Exception is the rule

The Shakespearean conclusion on the state of Denmark came out long ago: «There is something rotten…» In Greece, we seem to believe that it’s not just «something» that is rotten, but the whole country. Hence, the only thing left to do is bury it or scatter its ashes. Some people, misled by delusions of some bygone grandeur, say that the nation’s decline has been so steep that it no longer deserves to go by the name of Greece. The condemnatory tone is always bolstered by generalizations, even if these come close to blanket rejection. In effect, allegations lose their basis, but this does not seem to unsettle those critics who believe that, post-Lot, they constitute the only benign and virtuous beings in a world that deserves «fire and brimstone from the sky.» In light of the recent news and rumors about bribed and corrupt judges, doctors and journalists, a new dogma has come into vogue, one that enjoys the status of self-evident truth. This dogma borders on the collective-guilt theory: The TV-based tribunals and the gossip-rag headlines proclaim that «everyone is on the take:» all judicial officials, all doctors and all journalists. So these professions are added to an already discredited list: politicians (they’re all corrupt), professors (lazy), taxi drivers (cheats), referees (bribe-takers), farmers (loafers who fritter away their loans) and so on. No doubt corruption does exist across all castes, but some honest and humane people still exist out there. When we elevate the exception as the rule, when we throw the baby out with the bathwater, we eventually fail to see things clearly. With sweeping generalizations and the diffusion of responsibility, politics is substituted by empty moralizing. The only winners are the truly guilty, who briefly vanish in the crowd before getting back on the road to glory.