Small men in big positions

We should not jump to any conclusions regarding the fate of the so-called Lagarde list – named after former French Finance Minister and current IMF chief Christine Lagarde, who presented authorities in Athens with a record of Greek depositors at a Geneva bank. Investigations by our financial prosecutors and Parliament into the list and its handling are under way and will reveal whether anyone tampered with it and whether it contains the names of people who owe money to the state. Once those investigations are complete, any wrongdoers will be forced to face up to their responsibilities, so until that time, let us all remain levelheaded. Rage rarely serves as wise counsel and spite even less so.

Of course, under no circumstances should anyone found to have tampered with the list, hidden data or cached money away from the taxman’s eyes be let off lightly, and neither should we underestimate the fact that the meting out of justice both educates people and helps them vent their anger. At the end of the day, the illegal behavior of one top minister, prompted purely by self-interest, even when in regard to something slight, reveals the measure of the man on major issues as well. The same person who handled a record of banking data also handled the fate of the country and of the next one or two generations, and did so with the same moral and intellectual outlook. The worst thing is that he is not alone, neither in self-interest, nor in negligence.

One explanation for the revelations made in regard to the Lagarde list is that this is a case of small men in big positions during monumental times. These are men who answer to no one other than themselves and to those above them who have sanctioned their behavior. They do not answer to the people, nor to the guiding democratic institutions of the country. They care nothing for history nor for the blow they deal to others. Another explanation for this kind of behavior could be found in the heroes of Fyodor Dostoevsky: men who are capable of both grandeur and baseness. That second argument holds little water in this case, however.

Despite the motivations guiding the people involved in the Lagarde list, what we should not lose sight of is that if we focus all of our energies on looking for the bad guys, we risk losing sight of the wood because we are too focused on the trees. The fact is that there is a very fine line dividing the need for justice to prevail and the need to draw blood in spite, between the demand for order and the demand for taking people down.

Certainly, rituals of vengeance pacify the need for retribution temporarily, but the fact is that the real work of justice never stops and time continues to bring more cases of broken commitments and defeats. We should not forget the past, but more importantly, we should not forget the fact that we are living in the present.