Professional patriots

Professional patriots

This country has grown and won whenever the mind and soul worked in tandem. 

I thought of this as I watched the video of the Nikiforos gunboat in its “standoff” with a Turkish patrol boat in the region of the Imia islets. 

I didn’t know what to admire first, the determination shown by the captain as he maintained a steady course, or his self-restraint, which seems to explain why the two vessels only grazed each other and there wasn’t a serious accident. 

It’s comforting to see that the Greek state, with all its problems, still has a core of people that are up to the task of keeping it standing and intact. 

I asked and was told how much this captain earns. His salary is lower than that of an employee at the state public utilities (DEKO) and he receives an additional 17 euros for each day he is on a mission. 

You will read these words the day after the center of Athens was flooded with thousands of Greek citizens.

The overwhelming majority of those who attended are truly concerned about the “Macedonia” issue or are fed up of seeing their country humiliated.

But among them were also professional patriots. Their rhetoric can be seductive, especially for a nation that been so sorely tested.

The Greek people have been swayed by their maximalism many times in the past, allowing big opportunities to be missed. 

The name dispute, for instance, should have ended in 1992 as the then prime minister Constantine Mitsotakis correctly noted. 

But the political leadership at the time could not withstand the pressure of public opinion. Constantine Karamanlis had told political leaders at the time that “the parties cannot of course ignore public sentiment, but it is incumbent on them to guide it, rather than ignite it, making it uncontrollable.” 

Such wise words. Today we are faced with a very difficult situation. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras clumsily opened up an issue while aiming primarily to divide the opposition. 

In opening Pandora’s box he struck a very sensitive nerve among the Greeks. We all got into this adventure together and don’t know where it will lead us. And this is dangerous. 

When foreign policy is confused with the domestic political game the dangers that loom are great. 

On the one hand, there are those traditional professional patriots who seized the opportunity to get votes. On the other, we have those that suddenly remembered the notions of consensus building and patriotic responsibility, after a long history of irresponsibility and extreme acts. 

Thankfully, apart from professional patriots, the country has people like the captain of the Nikiforos who silently wage the battles that count, night and day.

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