The perils of self-righteousness


Zoe Constantopoulou’s political demeanor in and outside the walls of the Greek Parliament make it extremely hard to believe that she has the ability, or even the willingness, to take a self-critical and unemotional look at her own words and actions.

Constantopoulou, a former House speaker and now leader of a minor anti-bailout SYRIZA splinter party, belongs to the class of self-righteous politicians. These politicians are always certain of their opinion, even if it concerns an issue that is beyond their knowledge or experience. They pay no heed to outside advice. After all, they do not seek advisers, but sycophants.

So it was very unlikely that Constantopoulou would have second thoughts about her weekend gesture when she stopped the German ambassador from paying homage to the victims of a Nazi massacre during World War II in the village of Distomo, northwest of Athens. She would never have allowed any cracks to show on her rock-hard conscience. So naturally yesterday she defended her actions: “I did what would have been self-evident for every Greek,” Constantopoulou said on her Facebook page.

“Every Greek?” – really? The Municipal Council of Distomo which invited the German envoy to lay a wreath at the village memorial is made up of Greeks. The people of Distomo are Greeks and they did not seem to protest the mayor’s decision to invite the German ambassador, nor did they react en masse during the actual ceremony (a few scattered voices can be heard on the video as Constantopoulou announces her ban, but no one can say with certainty that they come from locals and not from her entourage). Constantopoulou herself, of course, was also Greek two summers ago when she, in the role of House speaker, okayed the presence of a German official at Distomo.

Finally, no one can deny that resistance hero Manolis Glezos is, of course, a Greek and a patriot. The veteran leftist who bypassed Constantopoulou to escort the ambassador to the memorial was acting on the belief that being the descendant of a criminal does not necessarily make you a criminal – in other words, he was acting on the premise that genetics-based politics constitutes an insult to reason as well as historical memory. Does Constantopoulou then not classify Glezos among the Greek people? We would like to think not, even though she did say that “he chose to place with his own hands the conqueror’s flag on the memorial of the victims.”

Could it be that she was speaking metaphorically? But, in the world of dogmatism there is no metaphor. Everything is literal and corresponds to a single truth, a truth owned by a single individual.