New political language

The most vulgar aspect of the Summer Olympics is the effort being made to create an idyllic image of the city by concealing wretchedness so as not to offend the sensibilities of our distinguished guests. Health Minister Nikitas Kaklamanis lambasted this unacceptable mentality during a parliamentary committee meeting on Wednesday. Rebuffing proposals to remove the scores of drug addicts from the streets of downtown Athens during the Games he replied that his ministry would not function as a «dogcatcher of souls.» The fabricated picture of prosperity constructed over recent decades reflected the deterioration of the political system, as an incompetent and corrupt administration tried to gloss up the image of the country by projecting a lavish yet «cheap» lifestyle. Kaklamanis’s stand, on the other hand, catapulted social issues back to the center stage of politics – of politics in the conservative sense. Socialist ministers have for years used repulsive rhetoric to show their ostensible interest in improving the conditions for low-income groups and building a more humanitarian society. They only ended up deconstructing social cohesion and creating a ghetto for the first time in the last 50 years. None of the reformist ministers suffered a crisis of conscience, the way Kaklamanis did as he met with drug addicts at the steps of his ministry: «You are a zero, Mr Minister. This happens at at your ministry and you think you are a minister,» Kaklamanis said to himself. This is not a sentimental reaction but politics at its best. Kaklamanis does not say what he says lightly. He is the minister who put the premier’s guidelines on «modesty and humility» into practice, a true representative of the popular right – a notion that has often come under fire by all sorts of reformists.