OPINION

Systemic corruption

Weariness and stagnation, both of which are manifest in many aspects of government work, usually go hand-in-hand with systemic corruption, with the consolidation of a covert network that brings together politicians, businessmen and state functionaries who abuse power and squander public wealth. Our readers know that Kathimerini insists on emphasizing the corrosive effects of corruption. Corruption, however, is not the only source of stagnation. Fatigue, dereliction of duty and arrogance are not always accompanied by profiteering. Moreover, it is far from certain whether graft itself can be attributed to the personality of a specific individual or to the corrupting effect the long exercise of power has on all or on most people. In other words, the symptoms of degeneration evident in a ruling party that has in the past shown a high degree of dynamism (such as when it had to push Greece’s entry into the eurozone), are not the result of acts by the individuals themselves but of their having been in power for too long. These officials are timeworn: They have forgotten that their role is that of the people’s representative and not of their principal; they have become estranged from citizens’ problems; they have even reached the point of considering unlawful money-making as fair reward. Sad as this conclusion may be, selflessness and moderation appear to succumb to man’s thirst for greater power. Politics is always tied to human nature. Hence the quintessence of democracy and its ability to check the tendencies for over-concentration of power lie in a change in government. Even in a situation where parties basically share the same platform, this changeover helps to contain the human extremes of politics. But it’s actually more than that. A party’s long stay in power not only causes fatigue among its cadres but also undermines its collective spirit and desire for betterment. This said, the alternation of power helps rejuvenate political movements and parties. Despite any disagreements that one may have had for the policies of the late Socialist prime minister and PASOK founder Andreas Papandreou, no one can deny that his victory in the 1981 parliamentary elections contributed to further cementing our democracy by verifying the possibility of political changeovers and by breathing new air into governance. Even during the time of Pericles, democracy in ancient Athens was imperfect. Thucydides described Athens as being a democracy in name but in practice ruled by its leading man – and this about Pericles.