OPINION

Political discourse reborn

Kostas Karamanlis’s strong words caused a furor. The premier’s reference to the «five pimps» offended the dignity of some; for others it was a question of protocol, since the words were spoken at an ordinary taverna and not in a fancy restaurant or in similarly opulent settings – the usual haunts of the elite and officialdom. Many sought to emphasize the choice of words itself in a bid to deflect attention from the essence of his allegation. His critics seem to ignore the hackneyed yet valid observation that political discourse is not empty rhetoric. It aims to reach out to the people and society in general, and therefore must embody a system of values and principles. It is not a vague concept. As in ancient times, political discourse must be direct, clear and convincing. Furthermore, it must convey the Zeitgeist and be forceful enough to energize the masses – all with the aim of bringing about change and reform. Instead, we saw the rise of polished, technocratic jargon, a form of discourse that served the purpose of justifying or legitimizing external conditions. Paradoxically, political discourse gradually evolved into a form of self-censorship, a veil for the murky aspects of public life. There was a period when even a warning about the looming stock market crisis was received as hubris. Anyone who dared challenge the myth of Greece’s «strong economy» or protest the growing social divide and the blatant concentration of wealth in the hands of a few, quickly found himself under fire. Anyone who dared criticize the new order or the oligarchic characteristics of our politicoeconomic system was cast out of favor. However, social dynamics always challenge societal stagnation. As earlier stated, political discourse must address the challenges of the times. And these cannot be encapsulated in political niceties.