The price of compromise

The representatives of the middle-class political world made plenty of compromises over the years and now we are paying the price. The current government’s appointment of failed politicos, unionists and party officials to crucial posts in health, education and other sectors is annoying. To be fair, this is nothing new. During George Papandreou’s tenure as premier, there was OpenGov on the one hand, while on the other fitness instructors were appointed hospital directors through the back door. The tradition was kept alive by the ND-PASOK coalition, which appointed unbelievable characters to pivotal posts in the public sector. The same is happening now with the SYRIZA-Independent Greeks administration. The only thing that’s different is the formula and the CVs of those being appointed. In the old days they used to feature some kind of working experience, while now it’s all about party allegiance.

The middle-class establishment began making concessions with institutions and the quality of the people hired to run them. It lowered the bar, legitimized populism and the idea that someone else is always to blame. What we are experiencing now is the climax of the entire post-dictatorship malaise. The middle-class political world was unable to make the necessary reforms and get rid of its bad DNA. Costas Karamanlis was ready to break the eggs in education and elsewhere, but never got round to making the omelet. George Papandreou envisioned Greece becoming the Denmark of the South while the Socialist party’s apparatchiks ruled around him. Antonis Samaras suffered from intense bipolar disorder, which turned him into a stubborn leader one day and an obsessive local governor the next. Even that one rare moment of major consensus with regard to changes in education through legislation from Anna Diamantopoulou was not allowed to conclude without barbaric concessions. And now it’s full speed backward, an attempt to see the common denominator slide even further.

I don’t know how I would react to all this if I were 30 years younger. I would be angered that the change of regime announced by Alexis Tsipras did not bring about meritocracy or genuine reform in education. I would be left wondering, however, what the alternative would be, besides leaving the country, or who knows what else. A solution would be for the creative youth to rise up from the couch and get into politics and public dialogue. Perhaps at the end of the day it all has to do with a generation change. But let’s not forget this: SYRIZA did not win the election on the back of its charm and powers of persuasion. The party filled the void left behind by the middle-class world, which was unable to firmly stand its ground during the great crisis.

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