Wanted: Healthy role models


Any society needs good role models in order to move forward. Here in Greece, two generations have found inspiration in, among others, Communist Cuba’s poster boy Ernesto “Che” Guevara and Greek guerrilla fighter Aris Velouchiotis. Meanwhile, many among the so-called “Polytechnic generation” (a reference to the 1973 student uprising against the 1967-74 military dictatorship) raised their children with the idea that everything is permitted in the name of “protest” or “freedom.”

As a result, it was OK for university students to interrupt a class or raise havoc whenever they felt like it. Populism and pretentious disobedience became an integral part of Greek political culture in the post-dictatorship era. So we reached the point where a private school teacher told his pupils that 19th century prime minister Harilaos Trikoupis was able to attract foreign investment because “he took money from the poor and gave it to the rich.” With ideas like that there is no future for this country. We urgently need new role models and a fresh mind-set.

This ailing mentality is not unique to the left of the political spectrum. Take a statement by a New Democracy-affiliated union and hide the party logo. It will be hard to tell if it has been penned by a party on the left or the right.

Sure, there are role models to be found in crisis-hit Greece. The people behind startups like Taxibeat, Workable or Upstream could be an inspiration to the new generation that is struggling to forge its own path under very difficult conditions. Greeks are adaptable and like to take risks when they find themselves in the right environment. Too bad this mentality was killed by the dream of a permanent public sector job and the poor state of Greek schools and universities. Now that our quasi-Soviet model has gone bankrupt, it’s time for change. Sure, it’s hard to see where the forces of creativity could spring from. We have a government that is trying to bring the common denominator as low as possible. Much of society is filled with envy and hatred generated by despair and pauperization.

Society needs a major reset. Trying to preserve the balance or fix the problems with half-measures will simply not do. The big challenge is to instill the model of the self-made businessman who does not rely on the state in the minds of our public school pupils. We need to break down the wall separating the political class from the angry crowds. The complacent elites also need to get their acts together.

There are ways to achieve all that. While you read this, a creative Greece is trying to swim against the tide of politicians, unionists and entangled entrepreneurs.

Greece will change the day the National Technical University of Athens will be able to host a career day for small and big firms. Are we far from such a day? Here’s a challenge for the most courageous.