Citizens and state carry equal blame

Behind our indignation at every scandal (be it political, financial or environmental), behind the unspeakable pain for every tragedy (such as at Tempe or Maliakos), there are the misguided choices and initiatives that provoked them. Although blame may be apportioned – generally to one individual who must shoulder the heavy burden of catharsis – the nature of these developments demands answers to many difficult questions regarding moral instigation and fundamental responsibility. Debates always seem to focus on the structural deficiencies of the state apparatus, the warped organization and operation of the monitoring systems, and the scourge of corruption. But what is never discussed is the general lack of respect that characterizes our society – a lack of respect of the state for citizens’ basic rights, and a citizens’ lack of respect for the law. Moreover, both we citizens and our state lack priorities: we downplay crucial issues and blow petty ones out of all proportion. Then, when a scandal breaks out, everyone points the finger at everyone else. The citizens blame the state for not conducting inspections and for turning a blind eye to all kinds of inconsistencies; the state retorts that it cannot have a policeman on every corner, a state inspector in every store, a constantly vigilant eye over everything, so it shifts the blame onto the violators – the citizens. Greeks will rarely admit they are wrong. They believe they are de facto wise and infallible. If a mistake is made, it is the state and the politicians who are to blame, in their view. But in fact, they often criticize the state for corruption while breaking the law themselves. It may be naive to believe that power does not corrupt, but it is also excessive to claim that the state is to blame for everything…

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