OPINION

The customer is always right

the-customer-is-always-right

Even as storm clouds gather, the government persists with dead-end policies. Aside from the economic and refugee crises, where it expects others to provide solutions, the essence of its policies is evident in education, in investments, in its attitude towards the news media, its bipolar relations with the European Union as a whole and with individual member states, in the way it deals with various social groups. In all these, the motto is that the customer is always right – when he, she, the group or union in question is part of the political clientele on which SYRIZA has built and continues to build its power base.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s sudden about-turn last July, after the triumphant “no” vote in the referendum, followed by his electoral victory in September, do not appear so paradoxical if we consider the following: Mr Tsipras persuaded a large part of the public that he cared for their wellbeing more than any other politician. The essence of his communication with voters was not so much what he did (this would not be to his advantage) but what he said. As in his earlier policy, after his about-turn the prime minister and the voters who followed him were acting on the basis of intentions, not on what was feasible nor necessary. In this world, Mr Tsipras could claim before the referendum that a “no” vote was for the people’s good and then, when he adopted the “yes” he could again say this was for the good of the people.

And the people believed him – because what they wanted was not the management of reality but the perpetuation of their delusions. Many people look for a politician who will promise what they desire, who says he will protect them from what scares them. Mr Tsipras has this gift, along with other charismatic leaders. What he does not have is the authority and the will to shoulder the burden of leading the country. In the economy, he tried to get the people to undertake this responsibility and when, in the referendum, they gave back the hot potato and the country was at a dead-end, he sought the backing of opposition parties to pass measures that had been prepared by foreign creditors. In this he is no different from other politicians; where he is different is the level at which he allows others to decide the country’s fate while cultivating the impression that the citizens are his main priority.

To maintain the impression that SYRIZA is governing, the government has to do some things that prove this. The dogmatic persistence with policies that do anything but improve the quality of the education system, the undermining of investments, the strange ideas regarding the media (with at tendency to try control it), the hiring of friends and relatives with poor qualifications in key government positions, the preference for raising taxes and social security fees rather than cutting spending, the concessions to interest groups all show a government that cares for its clients. At the same time, the lack of serious policy undermines education, the economy and the social security system. Excessive activity in some spheres hides inertia in others. In the end everyone loses.