The empty shirt

An immense amount of thinking was wasted and so much linguistic inventiveness went the same way. There were many futile confrontations based on fiery characterizations devised in the offices of communication consultants. So many election programs were developed based on the idea of ?re-.? Not ?re? as in revolution — don?t panic — but ?re? as in re-negotiation.

Other words were used as well: re-examination and reshaping, rearranging and revision and readjustment — this is a country with a long history in euphemisms.

The statements made by Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras to the Financial Times right after his swearing-in ceremony turned out to be exactly what many were afraid of and the few who knew continued to practice as fairy-tale rhetoric: ?For an empty shirt, for a renegotiation.?

The program is off track and we can demand nothing from our creditors before we get back on course, said Stournaras, comments deemed ?unfortunate? by the Democratic Left. Surely this was not the best way to prepare the ground for the prime minister to continue his pledges of renegotiation in Parliament. Also left hanging was the concept of ?continuous renegotiation? devised by co-pilot Evangelos Venizelos, a man whose inventive words of wisdom carry more noise than meaning. Surely the president of awkward co-governing PASOK had something else in mind as opposed to Trotsky?s ?permanent revolution.?

In his comments, the minister of finance used the crucial term ?before,? which he referred back to when asked for explanations. In other words, we can?t ask for anything (i.e. what was agreed for Spain and Italy to be implemented in Greece too) before getting back on the track set for us by our creditors.

However, this is the same track which our current prime minister used to deem catastrophic, both as leader of the opposition and during the time when he had one foot in the Papademos administration and one foot out, when he insisted on praising the notion of the ?other mix,? a term he has since dismissed from his vocabulary.

Stournaras?s ?before? is as clear as Samaras?s ?other mix.? We know that we are no longer the ones who determine the meaning of crucial words (and therefore the meaning of policies related to them), but our creditors. Resigned Deputy Labor Minister Nikos Nikolopoulos was the first to receive this message. He offered his response, albeit a blurred one.

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