The social sin of greed


Greed is one of the seven deadly sins, personified by Mammon, according to the ecclesiastical geography of demons and sins. While we’re all free to deal with our own souls, greed has always been a social sin par excellence. It does not take place in vacuo, but in society and against it.

However, greed could become a trap for self-absorbed sinners. This is what happened to 5,000 general secretaries – not in title, but in terms of salary. When these 5,000 people were informed of a planned 25 percent cut in the salaries of political staff, they swiftly moved to protect their entitlements. This led to a secret wage system coming to light, when Alternate Minister for Administrative Reform Christoforos Vernardakis announced that 5,000 employees – mainly experts employed at private legal entities – were earning 2,800 euros net per month, in other words a general secretary’s salary, without being entitled to it.

None of the 5,000 acted on their own. They did not wake up one morning and decide to raise their own salaries. They demanded a raise and their demands fell on sympathetic ears. The sympathetic ears were government ears, part of a pre-2015 administration. The salary equations were executed through a number of provisions, passed with draft legislation every now and then. Did they go through in the form of amendments passed in Parliament after hours? No one knows, but this is not the worst part of not knowing. If this kind of revelation is to be made public in its entirety, as opposed to just half the story, which is often the case, a list of all government officials who decided (at times of heavy austerity) to act as patrons to the privileged by servicing groups of vested interests should be published. Let’s not reveal the names of the greedy employees in question – there are those who would argue that sensitive private information should not be divulged – but let’s name those who made it easy for them on a legislative level. This would stop the entire political system from being stigmatized.

Right after that, what should be determined is how much of the 2,800 euros per month was the product of quasi-embezzlement – 1,000, 500 euros? So many employees times so many extra euros times so many years. This calculation would give us an idea of how much money the state has lost in this case. Drops in the ocean, you might say, but the ocean is made of drops.

Immediately after all the calculating, the money should be returned. This is because, based on the recent revelations, this money was not only unearned, but was, in fact, stolen goods, under state protection.

Finally, so as not to copy them in terms of greediness, by demanding all the overpaid cash here and now, we should allow all those who benefited illicitly to settle their arrears in 100 installments. They are only human, after all.