OPINION

Not much of a mea culpa

not-much-of-a-mea-culpa

“There are people who are like I was once. Who made more than 40,000 euros, more than 50,000 euros, more than 60,000. People like me, wearing ties and pocket squares. We didn’t pay enough. It was the salaried workers who pulled the cart. So, now, people like me – with 40,000, 50,000 or 60,000 euros – who were not accustomed to paying need to learn to pay,” said Labor Minister Giorgos Katrougalos in a recent television interview.

Who could disagree?

In the past few days we have been witnessing what looks like a coordinated effort by officials in the government and the ruling leftist SYRIZA party to display some kind of self-criticism. We see them commenting on choices they have made, whether personal or political, as though they are trying to say that they made mistakes, but not actually saying it.

Some admit to flirting with political delusions, others to delaying in taking action over something because they lacked experience, and others still of their “inability” to bring decisions to fruition.

That said, they all studiously avoid using words such as “failure” or, of course, “lies.”

Quite the contrary: “We never lied. We had a strategy in mind that would have allowed us to achieve certain things in the negotiations with the institutions,” said Katrougalos.

Taking responsibility for mistakes is not something that the Greek political system is known for. Whichever party is in government, it believes that the people, the voters, perceive power as nothing more than acting like a tough guy. Accountability, an almost metaphysical notion, has no place in this world. And even today, in the final hour, when all the evidence points to the fact that six months of “tough” negotiations brought the country back to the starting line, sending the economic and psychological toll skyrocketing, any responsibility officials appear willing to assume usually concerns others: foreign partners who dug in their heels, the creditors for creating obstacles and forbidding certain policies, the tax-dodging self-employed and the list goes on.

No one would blame a new government for things that it was not responsible for, but SYRIZA, we mustn’t forget, is a part of the old political establishment. During the post-dictatorship years many of its officials played a key role in blocking reforms and protecting privileges.

When it is not a PR gimmick, self-criticism is supposed to be about acknowledging the mistakes of the past and fixing them, not multiplying them.