stuck to their beliefs, never confusing hooliganism with fighting. For them, each phrase and action came at a huge personal cost, as opposed to being one more provocative sound-bite for the 8 o?clock news.

There?s another side to this as well, old conservatives and centrists who are still alive. Certainly their generation made a mess of things, otherwise the country would not have reached the events of 1965 and subsequently the military dictatorship. They had and still have a sense of duty toward the country. They are aware of the game?s limits and they respect them.

They know when to gather round the table at a crucial moment and put their differences aside, when they have to decide to say or do what is least popular, simply because it is the right thing to do. You hear them talk about the ?land? and you get the feeling that they are talking about something greater than all of us.

Unfortunately, you don?t come across this sense of duty on either side of the political spectrum. Is it a coincidence that we reached this state with politicians who treated the country?s management as a part-time activity and businessmen who only cared about squandering state funds and earning political favors? Thanks to them the Greek middle-class establishment came into question. Worst of all were certain people who, in the name of some past great leader, legitimized the nouveau riche and corruption.

So now we are heading toward a confrontation between the hooligan nationalist populist party and the hooligan ruling class. Unless, even at this late state, today?s 50- and 60-year-olds start thinking about their country again, instead of themselves.