The cost of an apology

The cost of an apology

A simple apology comes at great cost in the Greek political scene and is interpreted as a weakness or a retraction rather than as a realization of fault and an effort to move on from it. It is practically forbidden among members of Parliament and almost inconceivable among higher ranking officials.

Alternate Minister for Migration Policy Yiannis Mouzalas this week issued an apology while speaking on television to former New Democracy minister Nikos Dendias, whom he had accused in the past over the latter’s management of migrant reception centers. Mouzalas admitted that until he became minister himself, he did not know of the many complications involved in the issue, such as obstacles in the supervisory council and in financing.

What did Mouzalas effectively say? That when you’re looking in from the outside, you can’t know exactly what is going on. His admission was public and, what’s more, in an environment of solid certainties and constant accusations against previous governments.

The youth wing of the ruling SYRIZA party responded to the minister’s comments by saying that Dendias is associated “with one of the darkest aspects of the [Antonis] Samaras administration.” The fact, however, is that its gripe is not with Dendias but with Mouzalas’s apology. It is clear from the comments made by SYRIZA’s youth (and the fact that these are young people makes it even more depressing) that not only is it completely out of touch with the real world (outside the leftist party’s glass house and beyond its ideological fixations), but that it believes an apology instantly puts you in the enemy camp. These youths may even see apologizing as an abhorrent bourgeois habit. Meanwhile, the vandalism by activists in the No Border Camp movement of the Municipality of Thessaloniki, for example, is an acceptable form of “protest” and one on which SYRIZA’s youth wing took no public position.

Their brothers in solidarity (towards whom, one can only wonder) can behave like naughty, reckless children and destroy public property, but we must still treat them with tolerance, understanding and even sympathy.

After all, they are activists. But Mouzalas, though a member of the government they support, is not treated as one of their own. For the party’s youth, there is something unfamiliar, unsuitable about him. He is part of a political culture that is not unknown as much as it is selfishly abused. Because an apology means breaking from populism, a stance towards which the political system shows no solidarity at all.

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