Greece is possibly the one and only country that admires the art of the political turnaround. I often hear fans of former prime minister Andreas Papandreou praising how he railed against the European Economic Community, NATO and American bases, yet managed to keep the bases and keep the country inside NATO and the EEC. “He was a great politician; that was clever,” they say.
That tradition continues to this day. Some admire Alexis Tsipras for his political 180-degree turn since the days of “Go back Mrs Merkel.” It’s a commendable turnaround and thankfully he made it, otherwise we would have been the only country that would have been downgraded on its own volition. We’re counting our blessings that in 2015, he either found the nerve to do what was necessary to keep us in the euro, or didn’t find the nerve to thrust us into an unpredictable adventure.
But there is a difference between that and applauding our politicians for saying one thing, meaning another and doing something entirely different – unless we’ve reached the anthropological conclusion that we are a politically retarded people, who like being swayed by big words and tall tales. The Europeans have already come to this conclusion and some support Tsipras. “If they want leader who opposes privatizations or the TAP pipeline and then goes ahead with them, then hats off to them,” they say. How profoundly derogatory.
Yet, we are all to blame for this, the people and the elite. The people because they’re easily fooled and the shapers of public opinion because they don’t do their job fast enough, debunking myths.
Will we mature to the degree that we’ll demand that politicians stop flip-flopping and be more careful about what they say and promise during election campaigns? History has taught us that as a nation we have strong instincts of self-preservation that help us grow and enter the more coveted clubs of the West. After every populist leader, realists and reformers have emerged to put the country on firmer ground. They weren’t necessarily popular, but people understood how after a period of intoxicating overindulgence, you need a tough awakening.
As far as those fans of political turnarounds are concerned, it would be good for them to understand that they are not judges in a gymnastics competition. I’m not saying it isn’t a fine art, but think how much further ahead we would have been today if we’d put more faith in politicians who meant what they said and did what they meant.