The infamous web of vested interests and corrupt relationships across the hierarchy of power, known in Greek as “diaploki,” is a resilient, flexible and adjustable thing that adapts to all sorts of governments and ideologies. It is also universal by its very nature, in that it conforms to all regimes and tastes. Its charms are irresistible, especially to the newcomer in government, or the politician on the cusp of power.
The governing powers have firsthand experience of how seductive its charms can be, but they also know how disastrous it can become when the wind changes direction and it all comes back at you. History has taught us that people who become involved in or initiate such relationships are insatiable and rarely satisfied with the benefits that special ties with certain politicians can bring them.
There are basically five stages in the relationship of entangled interests. It starts with a question, invariably posed in an exploratory tone: “Have you met X? He’s not all that bad. I think I may have underestimated him.”
The next stage becomes a little bit more intimate: “He is quite excellent, and I believe that he will do good things for the country. We should all help.”
The final act comes after a necessary lapse of time and is usually discreet: “X is very good, excellent. But he doesn’t have the right people. He doesn’t have a proper staff and cannot govern like that.”
Then, just before the relationship ends, there is the predictable lamentation: “He messed up. Let’s move on. And now that I look at Y again, he’s not bad.”
What comes after that can be described as nostalgia – and it can also drive a politician who is on the way out completely crazy: “What did you say that kid was called? What happened to him?”
The truth is that it is very hard for a politician to cope in a country like Greece. It takes a lot of guts to keep a distance and not be held hostage by such interplays of power. Even a confident politician cannot be similarly sure about his or her closest associates or the broader environment that surrounds them.
The Greek state machine stopped imposing the rules years ago and we never know whether the next government that is elected to power, regardless of how much of the “rogue” it pretends to be with its behavior, can control this web of collusion and corruption.
The prime minister of this country is often a lot like an unarmed sheriff trapped in a saloon where all sorts of people are shooting in all sorts of different directions.