Crisis icons

Amid the numerous Facebook tributes to Yanis Varoufakis, one shows a photoshopped image of the Greek finance minister clad in regal garb, with the page’s creators inviting citizens to rally in Syntagma Square on December 31 and proclaim him the new king of Greece.

If you look beyond the obvious trolling, which House Speaker Zoe Constantopoulou has also been subjected to – commenting on the same page some users call for the latter to be proclaimed queen – beyond all the humor, the idiocy, the vulgar jokes and the ridicule, two points could be made.

The first has to do with Varoufakis’s popularity, which has taken on a larger-than-life dimension. Everything he does is interpreted, magnified, fragmented and reconstructed in all sorts of ways, each time creating the same person with a new, previously unseen facet.

The finance minister has his very own fan club, people with the ability to glorify him and destroy him in the same breath. The same is true of Constantopoulou. Moving around with extraordinary ease, the Parliament speaker is capable on the one hand of waving a USB stick and threatening to expel the governor of the Bank of Greece from the classroom if he fails to present his essay in the proper format and according to the rules (in other words, according to her), as well reproaching – in a rather intimidating manner – journalists when she happens not to agree with the questions they ask, and, on the other, of joining the Athens Pride parade, casually dressed, and taking selfies.

Is there a conclusion to be drawn from this? Both the minister and the speaker have drifted from the decisive roles they were called to take on and are behaving like icons – products of the ongoing crisis, absorbed by (their own) image and with their own agenda regarding political intervention.

This is the kind of issue which could be of major interest on a sociological level, if it did not involve two key figures of the country’s ruling party at a particularly crucial period in the country’s history, if they had not been elected by voters to “manufacture consent,” as opposed to staging a show, to work, both independently as well as collectively, for results that could benefit the country – which is what every seriously working Greek, whether or not a SYRIZA voter, does every day.